Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Twilight Timey: BODY DOUBLE on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Twilight Timey: BODY DOUBLE on Blu-ray

BODY DOUBLE is one of those films that exemplifies De Palma at his essence. You can call him a Hitchcock thief if you want to, but his films are their own thing in my mind and BODY DOUBLE is one of THE quintessential De Palma films. BLOW OUT, DRESSED TO KILL, & BODY DOUBLE demonstrate a certain De Palma mixing his influences with just the right alchemy that they really become their own thing. This can be said about many of his films, but those three were made close enough together that I feel that they have this kinship of style that really gives the uninitiated viewer an idea of what De Palma is about on some level. They are all cinematic in this really wonderful way that I myself kind of adore. You can absolutely point to Hitchcock sure, but De Palma's films are much more fetishistic and sexually charged. They bring this whole other level to the voyeurism that Hitchcock brought to us in films like REAR WINDOW(which this film is heavily influenced by). It has this edge to it, this often uncomfortable edge that really lends itself well to the air of suspense that De Palma orchestrates so confidently. That edginess might be classified as just plain sleaziness by some and that would be a fair assessment I suppose, though I don't see it quite that way. While BODY DOUBLE is certainly the lesser of the three films I mentioned, and may induce much eye-rolling in some folks, there is an inherent love of movies and movie making that comes through that I think is still quite inspirational. De Palma is a man who just loves cinema and it comes through in practically every frame was shooting during this period. He is clearly having fun with the conventions and characters of the films he's making and kind of poking fun at Hollywood in general. He is a director who loves to  have a conversation with the audience through his language of visuals and this is not the type of conversation that is as prevalent anymore in most younger filmmakers. I think there is a distinct difference between a director who can put together a nice looking frame and one who can orchestrate and converse with his audience via a sequence of shots like De Palma does. Much of BODY DOUBLE is wordless. Lots of characters watching other characters with nothing said at all. That is where De Palma is at his strongest as a filmmaker during this time. This is not to say that the dialogue in his films is not up to snuff(though it can be a bit clunky at times), but you can tell he'd just rather shut the hell up and tell his story with the camera.
De Palma has a flair sense for making a film like this stand out a bit. It's Los Angeles based so I am immediately drawn in. Even before I lived in Los Angeles, I found it to be a wonderfully cinematic city if the proper locations were used(not as cinematic as New York, but still..). In this case, De Palma has chosen one completely unique and unforgettable locale in the "Chemosphere", an octagon house that is unlike any other I've seen. Apparently, the house had been used in an episode of the Outer Limits previous to this, but in my mind it will always be associated with this film. It has a fantastic panoramic view of the city and obviously serves as the main character(played by Craig Wasson)'s lookout into the world of other characters.
BODY DOUBLE kind of feels like two separate movies. The first half is a very REAR WINDOW inspired thriller with a bit more movement to it. Craig Wasson's character becomes obsessed with a woman he can see from the aforementioned  octagon house he is staying in. The woman gets into some peril and Wasson follows and watches her and eventually becomes involved. There's also some VERTIGO mixed in here, in that Wasson's character is cripplingly claustrophobic(just as James Stewart's character was agfaid of heights) and this plays into the story a few times. In the second half of the film, he becomes obsessed with an adult film actress played by Melanie Griffith. The two sections tie together of course but the segmentation is interesting. A few times I've watched only the first half of the film and I have often forgotten how Melanie Griffith even plays into the story.
It's hard to talk about BODY DOUBLE and not at least briefly mention the 5 minute music video/adult film thingy that happens to the tune of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's memorable tune "Relax". It's a very odd sequence that is at once pretty ridiculous and somewhat captivating at the same time. It carries with it real feeling of the pop iconography of 1984 while it is in fact creating a bit of that iconography in its own right. 
This Twilight Time Blu-ray was quite a popular seller for them and it's 3000 limited pressing sold out quite quickly. Those of us that got a copy can see that it looks quite good. Very sharp with a nice grain structure as I've come to expect from their releases. The special features were ported over from the Sony Special Edition release. Brian De Palma is among my favorite filmmakers so I am always fascianted to hear him talking about his process and the context of his movies. There was certainly some controversy surrounding this film at the time of its release and this is addressed in one of the four featurettes included on the disc. The film was attacked for it's portrayal of women and De Palma was called a misogynist. Removed from that context, the film is still a little edgy in terms of its portrayal of pornography and pornographic actors, but it is relatively tame when seen through the eye of present day cinema-goers. I find it interesting that De Palma mentions here that it is his films SCARFACE and BODY DOUBLE that he is most approached about by fans. SCARFACE makes sense as that film is well beyond a cult film at this point, but BODY DOUBLE is less known by most and it intrigues me that it gets that attention. The other featurettes include "The Seduction": wherein De Palma talks about the germs of the idea for this movie(from working with a body double on DRESSED TO KILL) and how it came to be made. Apparently he had originally envisioned the film in New York, but after working in California for a good while on SCARFACE he began to see L.A. as the setting. "The Setup": deals with the nuts and bolts making of the film and specific scenes. It was from this featurette that I learned that the white German Shepherd used in this film is in fact the same dog(s) used in Sam Fuller's WHITE DOG. Finally, "The Mystery"  featurette deals with the films resolution, location for the ending/reveal and the actors & De Palma talk about how it all worked.

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