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Brian De Palma
Craig Wasson, Melanie Griffith, Gregg Henry, Deborah Shelton, Guy Boyd, Dennis Franz, David Haskell, Rebecca Stanley, Al Israel
Writing Credits:
Brian De Palma (story), Robert J. Avrech, Brian De Palma

You can't believe everything you see.

Struggling, intensely claustrophobic actor Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) spends his spare time spying on an always-undressing beautiful woman while house-sitting at his friend's swanky Los Angeles bachelor pad. Then he notices a big ugly guy with a power drill is also spying on her, and Scully begins trailing them in a bizarre game that eventually leads to murder. To solve the mystery, Scully infiltrates the porn industry and stars in an X-rated video for 1980s band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, eventually linking up with adult film star Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), the key to all the strange goings-on.

Box Office:
$10 million.
Opening Weekend
$2.837 million on 1428 screens.
Domestic Gross
$8.801 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Monaural

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 10/3/2006

• Four Featurettes
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Body Double: Special Edition (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 29, 2006)

Over the years, Brian De Palma earned a reputation as a Hitchcock wannabe. Some may interpret this as unfair, but those folks won’t get any ammunition from 1984’s Body Double, a movie in which De Palma rips and tears from Hitchcock’s oeuvre but fails to add any spin of his own.

Things aren’t going too well for actor Jake Scully (Craig Wasson). His live-in girlfriend Carol (Barbara Crampton) cheats on him, his career stalls, and he starts to drink again after being on the wagon for years. An acting friend named Sam (Gregg Henry) gets him a house-sitting gig at a freaky Space Needle-style house in the hills.

Before he splits, Sam points out a hot neighbor named Gloria (Deborah Shelton) who prances around her house semi-naked every night. Jake can spy this vixen with a telescope, and he grows obsessed with her. He also views odd circumstances that start to surround her. From a violent husband to a creepy peeper welder to a vehicular stalker, Jake sees areas of suspicion.

This obsession leads Jake to follow Gloria himself. Eventually he connects with her and the pair enjoy a brief moment of passion. She flees, however, and he returns to his peeping ways. As a result, he sees her murder – and then really goes through the looking glass as a bizarre odyssey unfolds, one that intensifies when he believes Gloria reappears.

Body Double steals its gimmick and a few story elements from 1954’s Rear Window, but it really acts as a blatant remake of 1958’s Vertigo. Geez, couldn’t De Palma at least have pretended to think up a different plot? I won’t claim that Double acts as a Gus Van Sant shot-by-shot remake of Vertigo, but the two seem much too close for my comfort.

I admit I don’t view Vertigo with the same reverence many cinephiles regard it, but I definitely see it as infinitely superior to this warmer-over rehash. Of course, Holly Body (Melanie Griffith) – the film’s titular “body double” – is infinitely smuttier than any of Hitch’s leading ladies, but without the porn factor, there’s not a lot to separate the two flicks. Heck, De Palma even occasionally favors the same kind of unconvincing process shots featured in many Hitchcock movies.

Double suffers from two main problems. For one, the pacing of the first half is glacial, and it telegraphs way too many of the plot points. Everything feels artificial and like a set-up from early in the film, so it’s not a surprise when things go downhill. Gee, you don’t suppose Jake’s claustrophobia will become a factor at some point, do you?

Unfortunately, while Double takes a hell of a long time to go anywhere, the build-up adds nothing to the suspense. Instead, the long wait simply reinforces the tedium and monotony of the whole thing. We get more and more tired of the bland Wasson but don’t find anything particularly compelling comes from our long period of boredom.

And that leads to the other problem: the lead actor. Wasson isn’t exactly a great substitute for Jimmy Stewart. He’s a milquetoast, forgettable presence who brings out nothing memorable in the character. His most remarkable talent seems to be that he resembles a slightly more attractive Bill Maher. A charisma-free cipher, Wasson actively detracts from any drama or passion the movie might manifest.

If I want to watch faux Hitchcock, I think I’ll stick with High Anxiety. Mel Brooks does Hitch better than De Palma; even though he aims for comedy, Brooks creates a more interesting and suspenseful tale. As emulated here, Brian De Palma can’t do anything more than plagiarize the master. He fails to give us anything lively or memorable with the tired regurgitation of Body Double.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Body Double appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. An erratic presentation, the movie varied at times but generally looked good.

