Body Double is a 1984 American neo-noir erotic thriller film co-written and directed by Brian De Palma and starring Craig Wasson, Gregg Henry, Melanie Griffith and Deborah Shelton. The original musical score was composed by Pino Donaggio.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian De Palma|
|Produced by||Brian De Palma|
|Screenplay by||Brian De Palma|
Robert J. Avrech
|Story by||Brian De Palma|
|Music by||Pino Donaggio|
|Cinematography||Stephen H. Burum|
|Edited by||Gerald B. Greenberg|
Delphi II Productions
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$8.8 million|
The film was a direct homage to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, specifically Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), and Dial M for Murder (1954) taking plot lines and themes (such as voyeurism and obsession) from the first two films.
The film received a lukewarm result at the box office and mixed reviews, but has subsequently become a cult film. When Twilight Time released the film on Blu-ray in the United States in 2013, it quickly sold out.
Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) is a struggling actor who has lost his role as a vampire in a low-budget horror movie after his claustrophobia thwarts shooting. After returning home to discover his girlfriend (Barbara Crampton) cheating on him, he splits and is left without a place to stay (the residence belongs to her). At a method acting class, he meets Sam Bouchard (Gregg Henry) who closely monitors Scully's revelation of his fears and the childhood cause of his claustrophobia. They go to a bar where Scully is offered a place to stay; Sam's rich friend has gone on a trip to Europe and needs a house-sitter for his ultra-modern home in the Hollywood Hills.
During the tour of the house with Scully, Sam is especially enthusiastic about showing Scully one feature: a telescope, and through it a female neighbor, Gloria Revelle (Deborah Shelton), who erotically dances at a specific time each night. Scully voyeuristically watches Gloria each night until he sees her being abused by a man she appears to know. The next day he follows her when she goes shopping. Gloria makes calls to an unknown person promising to meet them. Scully also notices a disfigured "Indian", a man he had noticed was watching Gloria a few days prior. Scully follows her to a seaside motel where apparently Gloria has been stood up by the person she was there to meet. On the beach the Indian suddenly snatches her purse. Scully pursues him into a nearby tunnel but is overcome by his claustrophobia. Gloria walks him out of it. They impulsively and passionately kiss before she retreats. That night Scully is again watching through the telescope when the Indian returns and breaks into Gloria's home. Scully races to save her but is attacked by Gloria's vicious dog. Gloria is brutally murdered by the Indian with a huge handheld drill.
Scully alerts the police, who determine it was a botched robbery. However, Detective McLean (Guy Boyd) becomes suspicious after finding a pair of Gloria's panties in Scully's pocket. Although McLean does not arrest him, he tells Scully that his voyeuristic behavior, as well as not alerting the police sooner, helped cause Gloria's murder. Unable to sleep, Scully watches a pornography TV channel. He observes that the actress, Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), dances in exactly the same sensual manner that Gloria did. To meet Holly, he pretends to be a porn producer hiring for a new film.
Scully learns from Holly that Sam hired her to impersonate Gloria each night, dancing in the window, knowing Scully would be watching and later witness the real Gloria's murder. Offended at the suggestion she was involved in a killing, Holly storms out of the house. She is picked up by the Indian who knocks her unconscious and drives her away. Scully follows them to an aqueduct where the Indian is digging a grave. During their fight, Scully discovers the Indian is Sam in heavy make-up. Scully was a scapegoat providing Sam, who was Gloria's abusive husband, with an alibi during the murder. Scully is overpowered and thrown into the grave and is incapacitated by his claustrophobia. However, he overcomes his fear and climbs out as Sam is knocked into the aqueduct and drowned.
During the ending credits, Scully is shown having been recast in his previous vampire role as Holly watches from the sidelines.
