As a Brian De Palma fan, I usually find things to enjoy - even admire in his movies, but "Body Double" counts as one of the weakest. The Alfred Hitchcock references are more blatant here than in any other De Palma movies - and in Body Double we get two Hitchcock's - "Rear Window" and "Vertigo". But more of that later.
The plot, well it's hard to describe without spoilers, but I'll try. Failed actor Jake (Craig Wasson) loses a role due to his phobia of confined spaces, and to cheer him up, a friend loans him a swanky apartment with an amazing view and a telescope. Jake spends his evenings spying through the telescope at a sultry neighbour who likes to dance erotically in her bedroom window at night (as you do), but as well as this, he also spies a less pleasant character who seems to also be watching the sexy lady, but in a more menacing fashion. Thus begins a tanged web of stalking and murder and ...yes I'll say it - twists in the tale.
So forgiving the Hitchcock parallels for a moment, does the film still entertain? Well, no it doesn't. The story is ludicrous. Jake follows the sexy neighbour around in the worst attempt at stalking ever committed to film. One of the poorest scenes in the film is when the sexy neighbour pops into an up-market lingerie store and tries on a pair of knickers. The store seems to have a policy of putting its changing rooms directly in the huge front window and customers are perfectly at liberty to slip off their own underwear first and try on the intimate garments (urgh!), without even closing the curtains, so any passer by can cop an eyeful.
The acting of both Wasson and Deborah Shelton (who plays the sexy neighbour) is not very good, especially Shelton, who speaks like she can't understand her own lines, either that or her voice is dubbed by someone else. Things don't improve much when the plot takes a switch and suddenly Jake is seeking out a sexy porno star actress Holly Body (played by Melanie Griffith in an early but very explicit role). He soon gets close enough to her to be cast in her latest movie, and in a very bizarre scene, the shooting of the porn movie is present as a "faux musical interlude" which is really bizarre. Things get worse and worse until the movie supposedly plays it's trump card ( a very boring twist ending) and limps to a boring close.
As I've described above, the film does not stand out, but back the the Hitchcock elements, these are shockingly and slavishly copied. Jake's "phobia experiences" are played out using one of those same squeezing zoom shots (I don't know the name) that were used in "Vertigo", and as in that film, they happen just when the plot needs them to. We actually get two plot devices lifted directly from "Vertigo" but in case you do want to enjoy "Body Double", I won't spoil it for you by explaining the second one. The telescope peeping across to another house uses the exact same "upstairs and downstairs" tension as in "Rear Window", and there isn't any attempt to add a new dimension to it (no need as it was such a good idea the first time around).
As I said I am a De Palma fan. "Carrie" counts as one of the best horror films of the 1970s, "Sisters", "Dressed to Kill" and "The Fury" all show similar style and panache. So why does "Body Double" seem like such a waste of film? I don't know... I guess everyone has bad days. And this movie is that day for Brian De Palma.