Body Double Movie Review

Craig Wasson, where have you gone? I was ready to assume Wasson's career had vanished after an unlikely star turn in Body Double, a big budget thriller with Melanie Griffith and director Brian De Palma. Turns out he's had roles in some interesting follow ups: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Malcolm X, and Akeelah and the Bee. Who knew? Wasson is still alive and well and working a lot, it seems.

None of his roles have matched that of Body Double, though, where the Bill Maher lookalike appears in nearly every scene. Maybe we'll be able to ferret out why during the course of this review.

Wasson plays an unlikely hero for the film: Jake Scully, a B-movie actor who has the misfortune of being cast as a coffin-bound Dracula while also suffering as a claustrophobic. You can see the predicament already. And so it is that we soon discover Jake being recruited by an ultra-rich producer friend (Gregg Henry) to house-sit for him in his saucer-shaped mansion in the Hollywood hills. No sooner has he arrived than he's being shown the telescope trained on hot vixen Gloria down the way, who, like clockwork, does a striptease in front of the window every night. Hot stuff!

Jake becomes obsessed, and after stalking the mystery woman for a day and having a quick encounter with her, he suddenly witnesses her being murdered in the most unlikely of ways: Via impalement with an industrial drill by an Indian creeping through the house. The cops don't quite know what to make of Jake's story, but -- in equally unlikely fashion -- he figures it all out for himself. That wasn't the real Gloria doing the strip teases but rather one Holly Body (Griffith), whom he recognizes by her butt tattoo, a porn star whose work he just happens to catch days after the murder.

There's more roundabout plotting and coincidence, which is pretty much the only thing that drives the film forward. De Palma doesn't seem to care at all. For him this is a giddy but of goofery about the artifice of the movie business, coupled with a chance to throw an absurd, mind-bending plot at us while offering plenty of shots of Griffith in the buff. See also Femme Fatale, a bigger-budget rendition of basically the same overheated story.

As gaudy and tacky as Body Double is (the apartment Jake stays in alone is enough to portend the downfall of civilization), there's something difficult to dislike about it. Wasson is uncomfortable in his various roles-within-the-role (most memorably as a sleazy "porn producer" trying to get cozy with Holly as he investigates the mystery), and Griffith is at her trashy best here. This role would haunt her far years and set the stage for her entire career.

As for De Palma, what can you say? He's over the top and unapologetic. This was his first film after Scarface and he's flaunting his decadence here. And as sad as I am to report it, it works. Body Double borders on complete nonsense, one of those impossible tales that would never in a million years happen this way, and yet you just gotta love it. Guilty pleasure: Thy name is Wasson.

The new special edition DVD includes a four-part retrospective featurette.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :

Starring : , , , Deborah Shelton, Guy Boyd,


Comments

Body Double Rating

" Good "

Rating: R, 1984

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