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Wanted - review of Body Double

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Wanted - review of Body Double

Old 04-20-99, 12:52 PM
Posts: n/a

I would be most appreciative of any first hand information regarding the quality of the transfer. Thank you.

Follow Up - Located a review:


Widescreen 1.85 : 1, Anamorphic, or Full Frame
Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound
114 Minutes
Rated R 1984

The films of Alfred Hitchcock have been fertile ground for writers and directors for decades. On occasion, small, almost insignificant elements from his features have been 'borrowed.' For example, many directors have used the 'dolly back / zoom in' effect at points in their films to call attention to a character's sudden sense of horror or panic. Spielberg used it in JAWS, Redford in QUIZ SHOW, and more recently, Roland Emmerich in GODZILLA. Of course, Hitchcock originated it, with the help of a crew member, and employed it for the first time in his classic suspense flic, VERTIGO.

Screenplay writers occasionally employ Hitch's 'MacGuffin' element in their stories. Tarantino used it in PULP FICTION. What WAS glowing in that briefcase? Don't ask, it's not important. More recently, John Frankenheimer used a MacGuffin in his thriller, RONIN (written by J. D. Zeik).

On the opposite extreme - and I do mean EXTREME, we have the shot by shot remake of Hitch's classic fright flic, PSYCHO, directed by Gus Van Sant. Some may disagree, but I think the idea of, not re-doing, but intentionally duplicating PSYCHO is ridiculous. What's the point folks? Maybe this was just an expensive way to get youngsters who don't dig black and white features to sit through a classic film - a sort of colorization, but not really. Colorizing films is a rotten idea, and so was this 're-make.'

Somewhere in between the simple 'borrowing' of elements, or homage paying, and Van Sant's pirating, we have a number of Brian DePalma's films, and of these films, none borrow as many elements to build Hitchcockian suspense as well as his 1984 thriller BODY DOUBLE. Some of these elements are obvious - the use of a lens to peep in on a neighbor echoes REAR WINDOW, the hapless victim, thrown into a life threatening situation, common to numerous Hitchcock films, the condition of acrophobia which plagued Jimmy Stewart in VERTIGO, becomes Jake's claustrophobia in BODY DOUBLE, the frequent use of the subjective camera, and so on. Depalma employs these elements, and many others, but they're used in the service of a taught, original, enthralling script. On first viewing, it's easy, and fun, to notice them, but as the film's story progresses and the plot thickens - as the pieces of the puzzle slowly fit together, we're too engaged to bother with their identification.

One of the tag lines for BODY DOUBLE was 'You can't believe everything you see.' Indeed, we often think we know what we're looking at, but then we're given a nudge by a subsequent image or sequence, which first tells us we're wrong, and then tugs us in the right direction. DePalma works with great confidence in this genre, and he easily carries us through a convoluted plot with sequences that occasionally risk going over the top, but never really cross the line. BODY DOUBLE's story is quite believable, captivating, and brilliantly paced. It's also suspenseful, and occasionally frightening.

Struggling actor, Jake Scully (Craig Wasson), is given the day off after experiencing a claustrophobic panic attack on the set of a B-movie about vampires - afraid of his own coffin. He picks up a couple hot dogs and drives home to surprise his girlfriend, but Jake's the one who's surprised when he opens the bedroom door and finds his gal in bed with another man. It's her place, so he's the one sent packing. A friendly bartender puts him up for the night, but Jake needs something a bit better than a loveseat and a blanket.

The next day, he's introduced to a friend of a friend, a fellow actor, Sam (Gregg Henry). They bump into each other a few more times, and he's the first to come to Jake's aid during a humiliating actor's training seminar. Over drinks, Sam offers Jake a place to stay for a few weeks. Apparently Sam's house-sitting for a pal, but has to leave town, and he'd appreciate it if Jake could sit for him.

