It’s rather appropriate that this month’s Full Moon Feature was actually produced by Full Moon Entertainment. In fact, 1990’s Meridian was one of the first films made by Full Moon after Charles Band’s previous company, Empire Pictures, folded. And since Band wanted to make sure his new enterprise got off to a good start, he directed the film himself from a screenplay by frequent Stuart Gordon collaborator Dennis Paoli. As for what kind of a film it is, well, let’s just say there’s a good reason why it’s sometimes subtitled Kiss of the Beast.
Equal parts mystery, horror, and romance, with a smidgen of bestiality thrown in for good measure, Meridian stars Sherilyn Fenn as Catherine, the new “lady of the castle” when she returns to her ancestral home in Italy after studying art in America for ten years. (She sculpts, but we only ever see her work on one piece, a bust that is rather like what the blind sculptor turned out in Lionel Richie’s “Hello” video.) Eager to settle in, she barely has time to catch up with her old nanny Martha (Hilary Mason) before she receives a visit from her best friend and former roommate Gina (Charlie Spradling, here credited only as “Charlie,” which no), who can only spend the one night because she has to dash back to work on the rush restoration of a painting that got dumped onto her easel at the last minute.
Luckily, that’s long enough for the two of them to take in a performance by a troupe of traveling players, invite them to dinner because Gina has the hots for their leader, magician Lawrence (Malcolm Jamieson), and get drugged and taken advantage of by him and his twin brother Oliver (Malcolm Jamieson again), the show’s crossbowman who performs in a brown hood and black mask to keep his identity a secret. This may be because he literally turns into a beast when he makes love to a woman, which he does while ravaging Catherine, but I’m not sure why Lawrence wouldn’t be troubled by that. As it is, they have a bit of a Dead Ringers thing going since the rude Lawrence warms Catherine up for the more courteous Oliver, who has to struggle to keep the beast within at bay.
Once Gina leaves (the castle, not the picture, since we periodically cut back to her revealing more of the painting she’s been tasked with restoring), the plot thickens as Catherine follows the sound of weeping and stumbles into a centuries-old mystery involving the murder of a girl in a white dress, which the Beast (performed by Alex Daniels in a terrific-looking suit) apparently has some connection to. It’s far from straightforward, though, since he saves Catherine from being raped by Lawrence and she subsequently dreams of getting her freak on with the gentle creature. Could it be love? Well, it had better be because Oliver (for it is he) needs to be killed by someone who loves him for his curse to be lifted.
As one might expect from that synopsis, Meridian lifts a lot from Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast and Universal’s The Wolf Man, going so far as to roll back its transformation effects to pre-American Werewolf in London standards. One thing that is definitely up-to-date, though, is Pino Donaggio’s lush, Tangerine Dream-like score, which leans heavily on the synths. Synthesizers and hairy beasts: That’s a winning combination.