Mortal Thoughts (1991)

R | 104 mins | Drama, Mystery | 19 April 1991

Director:

Alan Rudolph

Cinematographer:

Elliot Davis

Editor:

Tom Walls

Production Designer:

Howard Cummings

Production Company:

New Visions Entertainment
Full page view
HISTORY

       The title of the film references William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth (London, 1623). In the fifth scene of the first act of the play, Lady Macbeth summons the courage to commit murderous deeds: “Come, you spirits/That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,/And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full/Of direst cruelty.”
       On 23 Jan 1990, HR announced that principal photography would begin in late Feb 1990. Claude Kerven, who co-wrote the script with William Reilly, was slated to make his debut as a director. An 18 Feb 1990 LAT news brief confirmed a 20 Feb 1990 start date in Hoboken, NJ. However, one month later, Var reported that director Claude Kerven had been replaced by Alan Rudolph. The 14 Mar 1990 news item indicated that Kerven left the project at the end of the first week of shooting, and received only a writing credit. Principal photography resumed on 7 Mar 1990, under Rudoph’s direction.
       In a 19 Apr 1991 Santa Monica Outlook article, the director alluded to the improvisational nature of the production: “No one really knew what the ending would be. A half-day before we shot it, we got together and decided what the ending should be.” Alan Rudoph also credited actress Demi Moore for stepping in as co-producer of the $7 million picture. In a 17 Apr 1991 interview for the Orange County Register, Rudolph indicated that Moore was well aware of the picture’s budgetary constraints, and took it upon herself to fix “the problems we were having.”
       Filmmakers planned to release Mortal Thoughts in Dec 1990, according ... More Less

