Body Double (1984)
(Release Date: October 26, 1984)

Three Stars... This time I KNOW it was Blow Job!Three Stars... This time I KNOW it was Blow Job!Three Stars... This time I KNOW it was Blow Job!

Like a K-TEL Greatest Hits collection from Hitch and De Palma!

Wish there were TWO of me?
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

After Scarface was critically lambasted upon its release (it worked too... no one EVER watches SCARFACE, do they?), director Brian De Palma returned to more familiar ground with Body Double. Perhaps TOO familiar. This one has director trademarks written all over it like a biker has skull tattoos. Like Blow Out (De Palma's last film before Scarface) this one begins with a cheesy horror movie which is soon revealed to be a film-within-a-film. When someone intimately involved in said Cheesy Horror flick wanders his troubled way into the plot we find more "Tributes" to the films of one Alfred Hitchcock than we find bubbles in a glass of beer. Luckily for me, just like the best of De Palma, Brian-Boy satisfies his nudity quotient within the first five minutes of screen time. The Second Five Too... and several other great, great minutes throughout this hot flick! Yes, lucky me! The hits just keep on coming.
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We begin with actor Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) all made up in vampire make-up (looking like a cross between Billy Idol and Dee Snyder) having a panic attack in his mock-up coffin. You see, unlike the hero of Vertigo, who suffered from crippling agoraphobia, Jake suffers from crippling claustrophobia. Unable to truly look menacing while soiling his leather pants, Jake is sent home by the director (Dennis Franz' Rubin), where he finds his hot, blonde girlfriend Carol (Barbara Crampton) playing naked cowgirl with another man as the horsey. Yep, yep, yep, it's gonna be one of those days.

The man's going to need a new place to stay. Fortunately a fellow actor named Sam (Gregg Henry) needs someone to sit his incredibly swanky pad (and I do mean INCREDIBLY) while he's on location. Sweet deal. Even sweeter that Sam has an incredibly hot neighbor who lives just across the way. Every night she opens her blinds strips down to her panties and masturbates herself to sleep. Smart Sam has a telescope pointed right there just so our voyeuristic house sitter can enjoy the whole show.

By now, it's pretty clear that De Palma wrote the story to this (and the screenplay with Robert J. Avrech) after watching a hell of a Hitchcock marathon, throughout which he took plenty of notes. Yeah, so far we've got Vertigo and Rear Window... could Dial M for Murder and Psycho be far behind?

It isn't long before Milquetoast Scully becomes obsessed with the hot neighbor. That's especially when he discovers that she has another voyeuristic suitor (a big, ugly, scary voyeuristic suitor at that) also peeping through her blinds. Without actually saying "If anyone's gonna invade her privacy it's gonna be me!", Jake embarks on a quest to follow sweet Gloria (Deborah Shelton) anywhere and everywhere she goes, watching her through windows all over town and stealing her panties whenever a pair becomes available.

Anyone who has seen Rear Window knows what happens next. But Body Double soon goes from "Rear Window" to "rear end" as jokey Jake follows the trail of this mystery deep into the San Fernando Valley porn industry. At that point we're back in full Vertigo mode again as Jake becomes obsessed with the super hot (and super-familiar) porn starlet Holly Body (Melanie Griffith, whose "body" we see almost every single inch of naked). Jake uses the best of his acting abilities to infiltrate her world (and panties) in the hopes of finding out just how these divergent stories fit together, and just what conspiracy he's found himself in the middle of.

De Palma seems to be playing to type here almost to the detriment of the film. In his efforts to make a super-sexy suspense shocker like Dressed to Kill, De Palma comes off almost as a parody of himself. A certain ridiculously fantastical make out session on the beach feels like something out of a Harlequin Romance novel, complete with hair blowing in the wind, open shirts and soaring musical crescendos accenting the spinning camera. In fact, Body Double has "parody" written all over it, considering its almost Van Sant-esque procurement of Hitchcock's themes. At times, the connection and shared symbols feel so familiar that Body Double echoes Brooks' Hitch Spoof High Anxiety much more than, say De Palma's own The Fury! You've got your psychological malady (again, claustrophobia replaces agoraphobia) a la Vertigo, the telescope spy motif of Rear Window and a healthy helping of Dial M for Murder. There's even a silly (but hot) shower scene that echoes and inverts Psycho, and a driving violin action score by Pino Donaggio (who should've shared credit with Psycho's Bernard Herrmann).

De Palma even goes as far as to hire the daughter of Hitchcock-Favorite Tippi Hedren as his female lead. Though, to tell the truth, I don't remember sweet Tippi going to quite the naked depths that sweet Melanie goes to. Not that I'm complaining all THAT much. Griffith looks fantastic, Billy Idol Bleached Spikes and all. But then, it's hard to even count how many naked women we see in this movie! Heck, there's a pornographic music video being shot starring Frankie Goes to Hollywood himself (Holly Johnson). Of course it's pretty clear that this "Holly" isn't interested in naked women at all.

All told, Body Double (a title that actually gives away one of the "surprises") is not a great film. It's hot, oh, yes, and occasionally it can be funny as hell. There's also a murder scene that is straight out of the nauseating schlock genre. However, plot and writing-wise, this film is much more of a montage of De Palma's ideas filling the void between a whole lot more of Alfred Hitchcock's ideas. Brian seems to say "what if he had done this instead" over and over, and fills his gaps with nudity and sex. De Palma is still at his directorial best, and he manages to pull a few rabbits out of his hat in his vision. However, Body Double suffers from the same plagiarism downgrade that the Bloody Murder franchise is so marked by.

Three Stars out of Five for Body Double the Hitchcock Homage that feels a lot more like an over-romanticized and prurient rip off. Still, it is a fan-favorite, and has enough quality and fun to make for a rewarding experience. You'll have your fun with it (it's worth your time just to hear Melanie Griffith's cute voice talking dirtier than a Tourette's patient), but you've probably seen most of it before. Stay through the credits folks for... well... for more nudity. Ah, well... until I find out that the next reel has been boggarted from Hitch by Brian, I'll see you there. Later.

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Body Double (1984), reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic, who is solely responsible for this review,
and for the fact that he would most certainly stop to pick Melanie Griffith up were she to be found hitch hiking on Mulholland!
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