In Dangerous Company (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I'm a firm believer that even the weakest movie has something to teach us.

  • If we learn nothing about life, at least we get some insight into the thought process of a writer or director. Even in the worst case, at least we learn to avoid any other films written or directed by that person.

  • Perhaps we learn that certain actors are so far down on their luck that they need to take obvious hack work to pay their bills.

  • It can be interesting to speculate about the reasons for making a certain film. In doing so, perhaps we learn something about the industry, since somebody obviously planned to make a profit somehow, and it's fun to backtrack on that logic.

In the case of In Dangerous Company, the essential piece of learning is far more practical, and of value in real life, not just in making future cable selections or calculating the return on a filmmaking investment. The lesson is this (demonstrated to the right): when going for a long walk along the L.A. River, be sure to wear practical clothing and comfortable footwear.

In Dangerous Company is one of the many 1940s-style femme fatale movies that appeared in the 80s in the wake of the popular Body Heat. It features people smoking cigarettes dramatically in dimly-lit dives, and proud but lonely men who walk through rubble-strewn alleys accompanied by wailing sax music. Amid sleazy cityscapes, a woman pretends to be helpless when she is actually in complete control.

In this case Tracy Scoggins plays the Kathleen Turner role and Cliff DeYoung fills in for William Hurt. Scoggins runs to DeYoung, her former lover, for protection from a man trying to kill her. DeYoung, being a hit man, seems well suited for the task, but he is unwilling to co-operate because of some lingering pain over their relationship and break-up, something that obviously hurt him deeply. As per the standard formula, she convinces him that she's still in love with him, and since he's still carrying a torch for her, she is able to seal the deal by bringing out some industrial-strength Chapstick and preparing for several days of serious sexual shenanigans. Let's just say that the scene above was not the only one she performed on her knees. Naturally, this reels him in and he becomes willing to do whatever she needs.

As it turns out, the whole murder angle is just a ruse to make her seem vulnerable. Her real plan involves stealing some perfect art forgeries from a major mobster and leaving DeYoung holding the bag.

Did you see anything there that surprised you? I doubt it. The rest of the plot twists are equally predictable.

There are two directions to take with a film like this. If you really think you have a solid, original movie with interesting characters and an engaging plotline, you can go for a mainstream "soft R" or even a "PG-13" and try for a theatrical release. If you don't think the plot and characterization can carry the ball, you can add lots of flesh and start making cable and video deals. This film made the wrong decision. Somebody along the line thought that the film was good enough to prosper on its intrinsic merit, and that therefore no flesh was necessary. The resulting film is one which is lacking the essentials of a good watch (like original plot, interesting characterization, or impressive production values), yet is also lacking sufficient nudity to make it a good cable product. DeYoung and Scoggins have several sex scenes, but they are not especially passionate, and they are almost completely lacking in nudity. In the course of the entire film, the only nudity consists of two shots of disembodied butts and one brief glimpse of Tracy's left breast as she rolls out of bed. In every other case, Tracy's modesty is defended by sheets, elbows, or the timing of cutaways. If your friend told you it was a network movie of the week, you would never doubt it, because the camera inevitably pulls away just as any naughty bits are about to come into view, and the one slip-up is brief and seems to be accidental. It is rated R, but if you watch the film and then have to guess the rating, you might reasonably guess PG-13.

Because it is essentially an erotic thriller without any erotica, the film just isn't worth any investment of your time.

Tracy Scoggins, best known for her role on Babylon 5, had never had a significant film role before this one, although she was 35 years old at the time. She had been a TV actress whose most famous role was a recurring part on the nighttime soap, "The Colbys". By entering the world of erotic thrillers in her mid thirties, she gave herself the same challenge that Roy Hobbs faced in The Natural. She was a rookie at the age when most retire. She did manage to provide some brief looks at her beautiful breasts in about a half dozen grade-B thrillers until she turned 40, at which point she decided that it might be time to try grown-up work again. From 1993 to 1999, she worked exclusively on TV, and did not make another film until she was 47. She's now 51, so it's a good guess that her erotic thriller days are over unless she catches a bad case of Mimi Rogers disease.

  This film is not available on DVD.

The link to the left goes to the VHS tape, which is out of print but can be purchased inexpensively from the Amazon "marketplace." I bought a used copy for five dollars.



Tracy Scoggins shows one breast fleetingly.


The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 4.3/10. That is based on a mere 12 votes, but it seems to be in the right range.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a D. It is not sexy enough to be an erotic thriller, and it is not original enough to be a real thriller. It is caught in limbo between the two. It might have been a good erotic thriller by adding some nudity and passion, but "almost" only counts in horseshoes.

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