Tuesday, 23 October 2012



There's not very much new and insightful I can say about Lawrence Kasdan's sweat-soaked modern (1981) noir. It's got the kind of frank nudity we suddenly don't seem to get anymore in mainstream grown-up cinema (when was the last time you saw two respectable actors taking all their clothes off and clambering about on top of each other at your local Cineworld?); it effortlessly conveys the stultifying, airless heat (even on a damp and misty October night you almost perspire with the characters); it's got a wonderfully sleazy John Barry score full of wailing saxophones. If you made it today there'd be a bunch of songs all over the soundtrack for marketing purposes, it would be shot in anodyne Canada locations for tax purposes, and everyone would keep their pants on and hump discreetly under the duvet for PG13 purposes.

And, of course, Body Heat owes a lot to Double Indemnity, utilising a similar plotline in which a femme fatale lures a sap into a murder plot and then double-crosses him: Matty (Kathleen Turner) picks up with not-too-smart small-town lawyer Ned (William Hurt) and brilliantly manipulates him into not just killing her rich but largely absent husband (Richard Crenna) but making him come up with the idea and working out the details as well. But then their plot starts to unravel....

I first saw Body Heat on its pre-cert VHS release and if memory serves that's actually a slightly more explicit version. Not because anything's been cut: it's that the DVD is in 16:9 whereas the tape was in 4:3, in what they call "open matte". The widescreen DVD and cinema image is masked from the full 4:3 so part of the image has been cropped top and bottom. One of the nude scenes has Matty lead Ned across the room by taking hold of his... You see the contact on the unmasked 4:3 VHS but it takes place just below the crop on the 16:9. Or at least that's as I recall it.

Still, whether that's in there or not (it might have been too much for the BBFC back in the Ferman years), it's still a pretty terrific movie and absolutely worth seeing late at night. Love the atmosphere, love the smart dialogue, love the soundtrack (there are two CD releases of the music, one of the original tracks, the other a very good re-recording), love Ted Danson (!) as the assistant DA constantly showing off his dance moves; even the appearance of the variable Mickey Rourke as a bombmaker can't spoil it. Why the hell can't we have movies like this these days? This was thirty years ago!



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