Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Body Double (1984)

May 22, 2012

Body Double (1984) movie posterby Peter Nielsen

Jake Scully is a struggling actor going between his acting classes and a starring role in a low budget vampire movie. One day he has a little “incident” at the set, caused by his claustrophobia and the director sends him home for a rest. In the small part as the director I think you’ll recognize Dennis Franz. You know, from City of Angels, Die Hard 2 or NYPD Blue?

On his way home, Jake picks up a small meal with the intention of surprising his girlfriend at home. The one being surprised is actually Jake, as he finds her in bed with another man. (Ouch!) And since the apartment is hers, he now has to find a place to stay. To top things off he also gets fired from the vampire flick. So, yeah… Jake’s not having the best week of his life here.

Fortunately for him, he runs into Sam Bouchard. Sam is house-sitting for a friend, but has to go out of town for a couple of weeks and could use someone to help with the house. Apart from it being a very luxurious house it also has one other perk… The neighbor, Gloria Revelle, played by the beautiful Deborah Shelton (Blood Tide, Nemesis). Every night, like clockwork, she does a little bedroom routine involving dancing and self-pleasuring, and through his telescope, Jake has a front-row seat. Nice perk, huh?

From one Peeping Tom to another...

From one Peeping Tom to another…

On one such “performance” he notices another guy also watching her, a Native American working on a satellite-dish outside. Coincidence? Hmm, maybe not! He also watches her husband roughing her up at one point. Jake gets totally obsessed with her and starts following her around, partly to warn her about the mysterious “cable guy”, who’s also following her, and partly because he wants to meet her.

In the latter part of the movie he gets involved with the porn-industry and even takes a part in a porn-movie just to be able to meet the actress Holly Body, played by a VERY naked Melanie Griffith (Working Girl, Nobody’s Fool, Cherry 2000). This scene is fittingly enough played out accompanied by the song “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood with an appearance by the singer himself, Holly Johnson. Nice touch, Mr. De Palma!

Holly getting frisky with Jake.

Holly getting frisky with Jake.

I’m not going to give too much away, but Holly Body has quite a lot to do with the plot even though she doesn’t appear until later in the movie. Things aren’t quite as simple as they seem from the beginning!

Body Double is a classic murder-mystery thriller with some nice twists and turns. It’s not a movie you just casually watch. Nope, it’s too good for that! I’ve seen it several times and the first time took it for nothing more than a damn fine thriller, but has since then come to appreciate it on a deeper level too.

At that first viewing we were almost on our feet during the murder-scene, screaming at Jake: “Hurry up, you stupid idiot! He’s killing her! Run! RUN!” Incidentally, that scene, even though you don’t REALLY see anything, is very violent, graphic and also extremely emotional.

Jake getting frisky with Gloria.

Jake getting frisky with Gloria.

The last couple of times I’ve watched it, and this last time in particular, I found a whole other level of greatness to it. There’s a very strong Hitchcockian feel to Body Double and the director, Brian De Palma, is especially influenced by two of the master’s movies. There are strong elements of both Rear Window and Vertigo in this.

Brian De Palma is of course the man behind such classics as Scarface, Phantom of the Paradise, Carrie, Dressed to Kill and The Untouchables for instance. The voyeurism–part and the way we see the story evolve through the telescopic lens is of course a nod to the fantastic Rear Window. A movie I personally feel that everybody should see! If for nothing else, than to see how a great movie is supposed to be made and look.

The way Jake follows Gloria around and also his phobia is of course an homage to Vertigo, but instead of having a fear of heights, Jake suffers badly from a fear of enclosed spaces. The actor portraying Jake is Craig Wasson from Ghost Story and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors to name two. He does this very well and comes off as kind of awkward and a little insecure at times.

Look at my big tool!

Look at my big tool!

Some of the things he does almost makes you cringe, not because of bad acting, but because you just can’t believe that he would actually do these things. Like stalking and ogling Gloria at the mall. And taking a pair of her panties out of the garbage bin and stuffing them into his pocket. At the mall! As I stated earlier… he’s a bit obsessed with her. Mr. Wasson nails this perfectly! He’s just an average guy caught up in an unusual situation.

The guy setting him up in the house, Sam Bouchard, is played by Gregg Henry from Raising Cain, Payback and a ton of TV-movies, so I’m sure you’ll recognize him from something you’ve seen. The house itself IS in fact, an actual house called the Chemosphere House or the Malin House and was designed by the American architect John Lautner in 1960. It’s located just off of Mulholland Drive on Torreyson Drive for those of you who’d care to take a peak. It’s not open to the public as it’s privately owned, but you can at least see it from the outside. It’s quite a spectacular sight!

I’ll round this up by saying that it’s no secret that I’m a HUGE Alfred Hitchcock fan and Body Double is like a classic Hitchcock-flick with an awesome touch of Brian De Palma thrown in. In my opinion, that’s not a bad combination!

So, my friends… until next time, why not tell us your views on this movie? There’s plenty of room in the comments section below!

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