Film Review: Body Double (1984)

SYNOPSIS:

A young actor’s obsession with spying on a beautiful woman who lives nearby leads to a baffling series of events with drastic consequences.

REVIEW:

Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) is having a bad day. A struggling actor who has bouts of claustrophobia comes home to find his wife Carol (played by horror hottie Barbara Crampton) making love to another man. Jake just trying to get the next audition ends up meeting a colleague who recognizes his down-and-out position. This man is fellow actor Sam Bouchard (Gregg Henry) who “happens” to be house sitting for a friend. Sam who has to leave for another job, offers the place to Jake as a temporary place to reside while Jake is getting his life back together. Upon introduction to the unique structure, Sam also introduces Jake to the neighbor across the way who performs a nighty solo erotic dance routine. Jake is able to view the performance thru a telescope aka “Peeping Tom” style.

The whole affair is perfectly set in motion with Jake now hooked and a future murder mystery about to unfold. Jake who can’t help by watch every night notices a rather grungy looking Indian who has also taken an interest to the neighbor. Jake begins to follow his neighbor Gloria Revelle (Deborah Shelton) in hopes of alerting her to the assumed intentions of the peeping Indian. There is a sense of dark humor here as Jake “also” becomes the stalker (of which he is trying to alert Gloria about).

 

All is uniquely rolled out changing the viewpoints from each of the characters involved. While Jake’s intentions seem harmless, they also mirror the intentions of the nasty Indian. This conflict is always apparent to the audience which recognizes the irony of it all.

Now onto a few spoilers:
Jake later learns that the dance reunite which originally drew him in is the same routine that local p0rn star “Holly Body” is noted for in her films. Jake begins to change roles from the curiosity-seeker to the role of a detective trying to piece the clues together. To get closer to Holly, he attends a surreal audition that evolves into a movie/music video (Frankie and the Knockouts). He changes his identity to a auditioning producer/actor in order to learn about Holly’s involvement.

Director Brian De Palma approaches this particular product with style reminiscent of his influences such as Alfred Hitchcock. The film could as easily been played out in a typical manner, but its those De Palma scenes and moments that really define this movie. Great use of paranoia, fear, mystery, tension, horror and sexuality all come together in a hodge-podge thriller. The use of Jake’s claustrophobia and how its additionally presented on screen not only reaffirm his emotional state, but we tend to feel it ourselves. This can be seen used to great affect in the hallway scenes and the burial scene in the final act. There is a portion of the film that also cleverly mirrors its title with the boldly displayed “Body Double” factor actually becoming a part of the premise itself. To further entertain fans, Brian De Palma ends the final credits with a behind the scenes look at a body double in action.

Cult flavorings season the entire production with a few moments that change from story-in-progress to surreal breakouts. We never lose the intention of the film, but also are never left a moment for boredom. Ideas are never introduced without returning to them for purpose in this production.

Body Double” represents a crowning cinematic moment for “sometimes” cult film director Brian De Palma. The film itself would last in the memories of generations to come creating its own brand of cult following. Masterfully executed with just the right blend of tension, music, and character creativity, “Body Double” would carry over form its 1984 debut as a stand alone film to remember.

That equally memorable track by composer Pino Donaggio would attach itself to the film as not just a score piece but an identity signaling the famous scenes executed by Melanie Griffith. Melanie would capture the attraction of drooling fan boys as the highly sexually alluring Holly Body. It probably didn’t hurt that she played the role of a p0rn actress in the film. Often I found myself coming back to the movie to see how “often” I could recognize Melanie’s face in that opener solo dance. Melanie had just come from the production of “Fear City”, though it is her role in “Body Double” that would remain a staple role for her career. Soon after she went on to do the additionally great role in the film “Something Wild”.

Body Double” is one of film great early offerings full of surprise, mystery and reveal . Fans of the director’s work will most certainly have to place this among his best. Highly recommended with years of return.

Body Double (1984)

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