Body Double

Boutique label Twilight Time recently added Brian De Palma’s 1984 cult fave Body Double to its lineup of limited edition Blu-ray releases. With only 3,000 copies available, it didn’t take long for the title to completely sell out. What all the fuss is about over this barely competent Hitchcock riff is beyond me, but secondary market copies are now commanding hefty prices.

I first saw Body Double as a teenager during a late-night cable showing back in the mid-‘80s. With nudity, gore, and lots of explicit porno language, it easily qualified as a teenage boy’s dream movie. Revisiting the film some years later, I was struck by how blatantly derivative it is (think Hitchcock’s Vertigo in particular). Like so much of De Palma’s spotty filmography, it’s a trashy piece of B-movie hackwork. Some in the De Palma fanboy community have justified the Hitchcock thievery as being a tribute to the Master of Suspense. That may be, but Body Double stands as a piss-poor tribute, utterly lacking in depth, subtext, compelling storytelling, or memorable acting.

Body Double cover (191×250).jpgBill Maher-lookalike Craig Wasson stars as Jake Scully, a low-level actor who loses parts due to a pathetic case of chronic claustrophobia. He meets Sam (Gregg Henry) at an acting class. Sam asks Jake to housesit, inviting him into his chic mansion. He’s sure to show Jake his telescope, which he uses nightly to peep on a sexy neighbor, Gloria (Deborah Shelton). Jake becomes obsessed with spying (more Hitchcock, Rear Window-style), but is quickly disturbed when he witnesses Gloria being abused by her boyfriend.

Too much plot recap will spoil Body Double’s twists, which are its only justifiable reason for existence. Suffice it to say, Jake witnesses a murder, improbably infiltrates the porn world, and develops a fixation on a woman whose dance moves are eerily similar to Gloria’s. This woman is porn star Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), who figures into the film’s title. It’s no spoiler to point out that the title is, in fact, something of a spoiler itself. The performances here are stupefyingly uninspired, generating little audience sympathy. De Palma’s pacing is dreadfully slow, piecing together a thriller that could’ve been tightened and repurposed as an episode of Cinemax’s current anthology series Femme Fatales.

Body Double booklet (212×250).jpgAlways a fairly unattractive film, Body Double does at least look better than ever on Twilight Time’s Blu-ray. Black levels are deep (a little too much so, as some fine detail is crushed out during the darkest scenes). Sharpness is a tad bit lacking, though I think that’s simply inherent in Stephen H. Burum’s cinematography. Overall it’s a strong presentation of a film that has never looked all that great. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 works well, expanding to the rear channels effectively for the “scare” moments. The LFE channel is employed to great effect, especially during a club scene featuring Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” (the bass really throbs).

Supplements include a series of four featurettes ranging from about 17 minutes to 5 minutes, all dealing with different aspects of the film’s production (and its less-than-positive reception). Exclusive to Twilight Time’s Blu-ray is an isolated track of Pino Donaggio’s score, presented in DTS-HD MA 2.0. This is a musical atrocity that really mars Body Double even further. It would surprise me to find that many people want to hear this on its own, but the option is there.

For more information about other Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray releases, visit the Screen Archives website.