Tag Archives: 1999

Thief of Hearts (1984)

Director: Douglas Day Stewart

Screenplay: Douglas Day Stewart

A perfect title for a near-perfect piece of soft-core trash. The producing team of Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson are responsible for this erotic thriller, so you know it’s “sexy” as a bad 80s music video and features overripe pop ballads with vaguely porny lyrics like, “Take the danger / take the pleasure / take the fear / Run sensations to the limit / Life’s so near” (these come courtesy of Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey).

The film stars Steven Bauer as a hunky burglar who robs the manse of a well-to-do couple (Barbara Williams and John Getz) and accidentally makes off with the wife’s journals, which happen to contain her sultry sexual fantasies. The wife, Mickey (or “Michelle,” as she calls her sexual alter ego), naturally frets that the burglar is out there somewhere getting off on her journal entries. And he is: Bauer stays up nights paging voraciously through the journals, sweating during the naughtier bits, and taking notes on “Michelle’s” fantasy man, with the intent of using this information to seduce Mickey. When he later poses as a client for Mickey’s interior decorating firm, it’s not long before “Thief of Hearts” Bauer has landed his conquest, and—shocker!—fallen in love. Of course, eventually the guy’s got to be made out for the perv he is. What is semi-interesting about the fallout from Bauer’s deceit is how it redounds on Mickey: she’s chided for creating in the first place the fantasy image Bauer so ably fulfills. Herein lies the film’s coded reactionary message—woman, be the wife, dote on thy husband—as might be expected from director/writer Douglas Day Stewart, who was also responsible for the script to the anti-feminist An Officer and a Gentleman earlier in the decade.

Still, Thief of Hearts is too brainless to take the aforementioned bit of ideology half-way seriously. The movie traffics in a number of obvious signifiers: e.g., you know the cuckolded husband is sexless because he writes children’s books and wears spectacles; conversely, you know Steven Bauer’s hot-to-trot because he has a firing range in his loft and occasionally takes Mickey out on his yacht so she can watch him massage cocoa butter all over his rippling, hairy chest and down his groin. (But you know Bauer’s also sensitive, see, because early in the film he lays a couple extra C-notes on a doe-eyed eighteen-year-old hooker he, with all apologies, isn’t in the mood to bang.) And just in case you forget you’re watching an 80s film, Mickey’s interior decoration consists of incorporating giant, tacky triangles and circles into her clients’ decor. Oh, and David Caruso kicks around as Bauer’s burglar buddy, looking—uncannily—like a redheaded Morrissey (circa Viva Hate) and snorting blow of the tip of his butterfly knife.

I can’t lie, this stuff is hilarious to me folks, but it’s probably not for all tastes. The hot-and-heavy aesthetic of the movie reminded me a little of this album insert for Prince’s 1999, only you get the impression with Prince that he’s intentionally dosing his sex with kinky, campy humour. Thief of Hearts plays it deadly serious, which of course makes it even higher camp. I’m afraid if I call the film a “guilty pleasure” you’ll accuse me of encouraging you to go out and see it. Well, what can I say, guilty as charged.

-Cam

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Filed under Cam, Hollywood Cinema