Katy Darby’s debut novel, The Whores’ Asylum mixes thrilling high drama with a Gothic sensibility. In the seedy back streets of Oxford in 1887, the close friendship of two worthy men is threatened by the delicious Diana, a woman with a troubled past and a dark future. London-based Darby teaches writing at City University and co-runs the monthly live fiction event Liars’ League. Her filmic Alter Ego is Bridget Gregory in The Last Seduction. EITHNE FARRY
‘When women go wrong, men go right after them.’ (Mae West)
If I had to be a film femme fatale, I’d bypass the obvious choices (Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct) and squeeze myself into the slinky shoes of Bridget Gregory in The Last Seduction (1994). Bridget is quite a piece of work, as is this pitch-black neo-noir crime thriller, an underrated classic if ever there was one. I flirted briefly with the idea of nominating Sean Young’s cool replicant Rachael in Blade Runner – but Rachael, being not quite human, is essentially innocent; and if there’s one thing a femme fatale is, it’s guilty as hell.
Bridget is certainly no innocent: having made off with $700,000 stolen from her crooked husband Clay (Bill Pullman) and gone on the run, she stops off at a bar in Nowheresville, where local boy Mike (Peter Berg) tries to chat her up by telling her he’s hung like a horse. She promptly invites him to sit, sticks her hand down his pants, and says, ‘Let’s see’: now there’s a woman with balls. Soon she decides to rid herself of her annoying ex by manipulating Mike to kill him, then double-crosses Mike too – getting away with the money, and murder, by playing the ‘helpless victim’ card.
Bridget is, unapologetically, a nasty girl. Not conflicted, not confused: just out-and-out bad. She knows it, and uses it to get exactly what she wants. Many femmes fatales, especially in film noir, come to a sticky end because, after all, they’re bad girls, and that’s what happens to them, right? Wrong. In this film Bridget isn’t a plot device, a cardboard villain, or a temptress leading the protagonist astray: she is the protagonist. It’s absolutely her story, and she wins in the end – and we love to watch her do it, leaving broken hearts, cast-off underwear and smoking cigarette butts in her wake.