Double (Special Edition)
Picture: B Sound:
B- Extras: B- Film: B
Body Double is another sexed-up Hitchcockian thriller
from Brian De Palma that really took a beating from most critics
when it opened in the fall of 1984 -- I guess audiences (and critics) in
'84 just weren't ready for a movie that borrowed from classic Hitchcock
and Rear Window in
particular) containing porn stars and driller killers.
But judging from my two subsequent viewings of the film, and the
80-percent positive rating it now gets from critics on the popular Rotten
Tomatoes website, Body Double
plays much better today than it did 22 years ago.
When De Palma's Dressed
to Kill debuted in the summer of 1980, much was made of
his using a body double for Angie Dickinson during the nude shots of
a shower scene. The hullabaloo gave De Palma the idea to design a
thriller around the film industry's use of body doubles -- people willing to
stand in and show their private parts on camera when a star refuses.
Already tired of accusations of being a violence-loving
misogynist and a Hitchcock plagiarist, De Palma finally had enough after his
battle with the MPAA over his extremely violent and profane Scarface (1983), and decided to
make his next film one that thumbed its nose at the harshest De Palma
critics and the MPAA. The result was Body Double, a thriller which again borrowed liberally
from Hitchcock that contained lots of nudity and violence against women.
The fact that De Palma was answering his critics in such a
rebellious way only added fuel to the critical fire.
Craig Wasson (Ghost
Story), who could easily pass for Bill Maher's
less-obnoxious twin brother, stars as a struggling L.A. actor named Jake
Scully, whose role as a vampire in a B horror flick is jeopardized by his claustrophobia
-- he can't stand being enclosed inside a coffin. When the director
(Dennis Franz, who says he's playing De Palma) tells Jake to take the rest of
the day off, Jake returns home to find his longtime girlfriend in bed with
Depressed and dejected about his life and his career, Jake, who
now needs a place to stay, meets a fellow struggling actor named Sam
Bouchard (Gregg Henry), who offers to let Jake housesit the swanky
Hollywood Hills home of an out-of-town friend. Before Sam himself goes
out of town for a while, he introduces Jake to a telescope that spies
on the apartment across the street of an attractive female neighbor who
strips seductively every night. Jake then becomes increasingly obsessed
with the mystery woman (Deborah Shelton), who may be in danger, and begins to
follow her around L.A.
Jake's amateur sleuthing eventually takes him into the world of
pornographic films, where he appears in an X-rated music video set to
Frankie Goes to Hollywood singing Relax
(not to be confused with the actual Music Video of the song that really did get
banned on MTV) and meets porno star Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), star of
Holly Does Hollywood.
Griffith is the daughter of Tippi Hedren (The Birds, Marnie),
so the connection to Hitchcock is again unavoidable, even
though Hitch's protagonists in Vertigo
and Rear Window
(played by Jimmy Stewart) certainly never encountered a girl like Holly
What might have been shocking and offensive in 1984 seems a
heck of a lot tamer 22 years later, and Body
Double can now be more easily enjoyed as a clever
thriller with some exceptional sequences of purely visual
storytelling by De Palma.
Sony's new DVD special edition of Body Double gives the film a nice 1.85:1 anamorphic
widescreen transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. The extras include four
new featurettes amounting to about an hour's worth
of retrospective interviews with De Palma, Shelton, Griffith, Henry
and Franz. It's disappointing, though, that the film's star, Wasson,
didn't participate. And there's no excuse for this Special Edition
not to include the original theatrical trailer.
- Chuck O'Leary