The Michiaan Daily
Wednesday, November 7, 1984
'Body double' is well worth the
4 By Joshua Bilmes
LARGE PART of the pleasure in
. watching a new Brian De Palma
;movie, including Body Double, his most
. recent, comes from watching his
One scene 'from his The Fury has
stuck in my mind since I first saw the
film many years ago. It happens near
the beginning, when some people are
- conversing on an Israeli beach. The
camera does not follow the usual pat-
'tern of an establishing long shot
followed by close-ups.
Instead, De Palma circles the table,
just going round and round. The scene
.might not be much, but it serves as an
--example of his willingness to move his
camera a little bit differently.
B The camera goes circling again in
Body Double. This time, the setting is
once again a beach. Jake and Gloria
are standing on the beach, kissing. As
they get more and more involved, the
camera circles faster and faster,
joining in the ecstasy we see in the
characters. When they stop, so does the
Chances are, you are wondering who
Jake and Gloria are. Jake is Jake
Scully (Craig Wasson). He is an actor,
who gets his first big break by getting to
play the vampire in Vampire Kiss, a
low budget horror movie. One scene in
the movie has Jake opening his coffin.
-He is unable to do it, the result of a
childhood trauma when he was playing
a game of sardine with his brothers and
found a hiding place so good he was
unable to get out.
The director decides to replace Jake,
but even before we find that out, Jake
goes home and finds his lover in bed
with another man. The house is hers.
Jake has to move out.
Fortunately, he comes across
, somebody with a sublet available, and
what a sublet it is. The house is lavish,
with a rotating bed, a well-stocked bar,
a view, and a telescope. The friend
shows Jake what the telescope points
to: a very attractive woman who
engages in a sensuous routine, every
night like clockwork.
Jake becomes obsessed with the
woman, and it is here that parallels to
Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo really start
to come in. In Vertigo, James Stewart,
that everyman Wasson is attracted to
her. First, he tails her to a shopping
mall, like the Hitchcock movie. Unlike
Hitchcock, he is spotted. And also
unlike Hitchcock, she is being followed
by someone else.
This scene is a good one. It is silent.
De Palma lets the actions speak for
themselves, something that happens all
too rarely these days, and that De
Palma does frequently here. Jake tries
to tell Gloria that she is being followed,
but is unable to. His version of vertigo
stops him when the elevator becomes
Next they go to the beach. There, Jake
is actually about to warn Gloria when
the other follower steals her purse.
This other man is in what we know to
be an Indian mask by virtue of some
close-ups in which it is obvious. Jake
does not know it is a mask, and he goes
chasing after the Indian. Again, his
vertigo keeps him from nabbing the
snatcher, but he does get the purse back
Gloria thanks Jake. They get to
kissing. It is here that we entered into
The Indian had taken one thing from
the purse: a card key to Gloria's house.
The Indian goes in to rob her. Jake is
looking on from his sublet, expecting to
see the nightly display. Instead, he sees
that start of a murder.
But who was it being murdered?
Gloria, or the body double. The term
body double comes from film. When
someone does not want to be seen in the
nude, like Angie Dickinson in De
Palma's Dressed to Kill, a body double
is hired for the more exposed scenes.
Even more important, who was the In-
dian who killed Gloria, using an elec-
tric drill bit for the task?
The plot might not be one of De
Palma's most gripping, and is perhaps
too similar to some of his others, but it
works, especially because De Palma is
on ground he has explored before, and
he knows how to keep the action going
at a good pace. For someone who is not
a particular fan of De Palma or film
technique, Body Double is a passable
evening. For someone such as myself
who is willing to let a few very good
displays of technique make up for other
short falls, or who enjoys De Palma's
work, the movie is more than passable.
De Palma and cinematographer
Stephen H. Burnum make their camera
dance. It pans in and out and circles,
and circles in, and circles out. De
Palma is one of the best at moving the
camera, and just catching that was
worth the price of admission.
Also deservant of special notice is the
score by Pino Donaggio, who also com-
posed music for Altered States and
much of De Palma's earlier work. It
sets the mood well, and is at least as
nice to listen to as the camerawork is to
The acting is competent. No one
looks great and no one looks like they
need a refresher course. It keeps out of
the way of the technique.
The script by Robert Avreh and De
Palma, from a De Palma story, is also
competent. Some of the things about
the plot are a shade predictable, but
nothing is blatantly obvious. There is
also a nice touch of humor. It is a good
piece of clay for De Palma to mold.
Like Scarface, Body Double has some
violence. While the drill bit is never
shown entering the body, it is plenty
suggestive. There is also some sex; but
none of it struck me as being
gratuitous, which is a common flaw in
many Clint Eastwood movies. It was
essential to the plot, for the most part,
t e1__-__. __!_ __ - _ _._r ___ _f_ L_-
but if you are sqeamish, be warned.
Body Double is not a great motion
picture. It is entertaining though. De
Palma has earned the right to imitate
Hitchcock, because his work shows him
to be a worthy successor. Body Double
would fit in well with median Hitch-
cock. Not a Psycho, but satisfying.
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IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
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... the camera moves
a cop suffering from vertigo, was hired
to spy on his client's wife. He becomes
obsessed with the woman. He follows
her while she goes shopping and to the
beach. One of the flaws in the movie is
her never noticing she is being
In Body Double, Jake goes following
this woman, by the name of Gloria
(Deborah Shelton). She is proprerly
alluring and secretive. It is no surprise
seIously .. .
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L~ I T'2~n
Craig Wasson admires the erotic view from Gregg Henry's telescope in Brian De Palma's newest
murder, mayhem, and suspense thriller, 'Body Double.'
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