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Body Double (1984)

Days of De Palma (Part 6): Body Double (1984)

Wow.  Coming off the one-two punch of Blow Out (click here for my review) and Scarface (click here for my review), two Brain De Palma films that I quite enjoyed, comes 1984’s Body Double. This is a terrible movie, and by far the worst of the six De Palma films I have watched so far.

Craig Wasson plays Jake Scully, a down-on-his luck actor who just can’t seem to catch a break.  He gets fired from the movie he’s working on, then catches his girlfriend sleeping with another guy.  Things start to look up, though, when a fellow actor tells Jake that he can stay in the swank house in which he’s been house-sitting.  The house’s best feature?  The sexy housewife next-door, who likes to do an erotic dance in her lingerie, in plain view of the window, every night at the same time.  After several nights watching her, Jake becomes somewhat obsessed, eventually spending an afternoon following the woman all around the city.  His infatuation turns to frantic concern, though, when he starts to suspect that someone else has been following her, and is out to do her harm.

Body Double is basically an R-rated retelling of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. That actually sounds like it could be a decently entertaining idea, but I found Body Double to be a complete bore from start to finish.

The film’s biggest problem is that Craig Wasson is a totally uninteresting milquetoast character.  Part of that is the fault of the script, which wastes no chance to portray Jake as a total loser.  But Mr. Wasson’s performance is just terrible.  There’s a scene, early on, after he discovers his girlfriend having sex with another guy, when Jake heads to a bar to have a drink.  He starts drinking heavily and barking at the bartender.  The implication is that Jake has hit the bottle before, and I guess we’re supposed to think that this is a darker guy, with more internal demons, than we’ve heretofore suspected.  But Jake’s sudden turn into grumpy drunkenness, rather than giving extra layers to the character, just comes of as laughably ridiculous.  It’s like a kid pretending to be a tough guy.

Things don’t get better from there, and whether I was watching Jake floundering through the weirdest acting class I’ve ever seen or making puppy-dog eyes at the beautiful woman next-door, I was totally disconnected from the character.

Body Double is supposed to be an erotic thriller, but as with all of Mr. De Palma’s films I found the sex and nudity to be totally over-done to the point of silliness.  I could imagine the film containing some creepy/sexy scenes of a guy … [continued]