Body Double (1984 USA)

body-double-1984An extremely entertaining thriller which reflects the decade in which it was released by being full of excess and completely over the top. The 1980s was a time when it was often said that “if something’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing” and on the evidence of this film, director Brian De Palma was clearly on message. The plot contains numerous enjoyable twists and involves murder, voyeurism and duplicity. It also tests the boundaries of good taste in the passages where it becomes particularly lurid and prurient.

Jake soon realizes that he’s been set up and his attempts to find the real perpetrator bring him into contact with a porn star called Holly Body (Melanie Griffith) who has the information he needs to confirm the killer’s identity. Brian De Palma is an exceptional talent who creates great visual moments and skilfully constructs long sequences without dialogue which brilliantly generate atmosphere whilst also moving the story forward. His frequent use of Hitchcockian influences is well recognized and “Body Double” is no exception.

The plot has elements which are reminiscent of “Vertigo”, “Rear Window” and also to a lesser extent “Psycho”. The presence of doubles, disguises, women in danger, confused identities, black humour and a significant amount of audience manipulation are also additional influences from the same source. Hitchcock’s fear of being buried alive inspires a couple of scenes, and the inclusion of Melanie Griffith in the cast is an additional link to the great director as she is the daughter of one of Hitchcock’s leading ladies (Tippi Hedren).

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Craig Wasson is good as the confused and creepy Scully, and Deborah Shelton has a remoteness which fits in well with the dreaminess of some of her scenes. Melanie Griffith is also bubbly and amusing in the movie’s strongest performance as she successfully brings to life the full range of Holly’s qualities. This film has three terrific sequences, any one of which is worth the price of admission. The extended double pursuit sequence, in which Jake follows Gloria to and through a fashionable shopping mall while intently aware of the ‘Indian’ who is following her, all of it taking place without dialogue, is spellbinding.

So is the follow-up sequence, as Jake follows Gloria to an upscale seaside “cliff dwelling.” The music video-style porno movie scene is simultaneously satirical and irresistible, with the camera gliding through a busy, crowded set where everyone is moving to the rhythmn of a pop song that goes on and on. Body Double hits it on all levels. At times it’s funny, at others it’s deadly serious but it rides this weird roller-coaster in terms of production with a strange combination of B movie campiness and A movie quality.

Prepare to identify with the underdog, peer at some flesh, and submerse yourself in an intriguing murder mystery. To put not too fine a point on it – you gets your money’s worth!  De Palma has such an interesting way of conveying information and he clearly relishes the possibilities of the medium. The film did not do good business at the box office and was subjected to the wrath of ugly, fat feminists during its theatrical release, but while those old heifers have aged and fattened, De Palma’s “Body Double” has achieved cult status and retained its brilliance… We should all be as lucky to age as gracefully as this flick!

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