This misconceived 1986 film adaptation of William Mastrosimone’s 1978
play, an upscale rape-revenge fantasy, is best remembered nowadays as
one of several attempts by the late Farrah Fawcett to establish herself
as a serious actress.
In its original form, William Mastrosimone’s
EXTREMITIES, which New York Daily News critic Douglas Watt dubbed
“A good nasty jolting evening of playgoing,” was to theatergoers what
LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
were to grindhouse patrons. It told the brutal tale of a young woman who
viciously turns the tables on a rapist in her isolated farm house, and
her two chirpy friends who turn up to argue the various moral issues.
Farrah Fawcett, then (and now) best known as an
ex-CHARLIE’S ANGELS sex symbol, lobbied hard for the lead role, and in
1983 succeeded in following Susan Sarandon and Karen Allen in the
original off-Broadway production of EXTREMITIES. Fawcett can be said to
own the role, since when she took time off due to an injury the play
closed within a week. Fawcett also headlined this film version, scripted
by Mastrosimone and directed by the talented Robert M. Young (SHORT
EYES, DOMINICK AND EUGENE).
The attractive Marjorie is waylaid by a masked rapist
on her way home from work one night. She manages to fight him off, and
heads directly to the nearest police station. However, since no rape was
actually committed there’s not much the cops can do.
A week later Marjorie is settled down in the suburban
house she shares with her friends Terry and Patricia. Both are out,
though, when a man abruptly enters the house. He claims to be looking
for someone named Joe, but it quickly becomes clear that he’s actually
the slimy fuck who attacked Marjorie a week earlier--and this time he’s
got her cornered.
As a prelude to his planned rape he degrades and
humiliates Marjorie, making her dress up for him in a slutty outfit and
cook him bacon. But just as he’s about to violate her fully she blasts
his face with bug spray. Marjorie further splashes him with boiling
water and then entraps him in the fireplace by lashing a bed frame over
Around this time Terry arrives home for an
understandable shock. Marjorie demands Terry help her kill and dispose
of the “Animal,” as she knows the cops will do nothing to help her.
Being a bit of a wuss (and a rape victim herself), Terry goes along with
Marjorie. Then Patricia shows up.
Patricia is a hard-core liberal, and more strong-willed
than the mousy Terry. Not fully believing Marjorie’s story, Patricia
demands “Animal” be given medicine. He for his part does all he can to
convince Terry and Patricia that Marjorie’s lying. Eventually, however,
Marjorie’s torture gets to him and he confesses that he stole the
ladies’ mail with the intention of stalking and killing them all.
As a play EXTREMITIES works fairly well, but not so
much as a movie. Director Robert M. Young’s attempts at rendering this
patently stagy material cinematic include a twenty minute prologue of
material not in the play: an opening scene set on a nighttime express
way, a police station visit, a lengthy sequence featuring Marjorie
puttering around her house and a lot of excess brutality. Unfortunately
all any of this does is make it that much more jarring when the film
devolves into a claustrophobic three-way talkfest.
The acting is quite fine, as expected, with Farrah
Fawcett wowing in a performance of real emotional depth and powerful
physicality. James Russo, another returnee from the stage version, is at
his sleazy best as Fawcett’s attacker, and quite moving in his final
soulful monologue. As Fawcett’s two chirpy friends, Alfre Woodard is
solid but Diana Scarwid (of MOMMIE DEAREST infamy) goes over the top in
a cringe-worthy riot of wailing and blubbering.
In the end, what should be a searing and horrific
account comes off as misconceived and plain dull, regardless of the good
(and not-so) performances. The film didn’t quite succeed in establishing
Ms. Fawcett as a respectable actress, but it certainly didn’t slow her
Farrah Fawcett died on June 25, 2009. She may have
never succeeded in shaking the CHARLIE’S ANGLES sex symbol stigma, but
that wasn’t for lack of trying.
Atlantic Releasing Corporation
Director: Robert M. Young
Producer: Burt Sugarman
Screenplay: William Mastrosimone
(Based on a play by William Mastrosimone)
Cinematography: Curtis Clark
Editing: Arthur Coburn
Cast: Farrah Fawcett, James Russo, Diana Scarwid, Alfre Woodard, Sandy
Martin, Eddie Velez, Tom Everett