Brian De Palma's thriller Body Double is a lurid, violent, perplexing, mesmerizing and sometimes infuriating train wreck of a film. As New York Times critic Vincent Canby observed, "Brian De Palma goes too far, which may be not only the most consistent quality through all his films but also the most important and, possibly, the most endearing. Each of his films is guaranteed to offend some of the people all of the time, including his staunchest admirers. He never leaves well enough alone." De Palma clearly was influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, and Body Double is an homage to both Rear Window and Vertigo. It is stylishly directed, beautifully photographed, and well-acted. Whether those positive attributes outweigh the film's outlandish implausibilities may be a matter of taste. Like a train wreck, it is often difficult to look at it but it is nearly impossible to turn away from.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 54 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/13/2013
Brian De Palma's thriller Body Double is a lurid, violent, perplexing, mesmerizing and sometimes infuriating train wreck of a film. As New York Times critic Vincent Canby observed, "Brian De Palma goes too far, which may be not only the most consistent quality through all his films but also the most important and, possibly, the most endearing. Each of his films is guaranteed to offend some of the people all of the time, including his staunchest admirers. He never leaves well enough alone." De Palma clearly was influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, and Body Double is an homage to both Rear Window and Vertigo. It is stylishly directed, beautifully photographed, and well-acted. Whether those positive attributes outweigh the film's outlandish implausibilities may be a matter of taste. Like a train wreck, it is often difficult to look at it but it is nearly impossible to turn away from.Body Double opens with Hollywood actor Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) filming a scene as a vampire in a low budget horror film being directed by Rubin (Dennis Franz). In a key scene, Jack is in a coffin and he suddenly freezes up, unable to move. The filming has to stop and then a fire breaks out on the set, so Jake is sent home for the day. He lives with his girlfriend in her apartment, but on this day he gets home early and surprises her while she is in bed with another man. By evening Jake is out on his own, looking for a place to crash. A friendly bartender lets him sleep on his couch at the Hollywood Tower, and the next day Jake responds to an ad in one of the trades for an interview with the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival. While there he runs into an actor friend and inquires about available sublets. That conversation is overheard by Sam Bouchard (Gregg Henry), who also is looking for a part. Later in the day Jake runs into Sam at acting class, and after a particularly difficult session with the teacher they go out for drinks.Sam then tells Jake that he may have a temporary solution for his housing problem. It seems that Sam has a wealthy friend who owns a beautiful, futuristic house and who is away in Europe. Sam has been housesitting, but he has just landed an acting gig in Seattle and needs someone to watch the house and water the plants. While showing the house to Jake, Sam points out a very special feature, a telescope which he uses to watch his "favorite neighbor," a gorgeous female exhibitionist (Deborah Shelton) who dances nearly naked in an apartment across the street from the house. "Does she do this a lot?" asks Jake. Sam assures him, "Like clockwork, every night."Things begin a get dicey later that night when Jake decides to take another look. He sees the outline of a man in the woman's apartment, apparently taking things from a wall safe while she sleeps. She wakes up, they have an argument, and he strikes her before leaving. The next day Jake learns that he has lost his job as the vampire in the horror flick, and that evening he returns to the telescope. This time he notices that he is not the only person looking at the beautiful neighbor. A man in a hard hat who appears to be a native American is watching the woman's act while ostensibly working on a satellite dish - the "big ugly dish" type (this is 1984, remember). This development unnerves Jack, and it only gets worse the next day when he notices the "Indian" (as he is referred to throughout the film) following the woman. Jake tails them to an upscale shopping center on Rodeo Drive, where it becomes evident that he is becoming obsessed with her (we eventually learn that her name is Gloria Revelle).It is difficult to reveal any more of the plot without spoiling it, so I will just add that developments become more intense as Jake's obsession increases. I have not yet mentioned co-star Melanie Griffith because her character, porn actress Holly Body, does not make her first appearance until 2/3 of the way into the film. This is so despite that fact that Holly turns out to be a key player in the events which are unfolding. At times it is not entirely clear exactly what is going on - at one point while Jake is following Gloria she goes into a fashionable boutique and tries on a pair of pricey panties, all while conveniently leaving the curtain of the dressing room partly open so he can watch from outside the store. Would any upscale women's shop have such a setup? Even more implausible is an encounter which Jake and Gloria have which seems to be in the film only to give director De Palma an opportunity to emulate Hitchcock's Vertigo.Craig Wasson does a fine job as Jake, although it is impossible to feel much empathy for the