Body Double

Something constantly seen throughout the thriller Body Double is voyeurism. The protagonist of the story, Jake Scully sees his girlfriend in the act of cheating with him. His best friend Sam leers at women at the bar. In an extremely egregious scene, Jake watches an unknown woman strip and masturbate. He even acts in a porn movie. Watching this movie I was left wondering if all these titillating scenes were for the benefit of the story or for the audience.

The movie itself is mainly a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, with nods to his style of filming and a phobic protagonist. Jake is claustrophobic, something that is very well explained in an early scene where he has to imagine himself in a traumatizing and humiliating childhood situation. Overall Jake is excellently acted throughout the movie. The plot is as follows (without any spoilers, of course): Jake loses his job because of his claustrophobia and his new friend Sam gets him a high-tech house where he can spy on he woman next door. He peeps on this unknown dancer for two days when suddenly he sees a man slap her and drive off with stolen money. Motivated by a desire to protect her and to love her, Jake begins stalking the woman known as Gloria Revelle. One thing that bothered me throughout the movie was how creepy Jake could be at times. He’s always stalking her and he even watches her change clothes and steals her old underwear. For what it’s worth, a detective calls him out on his behavior so I don’t think the movie entirely expects us to condone his behavior. Gloria isn’t exactly well written, her only real defining moment being when she decides to make out with Jake on the beach after a disfigured man known as “The Indian” steals her purse. The Indian (implying there’s only one) is a strange monster of a thug who’s constantly stalking Gloria and Jake feels he must protect Gloria from. I was worried that making The Indian, well, Indian was a racist choice but there is a twist at the end which alleviates most of those concerns.

Body Double has a ton of really sexy scenes, so I wouldn’t let your kids watch it. Bt It’s a rather decent thriller otherwise in the way it keeps the audience guessing, so I think that I would recommend it.

3 thoughts on “Body Double

  1. Good analysis and well written. The other things that I thought were fun if a little quirky were the way the movie goes in and out of actual filming of the actor in various cheesy horror movies – you’re not sure at times if it is the movie, or a movie within a movie. I thought Melanie Griffith did a pretty good job, but truth be told, the acting is just ok, it’s more of just a good thriller. Pretty dated we found having seen it recently. The pace of those ol’ time 80′s movies can be glacial. Keep up the posts!!

  2. Body Double is one of De Palma’s most blatant Hitchcockian ripoffs. I can always appreciate his ability, but he never seems to have an original thought. That isn’t to say that he isn’t capable of making an enjoyable mishmash of far better movies, but almost every one of his movies features a scene remade from some classic movie. Body Double’s voyeurism is straight out of Rear Window which combines with the obsession of Vertigo points to two movies that are better movies. Even his great movies, like Blow Out, are full of homages to movies like The Conversation, Halloween, and Blow Up. I do recommend checking out Blow Out, if only for John Travolta’s performance and De Palma’s masterful use of sound design. But to me, he’s always just been someone to learn about good movies that he’s stolen from, rather than someone I think makes them himself. Can’t deny they’re almost always watchable, even if just for how terrible they can be. I’ll also admit to a soft spot for Craig Wasson, for his role in Nightmare on Elm Street 3, the only sequel in that series to be as good if not better than the original.

    Also, if you’re ever wondering whether what appears to be a gratuitous nude scene in a De Palma film is for the audience or the story, the answer is almost always the audience/De Palma himself.

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