Plot: What’s it about?
Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) is a surgeon with what seems to be the perfect life, as there is little he doesn’t possess. He has good looks, a flawless reputation, and a ton of cash, but what no one knows is that Nick feels empty inside. He was once in a relationship with Helena (Sherilyn Fenn) and was very much in love with her, but she later left him behind. Helena is a gorgeous woman to be sure, but she is also cold and very powerful, which means she is not easily attained and Nick knows his chance was lost long ago. His life is hollow without her in it, so he tries to win her back, but not even his love or piles of money is enough to get her to return to his side. But when she is run down by a car outside of his mansion, Nick seizes the moment and saves her life, which involves amputating her legs. Now that Helena is immobile, Nick holds her prisoner and since she must be reliant on him, he hopes she will once again learn to love him. But Helena has other plans and vows to ruin Nick’s plans, no matter what it takes, as he might command her body, but not her will and mind.
This disc was released as a part of MGM’s Avant-Garde Cinema collection, which seems like the perfect banner to issue it under. This is a stylish, surreal motion picture and of course, it split audiences faster than the speed of light. This is not the kind of movie everyone will like, nor was it meant to be, so make sure you like offbeat cinema before you give this one a spin. The premise is a very unusual one indeed, but director Jennifer Chambers Lynch is able to create a very stunning effort here, from visuals to total atmosphere. The events that take place in Boxing Helena are strange to be sure, but Lynch frames them within a well crafted environment, which makes the impact all the more powerful. I can see why some viewers found this to be pretentious, but I think it all works well and Lynch more than proves herself in the director’s chair. The pace is slow however, so those in search of blood baths or quick cuts need to look elsewhere for their thrills. The performances are terrific also, with such names as Julian Sands, Sherilyn Fenn, Bill Paxton, Kurtwood Smith, and even Art Garfunkel present and in good form. Yes, Boxing Helena is a strange movie, but I like it a lot and as such, give this low priced disc a high, very high recommendation.
Although she plays an often dislikable character here, Sherilyn Fenn is very impressive and manages better than I ever expected. Her role was supposed to be played by Kim Basinger, but she pulled out late in the game, a famous lawsuit followed, and in the end, Fenn was called up to take the role on. Fenn is in a lot of low profile movies, as well as ones which focus on lack of clothing, but she is still a gifted performer, although she isn’t often given much to work with. In Boxing Helena, Fenn is able to use her good looks of course, but she also gets to flex her performance muscles and does so very well, at least I think so. Not the best turn I’ve ever seen of course, but she is better than I ever counted on and brings the role to life well, so I have no real complaints. Other films with Fenn include Three of Hearts, Just One of the Guys, Wild At Heart, Two Moon Junction, Just Write, and Fatal Instinct. The cast here also includes Julian Sands (Leaving Las Vegas, A Room With A View), Kurtwood Smith (Deep Impact, A Time To Kill), Bill Paxton (Twister, True Lies), and Art Garfunkel (Carnal Knowledge, 54).
Video: How does it look?
Boxing Helena is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I am very pleased with this visual presentation, as it excels in all respects and leaves little room for complaints, very cool indeed. The source print looks clean and aside from some minimal grain at times, I couldn’t find any serious flaws in the least. The colors are warm and vivid, with no errors and flesh tones look natural, no problems there. No issues in terms of contrast, as detail is very strong here and black levels have been mixed to perfection. This is one of MGM’s finest catalog title transfers I’ve seen, very impressive work all around here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included 2.0 surround track is better than most, but still lacks the complete depth of a full 5.1 option. But since this material doesn’t need much in terms of dynamic content, I think this track manages well enough in the end. The main range comes from the musical score, which makes good use of the added channels and really comes to life in this mix. Not much to discuss in terms of sound effects, but when needed, the surrounds ensure the elements are presented in fine form. The vocals seem to be the main focus though and sound excellent, as dialogue is rich and crisp, with no volume hassles to report in the least. This disc also includes subtitles in Spanish and French, just in case you might need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains the film’s theatrical trailer, but no other bonus materials. This is a shame, as the laserdisc release houses an audio commentary track, a series of interviews, comparisons of rated and unrated sequences, as well as other goodies, all of which would have been welcome on this release, of course. This disc does contain the unrated version of the film however, which is bound to please fans to no end.