Body Double (1984)

Article 4936 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-23-2015
Directed by Brian De Palma
Featuring Craig Wasson, Melanie Griffith, Gregg Henry
Country: USA
What it is: Hitchcockian thriller

A claustrophobic actor becomes a peeping tom when he takes over house-sitting an avant-garde home. He begins the suspect that the woman he is watching is being followed by an ugly Indian with ill intentions.

Yesterday, I watched an extremely low-budget director try to do a copy of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Somehow it’s fitting that today I deal with a big-budget director who almost made a career of trying to emulate Hitchcock. This movie is Brian De Palma’s attempt to redo VERTIGO with touches of REAR WINDOW and with lots of nudity and sex thrown into the mix. Generally, I prefer De Palma when he’s not wearing his love for Hitchcock so blatantly on his sleeve; if you’re familiar with VERTIGO, you’ve got a handle on about ninety percent of the plot of this one. The thing is that De Palma didn’t really need to imitate Hitchcock this much; he could be very memorable in his own way when staging some of his scenes, and at least three sequences in this movie stuck with me for years from the first time I saw the movie. Still, my original viewing did leave something of a negative impression on me; I never cared much for the characters, I found the plot pretty far-fetched, and I found its descent into the porn industry during the final third to be rather unpleasant. I’m a bit more forgiving of much of this on this, my second viewing, but I noticed another problem; there is a lot of dead space in between the big, memorable scenes, and I do think that at least twenty minutes could be pruned from the running time if the movie just picked up the pace. Genre-wise, this is mostly a mystery thriller, but horror pops up in the story in two ways; the opening and closing scenes involve the filming of a horror movie, and the murder that is the centerpiece of the movie is truly horrific. All in all, I liked the movie a little better on this second viewing, but I do think it’s far from De Palma’s best work.


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