Sharpness usually seemed positive. A little softness interfered on occasion, but those moments were reasonably rare. Most of the movie presented a fairly accurate and distinct image. Jagged edges and shimmering offered no concerns, but some light edge enhancement periodically marred the presentation. Print flaws were insignificant. Grain could be a little distracting, and I noticed a few marks. However, these failed to create real distractions.

Colors seemed erratic. They displayed the usual Eighties murkiness at times, but they also often looked nicely vibrant and distinct. For the most part, the hues came across as solid despite the inconsistency. Black levels tended to appear somewhat inky, while shadow detail was a little too dense at times. Interiors occasionally seemed flat and muddy. Parts of Body Double actually looked very strong, but these various concerns seemed prominent enough to drop my grade to a “B“.

The film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack provided nothing special, but it seemed pretty good for a movie of this one’s era and ambitions. Unsurprisingly, the mix featured an emphasis on the forward channels. Music showed fairly good stereo separation, while effects displayed a nice sense of breadth and delineation. The track created a relatively positive sense of atmosphere, and when necessary, elements panned cleanly from one area to another. Surround usage mostly just supported the music and effects, but crowd scenes showed a nice feeling of place, and they opened up the package well. Look to the claustrophobic elevator scene for arguably the most involving sequence.

Audio quality came across as relatively positive too. Speech appeared nicely distinct and natural, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, and they presented reasonably good dynamics. Music also seemed bright and vivid, and the score showed solid bass response. Nothing about the audio for Body Double stunned me, but I still felt reasonably pleased with the results.

All of the DVD’s extras come from its four featurettes. These start with The Seduction. A 16-minute and 43-second piece, it mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from director Brian De Palma and actors Melanie Griffith, Deborah Shelton, Gregg Henry and Dennis Franz.

We learn about inspirations for the “body double” concept and the story’s development and research, De Palma’s original plan to use a porn actress as Holly and subsequent casting of Griffith. She talks about her own research and audition. From there, the show looks at how the other actors came onto the film and aspects of their performances. “Seduction” manages to open our look at the production pretty well. It throws out a mix of good tidbits and provides a reasonable level of information. The Griffith parts work best, but the rest also enriches our understanding of the film’s start.

Next comes the 16-minute and 54-second The Setup. It includes remarks from De Palma, Henry, and Shelton. “Setup” examines some character and plot influences/inspirations, shooting various locations and sets, peeping as a plot device, rehearsals and pre-production details, more performance issues, working with dogs, and a few other shoot specifics. “Setup” suffers from a lack of focus. It does look at things as they come up in the movie, but this means a melange of subjects. It’s not a bad way to view things; I just feel it makes matters a bit loose. Nonetheless, the show gives us more nice information, so it works reasonably well.

For the 12-minute and 14-second The Mystery, we hear from De Palma, Griffith, and Henry. The program examines the porn flicks created for Double, character issues and the movie’s impact on Griffith’s career, the use of interpretive flashbacks, LA locations, and a few more general production topics. My comments about “Mystery” follow in line with what I said about “Setup”. Really, all these featurettes act as chapters in one long documentary. There’s no logical cut from one to another, so “Mystery” simply continues our satisfying look at the production.

Finally, The Controversy lasts five minutes and 32 seconds. It features De Palma, Shelton, Henry, Griffith and Franz. As implied by the title, “Controversy” looks at reactions to Body Double. It views critical opinions from 1984, De Palma’s response to accusations of misogyny, general thoughts about the flick and its aftermath. The participants try to convince us that Double is a misunderstood classic. They don’t succeed, and “Controversy” ends up as a fluffy end to the featurettes.

The disc includes Previews for Population 436 and Basic Instinct 2. No trailer for Double appears.

Funny – I don’t recall a negative impression of Body Double when I first saw it back in the Eighties. However, my teenage self couldn’t appreciate all the ways in which it openly steals from the work of Alfred Hitchcock – and rips off with little creativity of its own. The DVD presents pretty positive picture and audio along with a collection of decent featurettes that give us a reasonably informative examination of the movie. This is a more than acceptable DVD for a tedious, uncreative film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8235 Stars Number of Votes: 17
5 3:
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