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May 10, 2012

Sex, Lies and Death

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Sexo, mentiras y muertos
Ramiro Meneses - 2011
Lionsgate Films Region 1 DVD

While the filmography of Alfred Hitchcock is finite, the number of films that have been remakes, homages, or just plain rip-offs might be, if not infinite, at least not fully explored. This article is of some help, but more as a starting off point than anything resembling the final word. When it comes to variations on Strangers on a Train, I will happily include Danny DeVito's fine and funny Throw Momma from the Train.

Patricia Highsmith is probably owed more credit than given for her original novel, about the two men who meet on a train, and agree to trade murder victims. I also have to acknowledge that Highsmith's popularity as an author is such that she has several books filmed more than once. I am certain, though, that it was Alfred Hitchcock's film of Strangers on a Train that has inspired the many versions that have followed. Among the more recent films I am aware of is a Tamil version, titled Muran. I am certain that more versions will be uncovered.

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The original story has been described as being about tit-for-tat murders. This distaff version from Columbia might be described best as tit-for-tit. Viviana, taking a break from her abusive husband, is chatted up by Alicia, in a bar. Alicia is in an unhappy relationship with her lover. Within minutes of meeting, Alicia proposes murder. Viviana goes along, seemingly uncertain if this scheme will work. And of course nothing goes as planned.

That Alicia's victim is her lesbian lover is the least of the twists to this film. Sadly, the film, shot on video, is like the murders, better in the planning than the actual execution. When all is said and done, the potential for eroticism and suspense gets squandered. Had Brian De Palma gotten hold of the script, we might have had a better film. And hopefully, he would have added the murder of Viviana's cloying mother-in-law.

One aspect of Hitchcock's film that has been up for discussion is the depiction of homosexuality.. Sex, Lies and Death offers a mildly titillating view of women who love women. What makes Hitchcock's film enduring, while the Meneses remains a forgettable diversion, is that for all of the twists and turns in this remake, it lacks the depth that Hitchcock gave to his characters. There are worse ways of killing an hour and a half than watching the redhead star Columbian television star, Andrea Lopez. But Sex, Lies and Death also proves that when it comes to cinema suspense, it's not just the contents of story, but how you tell it that makes the difference.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 10, 2012 08:39 AM