Brian De Palma, a name well-known by horror fans for having directed 5-horror films to date, most noted Carrie (1976), however in the early 80’s his work took a turn and he began to upset critics, in 1983 he remade Scarface starring Al Pacino, a thoroughly controversial movie. However in 1984 he shocked the cinematic work with Body Double, a film with horror clichés but clearly a thriller, he developed the idea after working with a body double for Angie Dickinson’s shower scene in Dressed to Kill (1980). For some cinematic fans, he’s considered a modern-day Hitchcock, for his thrilling suspense driven movies, pushing the edges and testing the human psyche at times with feverish passion. This flick brought more controversy from feminist groups, than Dressed to Kill, it found itself embroiled in problems as critics panned it as drivel and a step above porn, although since then many have deemed it a quality movie, with a cult following due to stylish effort. De Palma incorporated quite a bit of cinema history into the movie, ranging the picture from a psychological thriller to a b-movie and a hint of exploitation, even 1940 serial stories but as a fine wine it keeps getting better with age.
As Mel Brooks made a comedic send-up homage movie to Alfred Hitchcock, called High Anxiety (1977) one should definitely admit that this movie by De Palma does the same thing, as he references at different moments such as Dial M for Murder (1954) and especially Rear Window (1954) and taking a cue from Vertigo (1958) when dealing phobias, and lastly Psycho (1960).
Although De Palma did originate the story and contributed to the screenplay it was actually written by Robert J. Avrech (Blood Bride ) and it’s true much of the plot does with the others in the industry found in and out of Hollywood that soar to new heights and popular regardless what the naysayers stated, and it settled the battle over VHS or Beta, that’s the Adult Film Industry. One can state the film is like coins flipping in a room filled of mirrors, the angle dazzles the senses how many actually there, is it one or a dozen hence the element of truth and lies versus reality and illusion, all concentrate by the eye and mind. This movie influenced Quentin Tarantino in a few films with regard to style and craft, such as the Kill Bill movies and Once Upon Time in Hollywood (2019).
Now the plot for this movie is so very layered and detailed and I shall refrain from exposing too much, therefore I’ll be working with references and other points of issues with the film. The film begins with a vampire movie entitled “Vampire’s Kiss” (which incidentally became a movie in 1988 starring Nicolas Cage, but had no relation to this flick) It stars Jake (Craig Wasson (Ghost Story ) an average guy, which is another common theme used by Hitchcock, Jake often an unemployed actor, struggling to survive but the story surrounds him. Just as his world is falling apart his wife (Barbara Crampton (Replace )) cheating on him, another actor (Gregg Henry (Slither )) does him a favor to house sit at a modernistic and weird home which in reality is known as Chemosphere. The location allows for a voyeuristic paradise 360 degrees of viewing pleasures, watching neighbors indulging sexual proclivities such as a striptease dance. On one night a murder occurs, reminiscent of the Driller Killer (1979), all witnessed by Jake just like Jimmy Stewart’s character in Rear Window (1954), hence the wheels set in motion, but now trying to figure out where does this ride terminate and how does it affect Jake. Jake begins to investigate leading him into the world pornography and to a mega star, Holly Body in the industry Melanie Griffith,, in one her first major roles. De Palma actually wanted to muse real life adult film stars, but the studio wouldn’t have anything to do with that, while today’s horror cinema often welcomes the crossover for various reasons, back then it was beyond taboo; ah such hypocrisy. De Palma implanted a slight homage to a long forgotten movie Peeping Tom (1960, a film with some mild porno scenes once more showing a historic arc of cinematic styles. When using claustrophobia Brian captures the feeling exquisitely well, showing the overwhelming sensations the main lead, Jake feels is panic becomes ours, his limpness and humiliation all translate very well to audience.
While the studios bared De Palma from using adult performers, the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which did song and video for the film, had no problem from them or their label to employ the stars Lindsay Freeman; Annette Haven; Cara Lott.
Alas, let’s continue on the dissection of the film, directors often have their favorite actors, for example Martin Scorsese uses Robert DeNiro for Brian it was Dennis Franz, in this was his fifth and final to date, I’ve mentioned three of them already, the other two The Fury (1978) a horror flick and Blow Out (1981) a very stylish thriller. For those that aspire to become a renowned cinematographer, then they need to view this picture for Stephen H. Burum (the Entity ) colorful richness, and especially the lengthy foot-chase in shopping mall, a spirally array of shots all carefully laid like a three dimensional chessboard, the movie is more focused on the visuals than the mere dialogue. This aided by composer extraordinaire Pino Donaggio (The Howling ) who provided a full orchestrated score, that can easily remind one of Hitchcock’s go-to composer Bernard Herrmann. Lastly just like his idol, he too had battles with the censor board, MPAA, due the explicit nature and erotic themes.
Simply if you seek a diversion from the mainstay of horror films, then venture to this creative version of filmmaking, which allows one to see and experience and an enjoyable array of technique that spans across numerous decades. It employs Hitchcockian techniques of a flawed hero, the average guy tossed into a complex web of deceit and misrepresentations of what he sees and what we actually witness, becoming part of the story too.
- A seduction. A mystery. A murder.
- Brian De Palma the modern master of suspense invites you witness – A seduction. A mystery. A murder.
- You can’t believe everything you see.
IMDb Rating: 6.8/10
Baron’s Rating: 7.5/10