• Brian De Palma taps into both Rear Window and Vertigo for his 1984 film Body Double
  • Body Double is one De Palma wrote as well as directed- unlike Scarface, Carrie, The Untouchables.
  • Like Blow Out, it opens on the making a movie- a B-movie- a horror movie. Jake (Craig Wasson) is playing a vampire and his claustrophobia (akin to Vertigo) acts up.
  • Jake struggles to find work, needs a place to stay, and ends up getting a temporary job/home housesitting at the “Chemosphere”- a crazy modern spaceship-looking house off Mulholland built by John Lautner in 1960. Like Rear Window, Jake gets into a little peeping. He has a beautiful dancing neighbor, a Questar telescope and a healthy libido (or unhealthy may be a better way to describe it– we’re in a De Palma film after all).

an update on both Rear Window (here) and Vertigo

  • Pino Donaggio (frequent De Palma collaborator) is clearly trying to emulate Bernard Herrmann with the musical score.
  • De Palma uses his split diopter to show eavesdropping at the phone booth at the 33-minute mark. This entire tailing sequence is marvelous cinema (and pure Vertigo– when Stewart is tracking Novak for long dialogue-free stretches). Both Jake and “The Indian” are stalking Gloria (Deborah Shelton) to add another layer to it. They are at this outdoor mall -a checkout girl calls security on Jake for peeping in another split diopter.

voyeurism, obsession, eavesdropping– perfect use cases for De Palma’s trademark stylistic touches

a smattering of split diopter shots during the tailing sequence

  • The twirling 360-degree kiss (Vertigo all the way) at the 53-minute mark just does not work for De Palma. Poor Wasson and Shelton are pawing at each other, the backdrop does not help, the dramatic Donaggio score swells—this is just not the same as Hitchcock shooting Stewart and Novak at the Golden Gate bridge- it would have been better for De Palma to omit this. The section later where De Palma intercuts the multiple 360-degree shots (this time with Melanie Griffith) is actually much better- but you do sort of need this first one to set up the Griffith kiss. The first shot just needed to be acted and executed better (and neither Craig Wasson or Shelton can act really).
  • Forget the slasher and stabbing as a masochistic sexual metaphor—the drilling scene is just about as Freudian as it gets.

I get a kick out of both positive and negative reviews mentioning “sleaze”- in a lot of ways this is the most De Palma De Palma film—haha- with large chunks of the story not only dedicated to voyeurism, Hitchcock and nudity—but the actual adult film industry.

  • The popular 1983 song “Relax” from the pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood is used here as part of the film within the film of the adult film starring Jake and Holy Body (Melanie Griffith). Griffith said herself this role here (she was a minor star as a teen in the 1970s in some big films, but it had been years) led to the roles for her in Something Wild (1986) and Working Girl (1988). Griffith is good here- so she stands out among a pretty weak cast.

as a teen she was in both Night Moves and Smile in 1975– but Melanie Griffith had fallen off the map and it was Body Double that helped springboard her into being one of the more bankable female leads of the second half of the 1980s

  • De Palma’s perpetually active camera floats down as the Indian buries Griffith alive.
  • You would never call this an intellectual film, but it does reward repeat viewings- things like Sam’s (Gregg Henry) dog not barking at the Indian.
  • Members only jackets and very MTV- this is both a Hitchcock homage for sure- but also a film very rooted in the 1980s. It is also the film Bret Easton Ellis has Patrick Bateman rent over and over again in his book “American Psycho”.

Multiple times over the course of the film (in the tunnel here) De Palma chooses to use the camera (as he tends to do- he is a great technician) to highlight Jake’s claustrophobia. This is not the famous dolly zoom from Vertigo- it is more of a camera floating in and out.

  • Highly Recommend – back end of the top 10 of the year quality