Release Date(s)1992 (November 13, 2018)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C+
Single White Female is one the sexiest erotic thrillers to come out of the 1990s. Directed by Barbet Schroeder, who also helmed Barfly and Reversal of Fortune, the story concerns Allie (Bridget Fonda), a young businesswoman living in a rent-controlled apartment alone with relationship problems. Feeling the need to change up her life, she puts out an ad for a roommate, which the shy but sweet Hedy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) answers. The two become fast friends, but it isn’t long before Allie begins to suspect that Hedy has emotional problems when she begins dressing like Allie, wearing her clothes, and spending time with her on-and-off boyfriend (Steven Weber). A confrontation between the two is all but assured.
When Single White Female hit theaters in 1992, it was another in a line of thrillers that seemed to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. All of them also seemed to have "that scene" in them as well, when something shocking or over-the-top would happen that would get folks talking about the movie. Whether it was boiling a rabbit in Fatal Attraction or breastfeeding someone else’s baby in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, or even giving interrogating cops a peek between a woman’s legs in Basic Instinct, they all seemed to have something in common in that regard. Single White Female was no exception, except that it had several word-of-mouth moments.
Part of what makes the film work so well is that screenwriter Don Roos and director Barbet Schroeder intended there to be no clear definition of good or bad. Bridget Fonda’s character, Allie, has a few less than honest things about her that doesn’t make her a totally angelic character. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Hedy is also not totally evil. She’s a damaged person who has had help in the past, but to no avail. So while she is definitely the so-called villain, she’s more complex than that.
On the other hand, there’s also the male characters. You have the upstairs neighbor that is inherently friendly and helpful to Allie, but also listens through the air vents to what’s going on in her apartment (although he does cop to it later on). Steven Weber’s character, who is not much more than a love interest, is also not ideal. We get that right off the bat when Allie discovers that he’s cheated on her with his ex-wife, but later manages to work his way back into her life, giving Hedy more reasons to do what she does to him. Then there’s Allie’s client who sees himself as someone who can help her, but expects more than a money as payment. One could argue that some of these men are more villainous than Hedy, but again, it’s more complicated than that.
What also works about is that both Fonda and Leigh are completely sexy and endearing. You find yourself rooting for both characters, even when everything hits the fan in the film’s final minutes. A solid thriller through and through, Single White Female still has quite an impact, and the performances play a big part in that.
Single White Female debuts on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a good, but dated transfer. The film has always been an aggressive one when it comes to its lighting and color palette, and this presentation, though from an older master, still maintains that look, albeit through a softer, less-refined picture. Grain is a bit splotchy while depth and detail are more prominent in certain scenes than others. The blue overlays in Allie’s apartment are fairly potent, while skin tones are a tad too pink at times. Black levels are deep, bordering on crush due to how dark the film was shot in specific moments, but overall contrast and brightness levels are good. It’s also a mostly stable and clean transfer as well. The soundtrack comes in English 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. There’s little to complain about, but it is a bit of a quiet track that perhaps needed to be amped up. Dialogue is clear and discernable, and certain sound effects lack impact, but Howard Shore’s enjoyably laid-back score is well-represented.
This release also contains a set of extras, almost all of them new. First up is an audio commentary with producer/director Barbet Schroeder, associate producer Susan Hoffman, and editor Lee Percy, which is a bit mechanical at times, but full of great information about the making of the film; New York Interview: Barbet Schroeder, a 28-minute interview with the director about his work on the film, discussing the film’s lightning, set design, and editing, including a discussion of the film’s test screenings and the changes made thereafter; Upstairs with Graham Knox, a 7-minute interview with actor Peter Friedman about how he was cast and his performance, as well as a regrettable incident on set between he and a stuntwoman; The Fiancée Sam Rawson, a 20-minute interview with actor Steven Weber, who seems a little ambiguous about his role in the film and whether Sam was a good guy or a bad guy, but grateful for the work; SWF Seeks Writer, a 26-minute interview with screenwriter Don Roos, in which he discusses how much he enjoyed working with the director and the lessons that he learned from the film; and a full screen theatrical trailer, which features a couple of brief deleted moments. All of this material is worth your time, particularly the interviews with the director and the writer.
Single White Female, though cursed with an early 90s feel, holds up remarkably well. I hadn’t seen it in a number of years and very much enjoyed revisiting it. While the presentation of it looks good, it can and should look better in the future with a fresher scan. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Sony release a 4K-UHD disc of it at some point themselves. But for now, having it in high definition at all isn’t a bad thing.
– Tim Salmons