       The title of the film references William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth (London, 1623). In the fifth scene of the first act of the play, Lady Macbeth summons the courage to commit murderous deeds: “Come, you spirits/That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,/And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full/Of direst cruelty.”
       On 23 Jan 1990, HR announced that principal photography would begin in late Feb 1990. Claude Kerven, who co-wrote the script with William Reilly, was slated to make his debut as a director. An 18 Feb 1990 LAT news brief confirmed a 20 Feb 1990 start date in Hoboken, NJ. However, one month later, Var reported that director Claude Kerven had been replaced by Alan Rudolph. The 14 Mar 1990 news item indicated that Kerven left the project at the end of the first week of shooting, and received only a writing credit. Principal photography resumed on 7 Mar 1990, under Rudoph’s direction.
       In a 19 Apr 1991 Santa Monica Outlook article, the director alluded to the improvisational nature of the production: “No one really knew what the ending would be. A half-day before we shot it, we got together and decided what the ending should be.” Alan Rudoph also credited actress Demi Moore for stepping in as co-producer of the $7 million picture. In a 17 Apr 1991 interview for the Orange County Register, Rudolph indicated that Moore was well aware of the picture’s budgetary constraints, and took it upon herself to fix “the problems we were having.”
       Filmmakers planned to release Mortal Thoughts in Dec 1990, according to a 3 Sep 1990 US Magazine news item. However, a 4 Feb 1991 Var brief reported that producer Mark Tarlov and development company Polar Entertainment had filed a lawsuit against New Vision Pictures for breach of contract in relation to Kerven’s departure and Rudoph’s participation in profit-sharing. It is unknown if the lawsuit delayed the film’s release. Mortal Thoughts opened on 19 Apr 1991 to mixed reviews.
      End credits include the following acknowledgments: “The producers with to thank: The New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission; The City of Bayonne, New Jersey; The City of Jersey City, New Jersey; The City of Hoboken, New Jersey; The New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting; Dworzanski & Sons Funeral Home, Bayonne, New Jersey; Salon 918, Bayonne, New Jersey; Specialized Knitwear by Rennar Designs, Bayonne, New Jersey; Leatherwear by Winlit Fashions, Inc.; Men’s Formalwear and Accessories by Lord West; Bride’s Gown and Bridesmaids’ Dresses by Alfred Angelo Dream Maker; John Keating, Northstar; David Blocker; Jack Morris and Bowcraft Amusement Park.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
15 Apr 1991
p. 2, 15.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 1990
p. 1, 8, 124.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 1991
p. 8, 19.
Los Angeles Times
18 Feb 1990.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Apr 1991
p. 1.
New York Times
19 Apr 1991
Section C, p. 14.
Orange County Register (Santa Ana, CA)
17 Apr 1991
Section F, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook
19 Apr 1991.
---
US Magazine
3 Sep 1990.
---
Variety
14 Mar 1990.
---
Variety
4 Feb 1991.
---
Variety
29 Apr 1991.
p. 92.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures presents
a New Visions Entertainment production
a Polar Entertainment Corporation production in association with Rufglen Films
an Alan Rudolph film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d unit dir, 2d unit
1st asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Chief lighting tech
Elec best boy
Key grip
Grip best boy
Grip
Dolly grip
Steadicam op
Still photog
Cam trainee
Video op
Video op
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Cam equip by
Grip & elec equip by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutting by
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Chargeman scenic artist
Prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Ward supv
Asst cost des
MUSIC
Mus rec & mixed by
Vocalist
SOUND
Sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley/ADR mixer
Supv re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles & optical eff by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Addl makeup
Mr. Willis' makeup
Hairstylist
Addl hair
Mr. Willis' hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Addl casting
Casting asst
Prod office coord
Asst prod mgr
Prod assoc
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Post prod accountant
Scr supv
Asst to Ms. Moore
Asst to Mr. Rudolph
Asst to Mr. Willis
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Loc staff
Loc staff
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Craft service
Technical advisor
Unit pub
DGA trainee
Dial coach
Animals supplied by
Completion guaranty provided by
STAND INS
Stunt double Joyce
Stunt double Cynthia
Utility stunt
Utility stunt
Utility stunt
Utility stunt
Utility stunt
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Film laboratory
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Just The Way You Are," by Billy Joel
"Kung Fu Fighting," by Carl Douglas.
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 April 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 19 April 1991
New York opening: week of 19 April 1991
Production Date:
began 20 February 1990
resumed 7 March 1990
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 June 1991
Copyright Number:
PA524431
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
104
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30782
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At a Bayonne, New Jersey, police station, Cynthia Kellogg meets with Detective John Woods and Detective Linda Nealon to give a statement about the death of James Urbanski, husband of her best friend, Joyce Urbanski. The Urbanski marriage had always been tempestuous. When asked if Joyce ever spoke of harming her husband, Cynthia recalls a particular afternoon: James Urbanski arrives at Joyce’s Clip ‘n’ Dye beauty salon to drop off his toddler son. Joyce is exasperated that her husband cannot watch their child. James admonishes his wife for missing a doctor’s appointment that morning. The two begin to yell at each other, until Joyce’s business partner, Cynthia, breaks up the argument. Before leaving the salon, the brutish James fills his pocket with money from the cash drawer. Cynthia comforts Joyce, who expresses a desire to kill her husband. A few years later, while on break at the salon, Joyce fills a sugar bowl with a mixture of rat poison and sugar. Cynthia watches her friend take the bowl upstairs to the Urbanski apartment. When Joyce returns to the salon, Cynthia dashes upstairs to distract James from using the sugar. She urges him to work on controlling his temper, provoking an emotional outburst from him. Just then, the phone rings, and Cynthia knocks over the sugar bowl while James is on the phone. Although he is upset, James turns his attention to Cynthia, insisting that she show him her breasts before leaving the apartment. Cynthia strikes him and runs back downstairs. Sometime later, Joyce picks up her best friend for a night on the town. Cynthia is disappointed to see James, high on cocaine, in the back seat of the ... +


