Saturday, March 22, 2008

Body Double

Body Double; Thriller, USA, 1984; D: Brian De Palma, S: Craig Wasson, Gregg Henry, Deborah Shelton, Melanie Griffith, Guy Boyd, Dennis Franz

Los Angeles. Jake Scully is a struggling actor who is unable to play a part of a vampire in a cheap horror movie because he can't stand up from a coffin due to his claustrophobia. When he returns home he catches his wife having an affair and moves out. During a casting session, he meets Sam and accepts his offer to share an apartment high in the hills. Sam shows him a telescope with which he can observe a stripping woman in a neighboring mansion, Gloria. One night, Jake spots a killer in her house and runs to save her, but comes too late - she is murdered by a drilling machine. Some time later, Jake spots a porn with a blond actress, Holly, and reports to play a role in her new film. He tells her he is a porn producer and then finds out she was actually the woman stripping in Gloria's house. He finds Sam actually killed Gloria and confronts him. Sam is killed by his dog.

In the 1980's, Brian De Palma dropped his homages to Hitchcock and filmed an outright imitation of his thrillers with "Body Double", using variations of his acclaimed films "The Rear Window" and "Vertigo" - but the result was a cheap attempt at imitating and dropped into trash once too often. The film starts out promisingly, with De Palma's trademark absorbing style, but the story keeps stumbling more and more into illogical plot holes until it becomes downright unintentionally comical. For instance, the long sequence where Jake is following Gloria in a car through L.A., until he parks and follows her by foot through the mall - his "discretion" is so lame that it's silly to even assume she can't notice him, especially in the scene where she is trying out a new underwear in a shop, but forgot to close her changing cubicle allowing him to see everything through the window! The moment where he runs after the man who stole her purse, but suddenly brokenly stops in a hallway, while the camera zooms in and out of the exit so that his claustrophobia can look like Stewart's fear of heights from "Vertigo", is amateurish. Not to mention the sole murder sequence - the killer strangles Gloria, but she manages to knock him over and they fall on the bed. She gets up, and what does she do? Instead of running out of the house, she stays in the same room with the unconscious killer and tries to call the police - until he wakes up and kills her with a drilling machine! The plot twist at the end gives the film some justification, Melanie Griffith, nominated for a Golden Globe, is great, the haunting music is esoteric, some scenes are brilliantly directed (the frog perspective of the killer throwing soil down the grave he digged for the protagonist), but they can't save it from implausibility.


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