Friday, November 16, 2012

David Petraeus and the Biographer Who Got Too Close to Her Subject

As a biographer myself, I have been avidly following the revelation that squeaky-clean General David Petraeus has been under the covers with the author of his biography, Paula Broadwell. The news of their affair has recently made Broadwell’s book, the aptly-titled All In, a best-seller. But it has ruined his public career, while also seriously damaging her professional credibility. My fellow members of BIO (aka the Biographers International Organization) have taken to Facebook to discuss the journalistic ethics of the situation, as well as the dangers facing biographers who get too close to their subjects.

Meanwhile, remembering back to my years at Concorde-New Horizons Pictures, I can visualize my former boss Roger Corman dusting off old scripts about illicit affairs, strategizing just how they can be tailored to fit the current situation. Roger came from the world of exploitation films, after all, and he’s never missed a chance to be timely. Back in 1987, the success of Fatal Attraction made him determined to get his own erotic thriller into the marketplace. Enter screenwriter Jackson Barr, a good old boy from Texas with a downhome twang and a wicked sense of fun. Soon thereafter, we at Concorde were shooting Body Chemistry, another love triangle involving a nice-guy husband, a devoted wife, and the femme fatale who tries to ruin both their lives.

Whereas Fatal Attraction introduced an attorney who slept with a sexy business associate while his wife and daughter were out of town, we at Concorde came up with a scientist – one involved in the study of sex pheromones – who succumbed to the allure of a sexy colleague while his wife and young son enjoyed a night at the museum. Though we tried to distinguish our film from the original, there’s no denying that the trajectory was the same: the lover, when firmly told by the male lead that their relationship can’t continue, is overcome with jealous rage. She schemes to get revenge, with deadly consequences.

Body Chemistry did well enough for Concorde that we revisited our femme fatale three more times. One big contrast to Fatal Attraction was that our dangerous dame always lived on to vamp another day. In the original Body Chemistry, Dr. Claire Archer (played by Lisa Pescia) was a research scientist with a few screws loose, but in Body Chemistry 2 we made her a radio psychologist with her own call-in show. Jackson Barr, who knew his way around a late-night radio station, showed Claire enthusiastically embracing the joys of the “on the air club.” Eventually, of course, bad things happened to not-so-good people. Next there came Point of Seduction: Body Chemistry III, which combined the B-movie talents of Jim Wynorski, Andrew Stevens, Morgan Fairchild, and me (yes, I have a cameo as a caller to a sex-line). By the time of Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure, Claire Archer had evolved into a TV producer played by the lubricious Shannon Tweed -- you can’t get much more B-movie than that. Fortunately no one adopted my admittedly goofy suggestion that Claire give both Siskel and Ebert a thumbs-up experience.

I’m not suggesting that any of this matches the David Petraeus saga. But Body Chemistry, or one of the many other erotic thrillers we produced at Concorde in the early Nineties (Naked Obsession! In the Heat of Passion!) can surely be tweaked by an enterprising screenwriter to involve a straight-arrow general, his trusting wife, and a biographer who’ll stop at nothing to get herself, shall we say, between hardcovers.

No one has claimed, though, that Paula Broadwell ever boiled a bunny.


  1. I haven't paid all that much attention to the Petraeus story - it's just not that interesting to me. What is interesting to me is how much two film genres took over the shelves at the video stores of the early 90's. Erotic thrillers and kickboxing movies. It was amazing. (And the Corman factory was certainly contributing their fair share.) But it seemed at the time that out of every ten titles, six were some combination of those two genres, and the other four were the mainstream Hollywood movies hitting VHS. It was boggling. I saw some of them, and now wish I'd watched more of them - as they don't seem to be having much of a second life on DVD.

    I love your setup for a new erotic thriller to play off the Petraeus story - maybe it's time for The Asylum to stop making mockbusters and try their hand at a topical thriller "ripped from the headlines!"

  2. "Ripped from the headlines" is always a formula for success, right? Thanks for writing, Mr. Craig.

  3. I have fond memories of seeing BODY CHEMISTRY on cable. I've always been a huge Marc Singer fan (especially when I was a kid) and he was great in this, I thought. Lisa Pescia was a force to be reckoned with for sure. She was very attractive not just in her looks, but her mannerisms and she was guileful to boot. I wasn't expecting the film to end that way at all.

    The second film was okay, but not as good as the first. I thought the ideas the script presented (the sexual aggression versus the more conservative nature of Riker's character) were far more interesting than the film as a whole.

    Part three I saw as something of a parody. Getting to see Shari Shattuck again was a plus. I was awestruck by her beauty on the erotic horror film IMMORTAL SINS, which was another Concorde-New Horizons movie if I recall. Haven't seen that one since it came out.

    The fourth one I scarcely remember much about save for Tweed's participation.

    Beverly, you wouldn't happen to know why Pescia didn't return for the third entry would you? I thought she was really good in those first two and the best actress to play the Claire Archer role.

    Speaking of Marc Singer, you might have worked with him on WATCHERS 2 and DEAD SPACE, Beverly. Both were around the time of BODY CHEMISTRY, I think. I didn't really like either of those, but it was great seeing him onscreen again. Possibly Singer might make a subject for a future post?

  4. Brian, sorry it took me so long to answer this. Immortal Sins, wow! I actually have a writing credit on that, because I had to take over the third draft when the original screenwriter couldn't be bothered to respond to our very legitimate story notes. It was shot in an especially picturesque corner of Spain, and I envied the production team. As I recall, Lisa Pescia didn't return for the 3rd Body Chemistry film because she'd suddenly decided she was hot stuff and wanted a significant increase in salary. (She WAS hot stuff, but you can't get away with lofty salary demands on a Corman movie.) I actually associate Marc Singer with the classical stage work I saw him do at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. (Yes, I was a theatre critic once upon a time.) I didn't know him well, but when I mentioned having enjoyed his work in The Taming of the Shrew, he looked at me as though I were crazy!

  5. BODY CHEMISTRY was definitely a cut above the typical FATAL ATTRACTION clones. It's funny how certain movies click in certain societal climates. Clint Eastwood directed the similar PLAY MISTY FOR ME in 1971 and it took some fifteen years for that type of film to snowball.

    I think my first major recollection of Marc Singer (outside of repeats of him and William Smith in 'The Gladiators' episode of the PLANET OF THE APES TV series) was THE BEASTMASTER. I love that movie. I remember after seeing him in that I wanted to look like him; which was more realistic to me than looking like Schwarzenegger, lol. His lead status on the original V series was also something I looked forward to as a kid. Singer was a childhood hero of mine and I had no idea he did theater.

    Continuing on Singer, some time in the late 1980s, I saw a TV movie he did called FOR LADIES ONLY where he played a male stripper. He was the co-star alongside Gregory Harrison. How interesting that both guys headlined BODY CHEMISTRY movies, and both had ill-fated affairs with the devious Claire Archer!

  6. Thanks, Brian, for these recollections. Well, did you grow up to look like Marc Singer? Better than looking like Ahnold, that's for sure!

  7. Well, I was a bit late to the game on that one, Beverly, lol. However, I do look more like him now; only it probably would have been more beneficial had I done that when I was a bit younger where I was more shy around the ladies as opposed to my late 30s. Better late than never, I suppose, lol. :D