Body Double [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Even Brian De Palma's staunchest defenders had to swallow hard with this gaudily gory bauble of a thriller that is built around a gruesome (yet surprisingly wittily staged) stalking and murder involving a female victim and a killer with a giant power drill. This is De Palma at his most sensational, in a story about a B-movie actor (Craig Wasson) with career problems and a habit as a voyeur. He witnesses the aforementioned murder, then teams up with a porn actress (Melanie Griffith) to try and find the killer. De Palma has a blast going inside the porn film industry, and even films a pseudo rock video with one-hit wonders Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Wasson is an unlikely leading man, bland and pasty, but he is perfect in the role of a decidedly imperfect hero. --Marshall Fine, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The film itself is a fairly decent upgrade - the night-time shots are great, but there is a little too much grain in the daytime shots from time to time. But at least you get the extras here, which have been missing from UK releases, and the three part documentary is really worth shelling out for. Reminiscences from De Palma, Griffith and Shelton are very revealing and lend new insights to a very misunderstood and unjustifiably dismissed movie, that really does stand tall in the director's canon.
Recommended - and at this import price it's a no-brainer.
But this has a couple of extras not seen before,
There is an 1984 interview (wish it was more than 8 mins) with the lead actor Craig Wasson who comes across as very down to earth and how he enjoyed making the film and working with the director Brian De Palma.
Another featurette with assistant director Joe Napolitano.
All excellent stuff as well an image gallery and isolated score by the great Pino Donaggio. Beautiful music at times.
I saw this underrated erotic thriller on an cut video back in the 80's. Since seen it uncut many times but this release is deservedly so given a great transfer from Powerhouse Films.
It is clearly a pastiche of Hitchcocks Vertigo, and there are also some references to the former director, not least the casting of Melanie Griffith, daughter of Tippi Hedren who starred in The Birds and Marnie.
And Griffith's character asks for a Jack Daniels (she starred with Jeff Daniels in Something Wild, or am I reading too much into that?). No doubt there may be more references which I missed.
Don't expect too much and you might get some entertainment from it. Watch Vertigo first, if you haven't seen it - it's Shakespeare to this tv sit-com.
UPDATE, early 2017.
I think I was a bit hard on this film, watched it again, without thinking about Hitchcock, and it's definitely worth it. The scene with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Holly Johnson is great.
The most noteworthy performance is offered by non-star Craig Wasson (De Palma's Jimmy Stewart proxy), with his Mr Everyman face and his believable vulnerability. Watch out too for a superb Craig Henry as the villain, and a cameo by Dennis “Hill Street Blues” Franz as the schlock director.
Also first-rate is the apparently nasty, but actually heroic David Haskell as the drama teacher who appears to bully our hero but whom we may, in the end, have to thank for saving him.
Melanie Griffith in the title role sparked much controversy among PC types, but with long hindsight her efforts seem a little dry and wooden, with the blame resting less on her than her role, a “type” rather than a living character. Deborah Shelton, on the other hand, makes much more of far fewer lines and, with Wasson, is the beating heart of a story which, viewed with unprejudiced eyes, is surprisingly tender.
Body Double, in addition to the main story, serves up many a movie-biz curiosity, tracing for example how quickly the “adult” side of the industry has developed — or rather mutated — with vast changes in distribution methods, format and, of course, degrees of explicitness. Indeed the picture represents the swan-song of blue movies, with a precipitate slide — from film to video, from theatres to PCs, from erotic stories to OB/GYN closeups — starting almost exactly at the moment the picture was released in the early 1980s.
The most serious charge with which De Palma has had to contend (apart, of course, from the reflexive cry of “Misogynist!”) is that this film, like most if not all of his output, is a Hitchcock re-tread.
Well, first, De Palma ably defends himself against this charge in the first-rate Noah Baumbach/Jake Paltrow documentary De Palma (which see).
Second, there is not a scene in the picture, including the most obvious homages, in which the New Jersey-born director does not add his own sour, mournful view of human nature. If there is a Hitchockian scene, or style, or shot, then there is also a De Palma-esque equivalent and the two, while similar, are not the same. If Jake Scully spying is Hitchcockian (Rear Window: no marks for that), what he spies on is pure De Palma. Similarly, the schlock-horror with which the picture opens and closes is a wry comment on De Palma's own start in low-budget films: a very different world from that of Hitchcock's shabby-genteel beginnings.
Watch out for Stephen Burum's superb camera. See for example his first and second driving scene with Wasson, one a clear process shot and the other more naturalistic — both linked to the moveable landscape wheeled into, then out of shot by two stagehands. Indeed throughout the picture, De Palma constantly references the illusion of film itself, both with play-within-a-play devices but also more subtly. Hitchcock's occasional references to his own art were much more oblique.
De Palma came from the same generation as Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola but, at this stage, there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that he'll gain anything like their measure of critical acclaim. That's a pity. All three are artists, and all three have their models and masters. (See Scorsese's eulogising of Hawks and Ford in his recent Dublin masterclass, for example.) Yes, De Palma's quotings are more obvious, but that only makes him more open to attack, not less original. There are a few seconds of Hitchcock in this picture, but nearly ninety minutes of pure De Palma. The director may share with Hitchcock a vision of the world heavily shadowed in religious guilt (Catholic in Hitch's case, bluenose/Quaker in De Palma's), but in De Palma's case redemption, if available at all, is always remote and elusive.
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