character because he is mostly ordinary and clueless. His plan to meet Holly is so far-fetched that it is difficult to see how it could have taken place in real life. Melanie Griffith is superb as Holly, a punk-haired blonde porno star who knows exactly what she is doing and makes sure that she works on her own terms. Griffith credits De Palma for helping her to get her subsequent parts in Something Wild and Working Girl. Deborah Shelton is strikingly beautiful as Gloria and Gregg Henry is excellent as Sam.Watching a train wreck can be fascinating, but afterward you want to try to make some sense of what you have seen. Some of the film is meant to be confusing, deliberate directorial misdirection to keep the audience puzzled. However, the more you think about Body Double, the more apparent the plot holes become and the more you get the feeling that the whole is less than the sum of its parts. The other consideration is that this is a film about a voyeur, and many people who watch may feel that viewing Body Double is in itself a voyeuristic experience. Still, there is much to like about it. The film is strikingly visual (one of the most memorable scenes is what could be called a pornographic music video) and it is one which will have you thinking about long after the most unusual closing credits. One caveat is that viewers who disapprove of nudity will find a lot to disapprove of here.At this point in a review I would normally include a link to Screen Archives Entertainment, but Body Double was sold out before its release date. There are roughly 20 copies for sale on eBay, and the lowest selling price I have seen thus far is $58.02. A link to Amazon can be found at the bottom of this review, but the asking price is astronomical.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
The 1080p 1.85:1 image utilizes the AVC codec and is absolutely stunning. The image is spotless and very sharp, while retaining an appropriate level of film grain to deliver a totally satisfying film-like appearance. Colors are vivid and accurate, black levels are solid and shadow detail is excellent. The film was beautifully shot by cinematographer Stephen J. Burum on some iconic locations in Hollywood. I am confident that Twilight Time and Sony have teamed up to produce the best possible presentation of Body Double.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The English 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio track is outstanding in every respect. Dialogue is mostly delivered through the center channel and is clear and intelligible throughout. The surround channels are used primarily to give Pino Donaggio's evocative and powerful music a wide and pleasing soundstage. Director De Palma knows how to use music to give the audience an extra measure of shockt. As with all Twilight Time releases, the wonderful score can be heard as an isolated track (the soundtrack includes "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood).
Audio Rating: 5/5
In addition to the isolated score track, for this Blu-ray presentation of Body Double Twilight Time has ported over the four featurettes which are on the Special Edition DVD. All appear in their original 4:3 aspect ratio."The Seduction" gives director De Palma the opportunity to talk about how he conceived the story, which originally was to be set in New York City. There is an amusing part where he talks about hiring a real pornographic star (he probably is referring to Linda Shaw, who does have a small part in the film) to do most of the nude scenes. However, the actress could not get the knack of doing the dancing satisfactorily, so Melanie Griffith ended up doing her own nude scenes. De Palma talks about casting the principal parts and most of those actors get a chance to talk about the experience. This featurette runs for approximately 17 minutes."The Setup" has De Palma explaining the various approaches he takes to setting up scenes when he makes a film. He talks about locations, costuming, choreographing action, choosing camera angles, etc., and the actors praise his attention to detail. This featurette also runs for approximately 17 minutes."The Mystery" discusses how the mysterious story unfolds and the various techniques which are used to create puzzlement and enhance the suspense. This featurette has a running time of approximately 12 minutes."The Controversy" covers much of the criticism which De Palma and his film received when it was released. "Body Double was attacked like no movie of mine, ever," says the director. He was accused of being a misogynist, ripping off Hitchcock, being excessively violent, and so on. De Palma feels that over time he has been vindicated, pointing out that Body Double and Scarface remain his two most popular films, notwithstanding that fact that both were reviled by many critics when they were released. This featurette has a running time of approximately five minutes, not including its credits.As usual, Twilight Time has included an informative and entertaining booklet containing a provocative essay by Julie Kirgo ("Does anyone try on panties?" she asks, a question which I would not feel qualified to pose). Next month's Twilight Time releases are Drums Along the Mohawk and Alamo Bay.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
As I wrote in the opening of this review, Body Double is a lurid, violent, perplexing, mesmerizing and sometimes infuriating train wreck of a film. It certainly is a memorable movie, however. I have tried my best to lay out the good, the bad and the ugly of Body Double so that anyone who is able to find a copy will know just what to expect.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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