when everyone thought director Brian De Palma’s work couldn’t get more
controversial than 1983’s Scarface,
out came 1984’s Body Double, which
was simultaneously praised and reviled. Just as they had with 1980’s Dressed to Kill, feminist groups
protested Double with even more
vitriol due to the picture’s perceived violence against women. Many critics and
audiences dismissed the movie as merely a small step above porn, given the fact
that much of the plot does deal with Hollywood’s “other industry” that was soaring
to new heights in the mid-80s thanks to the rise of home video and VHS. And
yet, Body Double is now a certified
cult classic, a De Palma fan favorite, and, frankly, in this reviewer’s
opinion, one of his most accomplished and stylish efforts.
working in full Hitchcock Homage Mode, De Palma borrowed some of the plot of Vertigo, in which a killer uses a
look-alike woman to fool our hapless and naive protagonist into believing the
lady is someone else. With Pino Donaggio’s lush orchestral score accompanying
the action, one is indeed reminded of Bernard Herrmann’s romanticism from that
1958 film. The suspense is plotted and paced in the manner of the Master of
Suspense, and the picture also contains much of Hitch’s penchant for dark humor
Wasson (remember him?) plays Jake, a struggling Hollywood actor who is recently
separated from a cheating wife. He’s also claustrophobic, which of course plays
into the plot. He meets another actor, Sam (Gregg Henry) at an audition; Sam
graciously allows Jake to house-sit at a fancy home in the hills while Sam goes
on tour. The bonus for Jake is the eye candy that can be viewed with a
telescope—every night, a woman across the way performs a tantalizing striptease
in a window. Jake falls for the woman (former Miss USA, Deborah Shelton) and he
also unwittingly witnesses her brutal murder.
Holly Body, a porn star (winningly played by Melanie Griffith in one of her
first major roles), who might be somehow involved with the killing. Naturally,
Jake sets out to solve the crime and insinuates himself into Holly’s world in
order to do so. As we learn on the disc’s supplements, De Palma had considered
casting a real porn star in the part—but Hollywood would have turned its back
on him. Griffith convinced him that she could
do the required “moves,” and her casting is a revelation.
this is a story about voyeurism and victims, reality and illusion, truth and
trickery. Hitchcock often explored the same themes; in De Palma’s hands, Body Double becomes an exercise in visual
style and storyline thrills. It’s also a scathing and humorous poke in the eye
at Hollywood itself, especially the world of cutthroat auditioning and casting.
film is very explicit; apparently De Palma once again had to fight the censors
for the film to receive an “R” rating. Griffith unabashedly did her own nude
scenes, even the celebrated peep-show dance through the telescope (which is set
to Donaggio’s mesmerizing trace music).
Body Double got an extra
publicity boost with the inclusion of the hit song “Relax” by Frankie Goes to
Hollywood; a music video running regularly on MTV at the time contained tied-in
clips from the film.
Time’s Blu-ray looks and sounds fabulous. Stephen H. Burum’s cinematography is lavish
and colorful, very conducive to the HD format (1080p). Shot in and around
Hollywood, the locations are familiar, such as scenes in the famous restaurant,
Barney’s Beanery on Santa Monica Boulevard, the Beverly Center, and the Rodeo
Collection mall on Rodeo Drive.
include four well-done featurettes on the making of the film, with interviews
with De Palma, Griffith, Shelton, and Dennis Franz, who plays a film director
molded on De Palma himself. There’s also an isolated score track; Pino Donaggio
collaborated several times with De Palma—Body
Double may be his best team-up with the filmmaker. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD
Time’s release of Body Double is
limited to 3000 copies.
(Note: this title is sold out at the Twilight Time web site. However, it is available from dealers on both Amazon and eBay.)