The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - BODY DOUBLE (1984) | The Movie Waffler

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Blu-Ray Review - BODY DOUBLE (1984)

Brian De Palma's voyeuristic trashy thriller classic.






Review by Jason Abbey (@abbeyjason)

Directed by: Brian De Palma

Starring: Craig Wasson, Melanie Griffith, Deborah Shelton, Gregg Henry



Body Double is a worthy part of the director's canon and a work ripe for rediscovery on this pristine Blu-ray, although one detraction of this new restoration is how easy it is to work out who the villain is, something the blurry VHS copy of my youth helped hide.


To say Body Double got a kicking on release is something of an understatement, despite having all the signature elements of classic Brian De Palma. Pino Donnagio score? Check! Vertigo in more ways than one set pieces? You betcha! Hitchcockian influences abound; in this you don’t just get the aforementioned Vertigo but also Rear Window in the mix. De Palma got Razzie nominations and critical vitriol for its perceived misogyny; it would appear he was just ahead of the curve.


Body Double is the first of a trilogy of meta fictions that also includes Raising Cain and the equally undervalued Femme Fatale, in which De Palma picks apart the construction and ticks of thriller fiction, by turns slyly comic, narratively complex and intelligent, if on occasion somewhat self-indulgent. Maybe critics of the time thought it was meant to be serious? The bland lead in Craig Wasson as struggling actor Jake Scully and the risibly wooden Deborah Shelton don’t help (making you wonder if the original intention to use porn performers would have made much difference).  Wasson may play it dull but he is meant to be a schlub, an easily manipulated cuckold who’s not above stalking and a spot of panty hording if the mood takes him. He may be a hero in his own head, but Scully’s response to tragedy is to indulge in whisky and pornography before transposing his fixation for his neighbour onto porn star Holly Body (a never better one two performance of this and Something Wild from Melanie Griffith).

De Palma has always been the most undervalued of the movie brats, with a career of rollercoaster highs and lows that has never received the commercial success of Spielberg and the critical love bestowed on Scorsese’s oeuvre. Cinematically, he's the most gifted (almost an American Argento from a time when effortless sinuously prowling cameras took real heft and effort to achieve). Accusations of sexism have also dogged his career, which is strange as he is one of the few directors of that period who has created strong female roles, most notably in Carrie but also in less obvious boys own pictures like Scarface. He's not always successful but you get the feeling he likes his female characters even if he doesn’t entirely understand them.


It’s intriguing how much this and mob com Wise Guys pressed the reset button on his career. After this he made the slick successful Hollywood blockbuster The Untouchables, marrying his directorial panache to the muscular dialogue of David Mamet. Raising Cain then begat further praise with work with Pacino and Cruise. It is only the release of Femme Fatale in which my thesis falls apart.

Body Double will engender a kindlier response to modern viewers, as its meta approach and Ouroboros plotting now feel more familiar. The sex and violence all seem relatively tame compared to what’s thrown up on a regular basis by HBO.


A prolonged mall stalking, which riffs on the gallery scene from Dressed to Kill, and a murder scene with a plug in power drill are highlights, the latter played as black comedy. It feels like a director reviewing his career thus far, responding to critical accusations and rubbing their faces in it, a director who is playful enough to see how the world of film is used as a multimedia advertising platform and chuck a Frankie Goes to Hollywood video into the mix rather than just use them on the soundtrack. All is to be experienced and nothing is to be believed. It feels like De Palma has borrowed Max Renn's helmet and is projecting this onto his own personal Videodrome. It feels right; it just might not make a whole lot of sense. Body Double is a worthy part of the director's canon and a work ripe for rediscovery on this pristine Blu-ray, although one detraction of this new restoration is how easy it is to work out who the villain is, something the blurry VHS copy of my youth helped hide.

Extras:

A great and comprehensive set of extras for a film deserving of further investigation. An 8-minute interview with Bill Maher lookalike Craig Wasson. An original trailer. A documentary broken down into segments from Laurent Bouzareau that clocks in at around one hour and a new 40-minute doc with assistant director Joe Napolitano, which adds some interesting context and directorial anecdotes. Isolated score, image gallery and a booklet that was unavailable at time of review. Add that to a pristine 4K restoration and impeccable sound mix and you have a purchase that is nigh essential.


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