The Secretary (1995)


USA/Germany. 1995.


Director – Andrew Lane, Screenplay – Graham Flashner, Story – Flashner, Randy Kornfield & Ken Segall, Producer – Pierre David, Photography – Steven Bernstein, Music – Louis Febre, Production Design – William V. Ryder. Production Company – Starlight/Film Medien Kandel GmbH/Agenda Productions/Image Organization/Republic Pictures


Mel Harris (Ellen Bradford), Sheila Kelley (Deidre Bosnell), Barry Bostwick (Eric Bradford), James Russo (Ted Burke), Richard Herd (Chuck Bosnell), Raymond Baker (Lester Howland), Mimi Craven (Marcia Hastings)


With her husband out of work, Ellen Bradford decides to go back to work as a stockbroker after an absence of eight years. At the interview, she meets secretary Deidre Bosnell in the bathroom crying and offers solace. Deidre then lies to the other applicant so that Ellen can get the job. As Ellen settles in, Deidre manipulates things to help Ellen become successful. However, she is then forced to kill people who threaten to expose her. As Ellen becomes aware of what is happening, Deidre turns on her. She kicks out the jack while Ellen’s husband is under a car and abducts her daughter, all in order to force Ellen to embezzle money for her.

The Secretary – not to be confused with much more high-profile BDSM romance Secretary (2002) – is one of a series of psycho-thrillers made by Canadian producer Pierre David. Others include the generally routine to not-too-bad likes of The Paperboy (1994), Stalked (1994), Daddy’s Girl (1996), Man of Her Dreams/The Fiancée (1997), Cupid (1997), The Nurse (1997), The Perfect Nanny (2000), The Perfect Tenant (2000), The Stepdaughter (2000), the surprisingly good The Landlady (1997), the excellent Alone with a Stranger (2000) and a good many others.

As with most of Pierre David’s psycho-thrillers, The Secretary blandly and formulaically copies other models. The Secretary feels exactly like it has been made to copy the previous year’s psycho secretary effort The Temp (1993). And, although The Secretary is a better film than The Temp, it is strictly average in all respects. In fact, The Secretary is yet another thriller in the Fatal Attraction (1987) mould wherein an ordinary middle-class person is victimized by a psychopath – this even imitates Fatal Attraction with a scene where the psychopath abducts the heroine’s daughter. The film goes through the conventions of this genre routinely and with no particular distinction. Perhaps the only difference is the fact that the psycho is the same sex as their victim and there is no sexual element as there is in most of the other Fatal Attraction-inspired films – the psycho does not even get to seduce the victim’s husband. It should be said that Sheila Kelley makes a convincingly dowdy and psychotic villainess.

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