Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian De Palma|
|Produced by||Brian De Palma|
|Screenplay by||Brian De Palma|
Robert J. Avrech
|Story by||Brian De Palma|
|Music by||Pino Donaggio|
|Cinematography||Stephen H. Burum|
|Edited by||Gerald B. Greenberg|
Delphi II Productions
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Budget||$6 million or $10 million|
|Box office||$8.8 million|
Body Double is a 1984 American neo-noir erotic thriller film co-written, produced, and directed by Brian De Palma and starring Craig Wasson, Gregg Henry, Melanie Griffith, and Deborah Shelton. The original musical score was composed by Pino Donaggio.
Body Double is a direct homage to the 1950s films of Alfred Hitchcock, specifically Rear Window, Vertigo and Dial M for Murder, taking plot lines and themes (such as voyeurism and obsession) from the first two.
At the time of its release, Body Double received lukewarm success at the box office, and mixed reviews. Subsequently, it has been better received and is now considered to be a cult film.
Jake Scully is a struggling actor who has lost his role as a vampire in a low-budget horror film after his claustrophobia thwarts shooting. After returning home to discover his girlfriend cheating on him, Scully splits and is left without a place to stay (the residence belongs to her). At a method acting class, where he meets Sam Bouchard, Scully reveals his fears and the childhood cause of his claustrophobia. They go to a bar where Scully is offered a place to stay; Sam's rich friend has gone on a trip to Europe and needs a house-sitter for his ultra-modern home in the Hollywood Hills.
During the tour of the house with Scully, Sam is especially enthusiastic about showing him one feature: a telescope, and through it a female neighbor, Gloria Revelle, who erotically dances at a specific time each night. Scully voyeuristically watches Gloria until he sees her being abused by a man she appears to know. The next day he follows her when she goes shopping. Gloria makes calls to an unknown person, promising to meet him or her. Scully also notices a disfigured "Indian", a man he had noticed watching Gloria a few days prior. Scully follows Gloria to a seaside motel where apparently she has been stood up by the person she was there to meet. On the beach, the Indian suddenly snatches her purse. Scully chases the thief into a nearby tunnel, but is overcome by his claustrophobia. Gloria walks him out of it, and they impulsively and passionately kiss before she retreats. That night Scully is again watching through the telescope when the Indian returns and breaks into Gloria's home. Scully races to save Gloria but is attacked by her vicious dog. Gloria is murdered by the Indian with a huge handheld drill.
Scully alerts the police, who determine it was a botched robbery. However, Detective McLean becomes suspicious after finding a pair of Gloria's panties in Scully's pocket. Although McLean does not arrest him, he tells Scully that his voyeuristic behavior and failure to alert police sooner helped cause Gloria's murder. Later that night, unable to sleep, Scully is watching a pornographic television channel when he notices that the actress Holly Body dances in exactly the same sensual manner that Gloria did. To meet Holly, he pretends to be a porn producer hiring for a new film.
Scully learns from Holly that Sam hired her to impersonate Gloria each night, dancing in the window, knowing Scully would be watching and later witness the real Gloria's murder. Offended at the suggestion she was involved in a killing, Holly storms out of the house. She is picked up by the Indian who knocks her unconscious and drives her away. Scully follows them to an aqueduct where the Indian is digging a grave. During their fight, Scully discovers the Indian is Sam in heavy make-up. Scully was a scapegoat providing Sam, who was Gloria's abusive husband, with an alibi during the murder. Scully is overpowered and thrown into the grave where he is again incapacitated by his claustrophobia. However, he overcomes his fear and climbs out as Sam is knocked into the aqueduct and drowned.
During the ending credits, Scully is shown having been recast in his previous vampire role as Holly watches from the sidelines.
- Craig Wasson as Jake Scully
- Gregg Henry as Sam Bouchard
- Melanie Griffith as Holly Body
- Deborah Shelton as Gloria Revelle
- Guy Boyd as Detective Jim McLean
- Dennis Franz as Rubin
- David Haskell as Will
- Al Israel as Corso
- Douglas Warhit as Video Salesman
- B.J. Jones as Douglas
- Russ Marin as Frank
- Lane Davies as Billy
- Barbara Crampton as Carol
- Larry "Flash" Jenkins as Assistant Director
- Monte Landis as Sid Goldberg
- Slavitza Jovan as Saleslady
- Rob Paulsen as Cameraman
After the success of Scarface De Palma was offered a three-picture deal by Columbia of which Body Double was to be the first. (Reception to the film would be such that Columbia elected not to make the next two films.) The director made it immediately after Scarface. "I like to work," he said.
De Palma had endured a fight with the censorship board over Scarface—they rated it X and he had to battle to make it R. "I'll show them," he said at the time. "I'm going to give them everything they hate and more of it than they've ever seen. They think Scarface was violent? They think my other movies were erotic? Wait until they see Body Double." 
