From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Body Double is a 1984 film directed by Brian De Palma. Starring Craig Wasson, Melanie Griffith, and Dennis Franz. The film is an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's films Vertigo, Rear Window, and Dial M for Murder. The original music score is composed by Pino Donaggio. The film is marketed with the tagline "You can't believe everything you see."
The film begins and ends with the protagonist Jake Scully (Wasson) playing the character of a vampire on the set of a low-budget horror film. He is unable to rise from a coffin due to claustrophobia, causing him to lose the part. He also attends an acting workshop to improve his skills. He has recently found himself without a home, after witnessing his girlfriend having an affair in her home, where he had been living. At the workshop class, he makes a new friend, who gives him a house-sitting offer he cannot refuse, on top of a cul-de-sac with 360 degree views (aided by a bed that rotates slowly). He also introduces Jake to his "favorite neighbor" via telescope: a beautiful young woman who dances seductively, half naked, in the window of a nearby house. Jake's nightly voyeuristic viewings of this woman quickly evolve into a murder mystery, as he witnesses a murder. At one point in the film, we see a "movie within a movie" with Frankie Goes to Hollywood performing the song "Relax" on the set of a porn film. Scream queen starlet Brinke Stevens appears in this and other brief scenes as a porn actress. There are also cameos of adult actresses Cara Lott and Annette Haven.
The movie was largely dismissed by critics upon release, and even denounced outright by others. Only star Melanie Griffith received rave reviews from the film, earning a National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe Nomination as Best Supporting Actress, and the Motion Picture Booker's Club Award as "Star of Tomorrow."
However, Roger Ebert praised the movie, giving it three and a half out of four stars. The film developed a dedicated cult following, which remains strong today, perhaps due to its directorial and aesthetic indulgences, early 1980s new wave soundtrack, and the use of iconic Los Angeles locations.
De Palma has stated in the DVD commentary that the film was his response to critics who had denounced him before as ripping off Hitchcock, for his use of graphic violence (especially in the case of Scarface), and what they interpreted as misogyny (in the case of Dressed to Kill.)
Body Double is referenced repeatedly throughout the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho, as the favorite film of the protagonist and narrator, businessman and serial killer Patrick Bateman, who is drawn in by the lurid violence and sexuality of the film. He mentions at one point he has seen the film thirty-seven times, and rents the tape of it from a video store several times in the story. He also occasionally repeats his preferred moments (the most violent scenes) from the film to the reader or to other characters, especially "the power drill scene".
- Craig Wasson: Jake Scully
- Melanie Griffith: Holly Body
- Gregg Henry: Sam Bouchard
- Deborah Shelton: Gloria Revelle
- Guy Boyd: Detective Jim McLean
- Dennis Franz: Rubin
- David Haskell: Will
- Rebecca Stanley: Kimberly Hess
- Al Israel: Corso
- Lane Davies: Billy
- Barbara Crampton: Carol