Body Double (1984)
Twilight Time Blu-Ray Review
Starring Craig Wasson, Melanie Griffith,
Deborah Shelton, Gregg Henry and Dennis Franz
Directed By Brian DePalma
COLOR/1984/1 HOUR 54 MINUTES/RATED R
Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 Anamorphic Widescreen
"Body Double" is one of those films that is either you get it or you just simply don't. You love it or truly hate it with a passion. During the time that the film was in production, acclaimed director Brian DePalma was really riding high with the success of films such as "Carrie", "Dressed To Kill", "The Fury" and the mega hit-favorite and action classic, "Scarface". DePalma also directed one of the more brilliant and underrated thrillers in recent decades with "Blow Out" featuring John Travolta in one of his best roles and eventually the one that led Oscar winner Quentin Tarantino to cast him in "Pulp Fiction". After surviving alot of the controversy of "Scarface" in 1983 and really escape with a blockbuster film, DePalma would soon face more controversy with "Body Double" after casting real life porn star Annette Haven in the role that would eventually be played by Melanie Griffith against Columbia Pictures' wishes. The film also featured DePalma's gratitous use of violence that critics as well as the MPAA hammered him for on "Scarface" and would do so here for the films' sexuality as well.
The film stars Craig Wasson ("Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3", "Ghost Story") as Jake Scully, a recently unemployed actor who was working on a horror movie directed by a sleezy director (Dennis Franz, "NYPD Blue"). Then comes home and catches his girlfriend screwing another guy leaving Jake unemployed and homeless in the very same day. With no other place to go, he turns to his friend Sam (Gregg Henry, "Payback", "Slither"), a fellow actor and bachelor enjoying success for some help. Sam offers Jake a place to stay in his luxurious bachelor pad in L.A. Jake gleefully accepts his offer and starts to enjoy the life Sam has in his place. One night Jake, playing around with Sam's telescope sees a beautiful alluring woman living next door named Gloria (Deborah Shelton, "Hunk") and soon starts to spy and follow her around whenever he sees her. One day after an encounter, Jake sees Gloria attacked by a brazen psychopath stalking her that looks like an "Indian", he comes to her rescue until his claustrophobia sets in to which she has to rescue him from his worst fear and soon share a moment of passion. Later on, Jake would witness her murder at the hands of this monster with a power drill and Jake then begins to start to put all the pieces together as to why she was murdered or was she?
This rabbit hole leads him to a sex porn star, Holly Body (Griffith, looking sexy and perky light years removed from her role in the comedy "Underground Aces" trading in her brown brunette locks for the pure blonde look she would display in "Working Girl") and Jake's lust for her just becomes to intense to resist and soon they share a tryst. Meanwhile, Jake has to confront his fears and the psychopath who may have killed Gloria with a surprising twist courtesy of DePalma's script. The film in all honesty, is a long uneven mess of great ideas inspired by Alfred Hitchcock that range from "Rear Window" to "Vertigo" and simply just don't gel the way you would've expected from an auteur such as DePalma, who was the young reincarnation of the famed director after "Obsession", "Dressed To Kill" and "Blow Out". This film plays out like a series of inspired bits from Hitchcock's best films and that is the major problem with it. Wasson is pretty likeable as the sad sack Jake, but another more appealing actor would've made it more memorable. Griffith is very alluring and sexy as she should be for a porn star and Shelton in her rather brief role, is also very sexy and I wish DePalma had written more for her to do in the film other than just be a sex object that is just simply a wasted "MacGuffin." Henry isn't very appealing, but does have a solid dark side to him that does work and the payoff with him is a little to weak for anyone's satisfaction. I could imagine a young Val Kilmer killing in this role back then.
Visually the film is up to the level of DePalma's thrillers of the time with Stephen H. Burum taking over as DePalma's regular cinematgrapher for the next decade with this film. His color pallette is solid and sharp and the Blu-Ray does show off it very well with a few exceptions of the darker lit scenes at night which look a little more stable on the DVD. Otherwise, this is a good as it gets to near perfection for a thirty plus year old movie such as this one. The sound is sparkling with Pino Donaggio's sharp, excellent suspense score shining through when it appears and he gets just due with an isolated music track courtesy of Mike Matessino, who does a bang up job here once again as he does with his isolated tracks.
The special features from the DVD are also ported over that include three featurettes that weren't so special for a special for a special edition to put it mildly:
- The Seduction (16:42) Features quite a bit of De Palma discussing the first treatment of the script (which was placed in New York City), and his addition of the Holly Body character.
- The Setup (16:54) deals with both some of the plot machinations as well as the casting.
- The Mystery (12:14) has some cute moments with Melanie Griffith talking about her nude scenes and De Palma's shyness around her.
- The Controversy (5:31) finds the cast and crew shocked by the critical revulsion the film engendered.
This Twilight Time Blu-Ray sold out very quickly and I can't really fathom why because the film isn't all that great, but it has its' moments that make appealing as a curious watch. It definitely isn't what it really could've been had DePalma got his way in pushing the envelope and despite it works for what it is despite the lack of appeal for the main character who can be way too much of a sad sack to be interesting. The film really takes its' time in developing its' plot and that's where most people's patience is severely tested. However when it does, it does grab you and I'll give DePalma credit for it. Still "Body Double" while it has some excellent moments, is still an uneven and alluringly dark mess that needed another draft of the script to make it more cohesive and with better casting, would've been a hit. As is, it really isn't one of DePalma's really shining moments, but one you can call a guilty pleasure.