At a Bayonne, New Jersey, police station, Cynthia Kellogg meets with Detective John Woods and Detective Linda Nealon to give a statement about the death of James Urbanski, husband of her best friend, Joyce Urbanski. The Urbanski marriage had always been tempestuous. When asked if Joyce ever spoke of harming her husband, Cynthia recalls a particular afternoon: James Urbanski arrives at Joyce’s Clip ‘n’ Dye beauty salon to drop off his toddler son. Joyce is exasperated that her husband cannot watch their child. James admonishes his wife for missing a doctor’s appointment that morning. The two begin to yell at each other, until Joyce’s business partner, Cynthia, breaks up the argument. Before leaving the salon, the brutish James fills his pocket with money from the cash drawer. Cynthia comforts Joyce, who expresses a desire to kill her husband. A few years later, while on break at the salon, Joyce fills a sugar bowl with a mixture of rat poison and sugar. Cynthia watches her friend take the bowl upstairs to the Urbanski apartment. When Joyce returns to the salon, Cynthia dashes upstairs to distract James from using the sugar. She urges him to work on controlling his temper, provoking an emotional outburst from him. Just then, the phone rings, and Cynthia knocks over the sugar bowl while James is on the phone. Although he is upset, James turns his attention to Cynthia, insisting that she show him her breasts before leaving the apartment. Cynthia strikes him and runs back downstairs. Sometime later, Joyce picks up her best friend for a night on the town. Cynthia is disappointed to see James, high on cocaine, in the back seat of the van. The man insults Cynthia by making remarks about her husband, Arthur. When he begins flirting with Cynthia, Joyce swerves into oncoming traffic, accelerating toward a Mack truck. The crazed woman veers away at the last possible second, frightening Cynthia and thrilling James. They arrive at a carnival, and James asks Cynthia for money and drugs, before wandering away on his own. Later, he finds Joyce and asks for more money, which she does not have. An argument ensues, and Joyce throws the keys at the strung-out man, telling him to drive home. Cynthia follows James to the van, where he passes out. She shuts him into the back of the vehicle and returns to the carnival. A short while later, Joyce insists they leave. As they drive home, Cynthia realizes her friend is distraught and asks what happened. Joyce pulls over and reveals that she cut James’s throat with a box knife. Cynthia thinks they should call the police, but Joyce argues for covering up the murder. They dump the body over an embankment, and Cynthia throws the knife away. Later, the two women argue over their cover story. Cynthia, covered in blood, returns home and tells her husband about the evening’s events. He urges her to call police, but Cynthia fears incriminating her friend. Arthur agrees to support his wife, but in return, expects her to end her friendship with Joyce. The next day, Cynthia cleans out the back of the van and destroys the blood-spattered objects inside. When she returns the vehicle to the beauty salon, James’s brother, Joey, voices his suspicions about the events surrounding James’s death. At her husband’s wake, Joyce informs Cynthia that police have taken custody of the van. Joyce speaks rapidly and takes pills, before pleading with Cynthia to help her get rid of some of James’s personal belongings. Cynthia suggests they refrain from talking to each other for a while. Sometime later, Cynthia learns that Joyce, having cut her wrists, is being held in a women’s detention center. She visits her paranoid friend, and together, the two concoct a story about the van’s whereabouts the week of James’s murder. Cynthia offers to show investigators a “logbook” at the salon the next day. That night, Arthur confronts Cynthia when he finds a falsified appointment book among her belongings. He warns his wife to stay out of Joyce’s legal entanglements. Sometime later, Joyce knocks on Cynthia’s door and asks for James’s wallet, jewelry, and handgun. Arthur arrives home early and taunts Joyce about the investigation into her husband’s death. Cynthia escorts Joyce to the sidewalk, and the two women argue about Arthur’s knowledge of recent events. Although Cynthia defends her husband, she returns to find Arthur packing a suitcase and talking about hiring a divorce lawyer. The angry man threatens to turn Joyce in to authorities. A few evenings later, Cynthia takes her children to her parent’s house, where she receives a phone call from Joyce, who plans to go to the Kellogg house to confront Arthur. Cynthia does not take her friend seriously and falls asleep. Later, she returns to her home, where police inform her that Arthur has been killed. Just then, Detective Woods interrupts Cynthia, questioning several aspects of her story. Cynthia becomes defensive and leaves the interrogation room. The detective walks her to the front door, before calling Joyce Urbanski in for questioning. In her parked car, Cynthia reflects on the night at the carnival: After being yelled at by his wife, James stumbles to the van. Cynthia follows and urges him to get into the back of the vehicle, so he can sleep off his drunkenness. James pulls her inside and attempts to have sex with her. A struggle ensues. Cynthia grabs a box knife and cuts James’s throat. Distraught, she locates Joyce, who suggests taking the dying man to the hospital. However, Joyce realizes they could face charges, and decides it would be best to dump the body. Overcome by the memory of actual events, Cynthia returns to the police station, where she volunteers to amend her statement. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.