The pad is a playboy's dream house. Just before Sam hits the road, he lets Jake in on an added special feature of the place - using a telescope, he introduces his new friend to the beautiful gal down the hill, Gloria Revelle (Deborah Shelton). Apparently, the scantily-clad Mrs. Revelle does an erotic dance before her open blinds every night at the same time - like clockwork. Jake can't tear himself away from his own little peep show, and one night he notices a large scar-faced man also watching Mrs. Revelle from a TV satellite tower.

The following day, Jake is startled to see the scar-faced man take off after Gloria's car in his truck. Concerned for her safety, Jake follows as well. He trails her to a shopping mall, and then to a beach house, where the stranger shows up again. As Jake approaches Gloria and prepares to warn her, the man bolts by and snatches her purse. Jake hustles after him down the beach, but the thief turns into a long narrow tunnel. Jake attempts to follow, but becomes paralyzed by fear in the narrow space. The stranger discards Gloria's purse, but only after grabbing a card from her wallet.

That night, as Jake is peering into the telescope, he discovers that the scar-faced man has entered Gloria's house and broken into the safe in her bedroom, but before he can escape with some jewels, he's surprised by Gloria. Jake the voyeur is too startled and tantalized to dial the police for help. He bolts for the Revelle's house and tries to reach Gloria in time to save her, but he fails. Later, the police arrive, and due to various clues on the scene, and Jake's own admission to being a peeping Tom, his situation doesn't look good. A detective tells Jake that he may not have killed the woman himself, but it's because of his behavior she's dead.

Later, while watching a porno channel on television, Jake sees a performer, Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), doing a dance that uncannily resembles the erotic rug-cutting that had been performed by the late Gloria Revelle. Jake senses a set up of some kind, and he begins to dig for more clues.

This is a very good transfer from Columbia Tristar, however as was the case with another of their releases this week, MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, it's not quite on par with most of their transfers - which are usually exceptional. The only fly in the ointment here is the occasional soft shot which stands out to the viewer because the rest of the presentation is outstanding.

Colors are nearly always vivid and fully saturated, with no bleeding from bright fields into darker surrounding fields. There are a number of darker sequences with large shadows and abundant grays and blacks. In all cases, these hold together perfectly, with deep solid blacks and duller fields, which are free of image breakup.

Brightness and contrast levels are very good throughout, with only an occasional shot where contrast is a bit wanting. Shadow delineation is also quite good. Flesh tones look natural in all lighting keys. There are a number of very bright, naturally lit scenes in the glorious California sunshine, with bright golden rays and soft glowing colors - particularly the sequence around the beach house and on the beach. These are some of the very best looking shots in the presentation. The bright skies are free of grain, and the colors are radiant and natural looking. Great stuff!

Save for the occasional soft shots, this is a very solid anamorphic transfer from the folks at Columbia Tristar.

This is a DD, 2.0 or Surround Sound presentation. The track is clean and free of distortion or dropouts, but in general it's a bit lackluster. Granted, the film is primarily dialogue driven, with no emphasis on pyrotechnics, or gun fire. However, even sequences which should've carried some bass, like the porno flic nightclub scene, were missing lower tones.

Panning effects are fair, but effects placement is a bit muddy. The forward soundstage is narrower and shallower than what can be heard on better 2.0 mixes. The surround speakers are employed primarily in support of Pino Donaggio's score - which definitely sounds very early eighties. The score is rather limited in dynamic range - centering around the middle and slightly higher range, and lacking in significant bass. The surrounds also provide occasional ambient sounds, like bar room noise, flowing water at the reservoir towards the end of the film, and a few assorted effects. They are not employed aggressively, but enough to make their presence known.

Dialogue is nicely recorded, sounding natural - not compressed. This is a rather hum drum mix - certainly adequate, but not particularly notable.

Scene access menu with links to 28 chapters in the film
Alternate French language track
English and French subtitles
English closed-captions
Theatrical trailer (1.85 : 1, 2 speaker mono)

[This message has been edited by ed (edited 04-23-99).]

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