Mediocre: The Stranger Beside Me

The Stranger Beside Me (1995)
Directed by Sandor Stern
Written by Bruce Miller
Produced by William Shippey, Nick Smirnoff, Ronnie D. Clemmer, Richard P. Kughn, Bill Pace
Starring Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Eric Close, Gerald McRaney, Lorrie Morgan, Alyson Hannigan, Steven Eckholdt, Casey Sander, Patrick Labyorteaux, Robert Crow, Suzanne Ventulett, Darrin Long, James Quattrochi, Suzanne Turner
So many compulsives can never be satisfied, such as a naval seaman (Close) who spends too many free and unaccompanied hours peeping and raping pretty blondes in his neighborhood. His sweet, steadfast spouse (Thiessen) stands by him until she’s confronted with incontestable evidence of his deviant recidivism, then investigates a succeeding string of sexual assaults for which he’s obviously responsible in an attempt to forestall more, and protect their newborn daughter. Viewers familiar with Stern’s usual docudramatic sexual misconduct-by-numbers (Without Her Consent, Web of Deceit) know what to expect from this competently shot, crudely cut, moderately goofy thriller, which rides on fair performances by charismatically creepy Close, luscious Thiessen at her popularity’s pinnacle, and McRaney as her disabled, avuncular buddy. Hannigan’s meanwhile less chafing than usual as the flagitious rape artist’s pouty, posttraumatic cousin. Everyone here fares variably with Miller’s soupy script, but for whomever prefer their television tawdry, these 90+ minutes beautified by their photogenic leads will be pleasantly spent.

Mediocre: Without Her Consent

Without Her Consent (1990)
Directed by Sandor Stern
Written by Ann Beckett
Produced by Frank Brill, Maureen Holmes, Don Goldman, Raymond Katz, Carla Singer
Starring Melissa Gilbert, Barry Tubb, Scott Valentine, Bebe Neuwirth, Crystal Bernard, Madison Mason, Robin Riker, Julie McCullough, Ashley Bank, William Allen Young, Richard Fancy
Heed of the following cautionary catalog might’ve prevented the miseries and inconveniences suffered by this televised flick’s characters, especially a couple of guileless high school sweethearts from Idaho, a daycarer (Gilbert) preceding her mulleted moviemaker (Tubb) in transmigration to Los Angeles:

  1. Don’t relocate to Los Angeles as every other ambitious rustic may; establish yourself in a safer, less populous city like Austin and exploit the opportunities of its hungrier local industry.
  2. Like the whole of L.A., Venice is crawling with creeps; since arrogant, unpalatably handsome white men constitute 100% of all rapists in Lifetime’s broadcasts, don’t accept a ride from an unfamiliar stage carpenter (Valentine) from adjacent Santa Monica who fits that profile.
  3. A rendezvous with the aforementioned lothario manque at his domicile to examine a furnishing he’s presumably proffered is no wiser, even if the prior ride seemed harmless.
  4. If you’ve been violently raped after failing to conform to 2. and 3., visit the nearest police precinct and submit to an examination by a physician equipped with a rape kit; don’t be dissuaded by women crazed by spousal abuse, shrieking at deskbound officers.
  5. Even if you don’t follow 4., refrain from laving away inculpative seminal matter before a rape kit is administered; reason, not ablution, dispels unwarranted shame.
  6. If your rapist phones you frequently to harass you, learn how to disrupt his calls and deafen him by playing melodies on your touch-tone phone; Mary Had a Little Lamb and Computer World are suitable songs for such renditions.
  7. As soon as your boyfriend’s arrived and settled, but before he applies for gainful employment, notify him of your violation and bid him to avenge it by larruping your assailant to incapacitation at first tactical opportunity; otherwise, he might resort to some imprudent shift, such as vehicular assault.
  8. If an antecedent victim visits you with an offer to join her criminal suit under the aegis of one Gloria Allred (adorable Neuwirth helmeted with a bobbed, Brobdingnagian wig approximating Allred’s weird crinal volume), accept it; hers is the disposition of every grouchy aunt at a mitzvah’s reception, but she’s an unexcelled litigator whose lust for publicity’s matched only by that for judicial victory.
  9. In the instance that 7. was disregarded, 8. is doubly dire, now that your boyfriend’s been arraigned for vehicular assault; your stupid aversion to conflict only exacerbated your situation, Melissa.
  10. Support one another uncondtionally; hugs help!
  11. As the district attorney (Young) trying this case, suasion of the rapist’s codgerly neighbor who witnessed the crime’s aftermath to testify is your obligation, not that of the boyfriend under penalty of a restraining order. Do your job!
  12. No matter how loco you are, if you’re a rapist on trial, any extenuative exposition of pathological rationalization will land you in prison, pervert!

As perhaps the best advertisement for Allred’s career, an insatiable vortex of publicity presently targeting the President of the United States of America, it’s also goofy enough for a quality casual riff with friends.
Instead, watch I Spit on Your Grave.