Body Double

Two days ago on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, I saw a report on the death of Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olson on the Superman television show. There was no mention that he was gay. I read that he died alone in his sleep. I went out to grade some papers and prepare for a morning class. I was pretty disorganized with my papers. After I was done with my early class, I returned home for lunch. I browsed through the record store and decided to buy the Blu-ray edition of “Autumn Sonata,” which I guess was appropriate for the last day of summer. I heard the news that Barry Zito is set to face Tim Hudson on Saturday. For my late class, I had to give an exam. I went home and watched the DVD of “Body Double,” which was not my favorite Brian De Palma film. It had some elements from “Rear Window” and “Vertigo.” The main character is an actor name Jake Scully, who witnesses a murderer attacking a woman. The situation isn’t what it seems, and he learns that a porn star named Holly Body is involved. The plot doesn’t hold up to examination. The script seems set up to give us certain scenes and shots. I don’t see how a real killer would depend so heavily on someone’s unpredictable behavior. It’s hard to believe that this woman would go through a nude ritual for the neighbors to see, and the switching was too elaborate. The whole orchestrating of this plot was like what someone in the movie industry might dream up, but not a genuine killer. I don’t know why you would want to bring imagination into a crime plot like this, because it makes the deed too identifiable. Craig Wasson was Jake, and he reminded me of Bill Maher. He had a couple of acting scenes that made me think of “Blow Out.” I thought he wasn’t the most compelling hero, but then De Palma certainly couldn’t bring back John Travolta for this one. I thought the vampire makeup was unconvincing even for a low-budget flick. Jack was just a frustrating character because his actions were foolish at every turn. For an actor, he didn’t know how to talk and be clear. Maybe that’s why he needs dialogue fed to him. It seemed unlikely that somebody like Holly would end up in the plot. It should have been some anonymous young woman off the street, or at least someone without a name. Melanie Griffith is Holly, and she gets to deliver some humorous lines about the porn business. She was somewhat similar to Mira Sorvino in “Mighty Aphrodite.” She got to be annoying with her screeching, though. You can definitely see how this role led to “Something Wild” for Melanie Griffith. In a decade, she went from “Night Moves” to “Body Double.” It was irritating to see so many references to the movie industry in the script, with casting calls and such. The title comes from movie language, which I guess I didn’t know at the time I originally saw this movie. Today things are different, and in fact it seems that we all know too much movie terminology. Out of the Brian De Palma trio of “Dressed to Kill,” “Blow Out,” and “Body Double,” this one is the weakest of the group. I thought De Palma overdid it with the whole lone witness bit because it didn’t seem likely that Jack would also see Holly being attacked, and in a car right in front of him to boot. I thought the whole Frankie Goes to Hollywood bit was amusing, especially considering how we were watching music videos back then, but I thought it would have been filmed and editing more effectively. I noted the references to “Vertigo,” like the shot in the tunnel and the circular shot of the kiss, along with the music. I thought that was unconvincing. Why would this woman let a strange man kiss her? The body double scene at the end reveals some movie trickery that seems like a magician showing a big secret. I think we’d rather get involved in the story than gain some knowledge about how things are filmed. I’m not sure that Brian De Palma has ever really understood audiences. It’s really hard for me to believe that it’s been 31 years since this movie was released. 1984 was still one of those fun years. Craig Wasson was in some interesting movies, like “Go Tell the Spartans,” “Carny,” “Malcolm X,” and “Akeelah and the Bee.” Besides “Body Double,” he’s known for his role in the third Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Looking over Brian De Palma’s credits since 1984, I would say that his most notable movie during that period was “The Untouchables.” I don’t remember “Carlito’s Way” very well, and I can’t bring myself to say I liked “Mission: Impossible.” Pauline Kael liked “Casualties of War,” but I didn’t really care about it. Brian De Palma is 75 years old now. I’m not sure that even his best movies were really all that great. He leans too heavily on his influences. He’s like a Peter Bogdanovich, but in different genres. I fell asleep and missed the Banacek episode about the stolen cross, which seemed to be timed right with the arrival of the Pope at the White House. I heard the sad news that Yogi Berra had died at age 90. He was certainly a baseball player who was more than a baseball player. I’ll miss him. I watched a little bit of the Pope on the news before I left the apartment. Norah O’Donnell seemed enthusiastic to be covering the story. Since it is Bruce Springsteen’s birthday, I brought out the CDs and set out to listen to “Rosalita” and “Thunder Road” again. I like listening to all of this albums up until “Tunnel of Love.” I guess we have to question whether he has become too rich and grown out of touch with his fans. I remember the first time I heard “Human Touch,” and I wasn’t impressed with it. Some of the people who died on September 23 include Vincenzo Bellini (1835), Sigmund Freud (1939), Pablo Neruda (1973), Cliff Arquette (1974), and Bob Fosse (1987). Today is a birthday for Jason Alexander (56), Bruce Springsteen (66), and Julio Iglesias (72). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for September 23, the Walker Brothers reached Number One on the singles chart in the U.K. with “Make It Easy on Yourself” in 1965.  In 1969, the first episode of “Marcus Welby, M.D.” aired on ABC. In 1979, “Archie Bunker’s Place” made its debut on CBS.

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