Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Body Double (1984) L.A. Café au lait Noir

"A seduction. A mystery. A murder."

Another film dealing with voyeurism. My, how perceptions and attitudes swiftly zig-zag. In 1954's Rear Window it was a wheelchair-bound good guy photographer who spies on his neighbors, 1960's Peeping Tom he's depicted as an irredeemable murderer, 1964's Strange Compulsion dealt with it clinically in an exploitive sort of way. Body Double deals with it as one of the perks of living in a Jetsons style flying saucer-like California hillside highrise.

Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) is an actor in Hollywood, genre de jour is Horror film. Jake is playing an androgynous glitter bloodsucker in some low budget vampire flick. But Jake has a problem with claustrophobia, when he has to do a scene in a coffin he freezes, and gets fired.

Part Film Noir/Hollywood homage, part Hitchcock homage to Rear Window, and in one aspect also to Vertigo, part black comedy, director Brian De Palma gives us a nice peak into 1984 era tinseltown.

Dennis Franz lt. and Craig Wasson - Claustrophobia!
Skully (Wasson) out of a job
Jake heads back to his wife's house early and finds her screwing someone else.


"Hi Honey I'm Home"

Wifie riding the baloney pony
Devastated Jake batches with a bartender buddy of his while trying to get another job. While going to various auditions he meets a friend of a friend Sam Bouchard (Gregg Henry) who tells him that he's got a gig in Seattle and he can house sit the hill top flying saucer style house (Chemosphere House), that belongs to a millionaire buddy who is in Europe.


Sam Bouchard (Greg Henry)

Hitting it off
Jake is ecstatic, besides the luxury digs Sam clues him into a neighbor woman who puts on a exhibitionish show every night in the large picture windows of her apartment on a ridge across the way. Sam even has a telescope trained on the windows.



One night while Jake is watching the show, he spies a man rummaging around in the woman's bedroom. Later Jake also spots a man who looks like a Native American perched on a satellite dish also watching the woman. 

He becomes anxious for her and begins to follow the woman who he discovers is named Gloria Revell (Deborah Shelton) around, sort of keeping an eye on her. He tails her to a Rodeo Drive shopping mall, and to  the Beach Terrace Motel in Long Beach. 

Gloria Revell (Deborah Shelton)
When the woman takes a stroll on the beach the same man he spotted on the satellite dish grabs her pocket book and runs off with Jake in pursuit. He catches up to him in an underpass beneath Ocean Blvd, but Jake's claustrophobia overwhelms him and prevents him from further actions save collecting the woman's emptied pocketbook. She thanks him profusely, and after some heavy petting she takes off. Jake is more than smitten.


That night with Jake watching through the telescope he sees her get attacked. He calls the police and runs over to help. He's too late. The woman is dead and the police consider him a suspect especially after they find out that he was peeping on her. The police would have likely suspected the woman's ex husband but Jake's testimony points to the Native American.

Too late

questioned by the police
Jake is now doubly depressed. He's drinking heavily, and watching the porn channel on the TV, but something catches his eye. He notices a blond actress called Holly Body (Melanie Griffith) making the exact same moves he watched Gloria dance every night. Jake decides to track Holly down and that entails Jake breaking into the porn flick business and of course it all goes Noirsville.


Glitter Vampire

Tail o' The Pup 

Holly The Body (Melanie Griffith)

Male Porno Star: I'm not just a stunt cock, I'm an ACTOR!

Holly Body: I do not do animal acts. I do not do S&M or any variations of that particular bent, no water sports either. I will not shave my pussy, no fistfucking and absolutely no coming in my face. I get $2000 a day and I do not work without a contract.

Craig Watson (The Outsider (1979), Carny (1980), Ghost Story (1981) The Pornographer (1999)) is highly believable as the good guy, a regular Joe Schmoe, he looks a bit like Bill Maher. Gregg Henry (Scarface (1983), Payback (1999)), is a chunkier Dan Duryea. Deborah Shelton (Dallas TV Series (1978–1991)) is the unattainable beauty, her part is mainly visual. Melanie Griffith (Night Moves (1975), The Drowning Pool (1975), Something Wild (1986), Mulholland Falls (1996), ) is coming to the end of her early eye candy phase in this. Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue TV Series (1993–2005))  plays the independent film director, and Guy Boyd (Ghost Story (1981)) plays the police detective.

Director Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill (1980), Scarface (1983), Carlito's Way (1993), The Black Dahlia (2006)) is amusing himself and us with various genres and at the same time poking a little fun at Hollywood show business in general. A few vintage L.A. institutions are lovingly lensed, others i.e., Angels Flight are faintly hinted at in the inclined access railway to the Chemosphere House. The film also has some quite humorous lines.

Body Double was written by Robert J. Avrech (screenplay) from a story by Brian De Palma. The cinematography was by Stephen H. Burum (8 Million Ways to Die (1986), Carlito's Way (1993)) and the music was by Pino Donaggio (Don't Look Now (1973), Dressed to Kill (1980)). Screencaps are from the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD.  Noir light 7/10

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