Body Double (1984)

Body Double (1984) movie poster

director Brian De Palma
viewed: 03/14/2014

Director Brian De Palma’s Body Double is sort of his Eighties mash-up of Alfred Hitchcock’s Read Window (1954) and  Vertigo (1958), with a pornographic theme and lots of great Los Angeles location shooting.

I think it’s fair to say that De Palma has had his day in cinema.  I don’t know how great I really think any one work of his is and it’s been a long time for me on a few of his most notable films.  But he was no slouch and even in this rather extremely derivative flick starring a likable but not really star-quality Craig Wasson (who? right?), this is not a great nor terrible movie.

The funny thing is I always remembered liking it as a teen, though that might have been for all the nudity.  I did encounter it on cable television.  It is a decent riff on Hitchcock, though it’s no Hitchcock itself.

Really, Melanie Griffith is the best part of the film, another tip of the hat to Hitchcock as her mother Tippi Hedron was one of Hitch’s icy blondes.  She plays a porn star and a jabbery, upfront, gal of the Eighties, with her little girl voice, that New Wave coif, and frequently unclad body.  She’s actually only in the film quite briefly, but she’s by far the best thing in it.

It’s funny about Wasson.  Perhaps from my familiarity with him in this film and maybe another, he’s recognizable. I think in some way I thought of him and Bill Maher being the same person at some point (purely physical resemblance).  He’s got an affability but isn’t a compelling star, something that this movie kind of needs.

It’s a story about an actor on Hollywood’s lower rungs, who splits up with his wife and ends up house-sitting a crazy house (the Chemosphere).  From here, he spies on a sexy neighbor, who he ends up falling for, only to wind up witnessing her murder from afar.  He figures out that he was tricked by a “body double”, Griffith’s porn star and has to track the body down to find out who set him up.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood appear on set of the porn shoot, lip syncing what will become a version of their video for “Relax”.  It’s actually a little confusing at that point.  And I swear (would have sworn back in the day) that Wasson’s vampire get-up is actually Billy Idol’s outfit from “Dancin’ with Myself”.

It’s one of those odd kinds of movies where the sum isn’t quite the whole of the parts.  The LA locations, Melanie Griffith, numerous strange little things make it a reasonably entertaining film.  It was actually kind of funny to see again after so long, since I think I did like it quite well back in my youth.

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