- Craig Wasson as Jake Scully
- Gregg Henry as Sam Bouchard
- Melanie Griffith as Holly Body
- Deborah Shelton as Gloria Revelle
- Guy Boyd as Detective Jim McLean
- Dennis Franz as Rubin
- David Haskell as Will
- Al Israel as Corso
- Douglas Warhit as Video Salesman
- B.J. Jones as Douglas
- Russ Marin as Frank
- Lane Davies as Billy
- Barbara Crampton as Carol
- Larry "Flash" Jenkins as Assistant Director
- Monte Landis as Sid Goldberg
- Slavitza Jovan as Saleslady
- Rob Paulsen as Cameraman
Director Brian De Palma originally considered Annette Haven to play the lead female role that eventually went to Griffith. Before filming he commented, "I'm already thinking of casting. I don't know if there're any good young porno stars out here, but the older ones - Annette Haven, Seka - some of them can really act. And Annette Haven has a terrific body."
Body Double contains a film within a film sequence in which pop band Frankie Goes to Hollywood performs their song "Relax" on the set of a porn film, and in which scream queen Brinke Stevens, and adult actresses Cara Lott and Annette Haven appear.
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The film was shot in the Los Angeles area and includes such locations as Tail o' the Pup, the Beverly Center, Barney's Beanery, the LA Farmer's Market, the Rodeo Collection mall on Rodeo Drive, the Spruce Goose dome in Long Beach, the Hollywood Tower and adjacent Hollywood Freeway, Tower Records, and the Chemosphere.
Roger Ebert praised the movie, giving it three and a half out of four stars and calling it "an exhilarating exercise in pure filmmaking, a thriller in the Hitchcock tradition in which there's no particular point except that the hero is flawed, weak, and in terrible danger -- and we identify with him completely." Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that De Palma "again goes too far, which is the reason to see it. It's sexy and explicitly crude, entertaining and sometimes very funny. It's his most blatant variation to date on a Hitchcock film ('Vertigo'), but it's also a De Palma original, a movie that might have offended Hitchcock's wryly avuncular public personality, while appealing to his darker, most private fantasies." Todd McCarthy of Variety stated, "To his credit, DePalma moves his camera as beautifully as any director in the business today and on a purely physical level 'Body Double' often proves quite seductive as the camera tracks, swirls, cranes and zooms towards and around the objects of DePalma's usually sinister contemplation. Unfortunately, most of the film consists of visual riffs on Alfred Hitchcock, particularly 'Vertigo' and 'Rear Window.'" Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "When the drill came onto the screen, De Palma lost me and control of his movie. At that point 'Body Double' ceased to be a homage to Hitchcock and instead became a cheap splatter film, and not a very good one at that." Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times panned the film as "elaborately empty, silly and desperately derivative," and suggested that De Palma "finally may have exhausted the patience of even his most tenacious admirers." Paul Attanasio of The Washington Post wrote, "A lewd, gory, twisty-turny murder mystery swirling around Hollywood's porn industry, 'Body Double' finds Brian De Palma at the zenith of his cinematic virtuosity. The movie has been carefully calculated to offend almost everyone—and probably will. But, like Hitchcock, De Palma makes the audience's reaction the real subject; 'Body Double' is about the dark longings deep inside us."
The film developed a cult following, perhaps due to its directorial and aesthetic indulgences, its early 1980s new wave soundtrack, and the use of iconic Los Angeles locations. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 78% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 32 reviews, with an average rating of 6.31/10.
|Golden Globe Award||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Melanie Griffith||Nominated|
|National Society of Film Critics Award||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle Award||Best Supporting Actress||2nd place|
|Golden Raspberry Award||Worst Director||Brian De Palma||Nominated|
Body Double is referenced repeatedly throughout the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho as the favorite film of the protagonist serial killer Patrick Bateman. He mentions that he has seen the film 37 times and rents the tape of it from a video store several times in the story. He also repeats scenes from the film to the reader or to other characters.
Body Double was remade in 1993 in India as Pehla Nasha. The film was directed by Ashutosh Gowariker in his directorial debut. Deepak Tijori plays the lead role alongside Pooja Bhatt, Raveena Tandon and Paresh Rawal.
- Williams, Linda (2005). The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 86.
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- Siskel, Gene (October 26, 1984). "Gore overshadows artistry in De Palma's 'Body Double'". Chicago Tribune. 7J.
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