“Private Obsession” stars Shannon Whirry. If you don’t know the name, then you weren’t around during the Golden ’90s, back when you couldn’t walk into your local mom and pop video store (they still existed back then) and stumble into a sea of direct-to-video “erotic thrillers” starring either Shannon Whirry, Shannon Tweed, or in the later ’90s, the ubiquitous Tane McClure. Basically B-grade material, these films were as cookie cutter as they come, and the most inventive thing about them was how much simulated sex they could cram into a film without losing the “R” rating. Of course with the advent of cable and mom and pop video stores, losing an “R” wasn’t necessarily such a big deal, as the filmmakers could release their movies in the much more desirable “Unrated” version. Nowadays everything has to conform to the standard “R”, or risk losing shelf position in Hell’s Inferno — aka Blockbuster Videos.
“Private Obsession” has everything a young man growing up in the ’90s could possibly want. Sex, generous amounts of nudity, and a leading lady who was more talented in taking her clothes off than she was doing those dialogue things the director keeps telling her to do in-between scenes of faux sex and gratuitous nudity. In “Obsession”, Whirry plays feminist-minded supermodel Emanuelle, an unlikable tart well aware of her appeal to men and her position as “the world’s highest paid supermodel”. Emanuelle’s glamorous lifestyle hits a speed bump when she’s abducted by Richard Tate (Michael Christian), a clearly insane loner who is determined to “break” Emanuelle. After attempts to escape from Richard’s clutches fail, Emanuelle acquiesce, and the two have great sex. Or some such.
While it certainly has the “erotic” part down, it’s unclear where the “thriller” part comes in, as the film is more comical than thrilling. Take a scene where Emanuelle, locked in a room with only a small doggy door that Richard uses to feed her, attempts to escape by crawling through the doggy door. She ends up stuck halfway, so it’s up to an amused Richard to lubricate her just enough to slide her through. It’s that kind of insightful psychological battles between the two leads that makes “Private Obsession” the piece of genius filmmaking it is.
I’m being facetious, of course, since the only real value of “Private Obsession” is watching Whirry in all her nude glory. Without being too callous, it’s clear that Whirry’s biggest assets have always been her face and her generous cleavage. The movie is written and directed by Lee Frost, who also co-stars as a private detective hired to locate Emanuelle. Frost’s dick is soon joined by Bo Svenson’s dick, and the two dicks spend their time interviewing a clueless Japanese witness and generally padding the running time until the movie’s inevitable, “shocking” conclusion.
I suppose in some ways “Private Obsession” is a little bit more ambitious than its ’90s erotic thriller brethrens. For one, there seems to be more behind the idea of Christian’s character kidnapping Whirry in order to break her and turn her into his version of the ideal woman. The general ’90s erotic thrillers were basically carbon copies of each other, involving double-dealings, back stabbings, secret murders, and boring police investigations. All the while, people are having constant sex in-between all the filler material. Which isn’t to say Frost’s “Obsession” is a brainteaser, because it’s not. Taken in comparison to its genre, it’s just a little bit more aware of itself.
Of course the real draw of “Obsession” is Shannon Whirry, who first broke into the genre with 1992’s “Animal Instincts”, a softcore picture about voyeurism that eventually spawn two sequels, one of which also starred Whirry. Whirry’s entire career up to this point (and beyond) had been showing what a fit and well-endowed young woman she is. No surprise, then, that about 70% of Whirry’s scenes in “Obsession” has her in various stages of undress or almost-nakedness. Say what you will about Lee Frost, but he definitely knows his audience, and what the audience wants is Whirry naked. A lot.
The other interesting thing about “Private Obsession” is just how unappealing Michael Christian’s character is. Not just the fact that he’s a twisted psychopath trying to forcefully mold Emanuelle into his personal love toy, but also because Christian, the actor, is borderline ugly. Christian had to be somewhere in his ’40s at the time, and looks every bit like it. Kudos to Frost for not opting for the empty-headed gym rats that the genre is usually filled with, along with their equally empty-headed blonde counterparts. As such, watching the aging, unfit Christian have sex with the young and very fit Whirry should give hope to all the would-be psychos out there.
What it all comes down to is Shannon Whirry’s appeal. If you like her type of long legged, zero fat, busty blonde, then “Private Obsession” is your Holy Grail. She’s naked almost the entire time once she’s abducted, and even when she’s not naked, she’s in revealing outfits. What can you say, except that Whirry is perfect for the part. Oh sure, the whole supermodel-cum-feminist angle is a bit hard to swallow. After all, how many supermodels do you know who even knows what the word “suffrage” means? Whirry is no Meryl Streep, but she doesn’t completely embarrasses herself with the whole acting thing, which is saying a lot for one of the few main headliners of the Golden ’90s.
Lee Frost (director) / Lee Frost (screenplay)
CAST: Michael Christian …. Richard Tate
Shannon Whirry …. Emanuelle Griffith
Bo Svenson …. Sam Weston