The film was based on an idea of Brian de Palma. He says he got it when interviewing Angie Dickinson's body doubles for Dressed to Kill. " I started thinking about the whole idea of the body double," he said. "I wondered what I would do if I wanted to make sure to get somebody's attention, to have them looking at a certain place at a certain time."
"This is going to be a movie in the De Palma style and tradition," he said. "An erotic thriller. It has a voyeuristic theme, about people being sucked into the things they're watching. A wild, erotic roller-coaster ride, so many twists and turns. I've watched audiences jump before, or seen them sit bolt upright in their seats. But I can't wait to watch an audience when they see this movie. They've never seen anything like this before."
De Palma hired Robert Avrech to write the script, as he admired his previous work. Avrech later said "Both Brian and I were, and are, huge fans of Alfred Hitchcock's movies. Together we screened Rear Window and Vertigo, and discussed the narrative strategies Hitch used in both films. So in a sense, I was working off of De Palma's ideas of Hitchcock's ideas."
De Palma said he decided to use a drill as a murder instrument because "I do a lot of murder mysteries, and after a while you get tired of the usual instruments. You can use a knife, a rope, but now we have electrical instruments, which are truly terrifying." He added a drill was big enough to be seen by the character across a canyon. "It was not my intention to create a sexual image with the drill, although it could be construed that way."
The film was criticised for its violence towards women. "Women in peril work better in the suspense genre," said De Palma. "It all goes back to the Perils of Pauline... I don’t think morality applies to art. It’s a ludicrous idea. I mean, what is the morality of a still life? I don’t think there’s good or bad fruit in the bowl."
"If this one doesn't get an X, nothing I ever do is going to," he said at the time. "This is going to be the most erotic and surprising and thrilling movie I know how to make."
De Palma originally considered pornographic actress Annette Haven to play the lead female role. Before filming he commented, "I'm already thinking of casting. I don't know if there're any good young porno stars out here, but the older ones—Annette Haven, Seka—some of them can really act. And Annette Haven has a terrific body."
However he changed his mind and cast Melanie Griffith. "I discovered that using a real person to play a fictional counterpart doesn't necessarily make the character more real," he said.
De Palma later said that Haven "was an enormous amount of help" to him in his understanding of the adult film industry and what Holly's background might be "But in the end I looked at her screen test and at Melanie's and there was really no comparison" as Griffith brought "a comic edge that I wanted to be a major part of the tone of the second half of the movie."
"I think I gave her a great amount of intelligence," said Griffith. "I used to think I didn't want any more nymphet roles, but now I think I can bring a lot of life to that kind of character."
Body Double contains a film within a film sequence in which pop band Frankie Goes to Hollywood performs their song "Relax" on the set of a pornographic film, and in which scream queen Brinke Stevens, and adult actresses Cara Lott and Annette Haven appear. Voice actor Rob Paulsen subsequently cameos as a cameraman who famously utters "Where's the cum shot?".
Filming started January 30, 1984.
Body Double was shot in the Los Angeles area and includes such locations as Tail o' the Pup, the Beverly Center, Barney's Beanery, the LA Farmer's Market, the Rodeo Collection mall on Rodeo Drive, the Spruce Goose dome in Long Beach, the Hollywood Tower and adjacent Hollywood Freeway, Tower Records, and the Chemosphere futuristic house.
De Palma says that Columbia Pictures executives were at first enthusiastic about the film until it was previewed in Van Nuys. Response from the audience was not strong "and the studio started to get really worried," he said. "The only people crazier than the people who criticize me for violence are the people at the studios. I can't stand that sort of cowardice."
Griffith called the film "a parody of Hollywood more than anything, and it only has one murder... There's no way it could get an X."
The film was given an X by the Motion Picture Association of America Rating Board. Since many theaters refused to show X-rated films, De Palma had to re-edit the film as he did on Dressed to Kill and Scarface. De Palma cut what he called "a few minor things from the porno movie scene" and got an R. De Palma said the studio would not support him. "Do you think the guys who run Coca-Cola (Columbia Pictures' parent company) want publicity about violence? They are very aware of their public images, and when they start seeing articles in the New York Times about their product and violence, they go crazy. They're not showmen, they're corporation types."
Body Double was highly controversial due to its sex and violence.
Roger Ebert praised the film, giving it three and a half out of four stars and calling it "an exhilarating exercise in pure filmmaking, a thriller in the Hitchcock tradition in which there's no particular point except that the hero is flawed, weak, and in terrible danger -- and we identify with him completely." Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that De Palma "again goes too far, which is the reason to see it. It's sexy and explicitly crude, entertaining and sometimes very funny. It's his most blatant variation to date on a Hitchcock film ('Vertigo'), but it's also a De Palma original, a movie that might have offended Hitchcock's wryly avuncular public personality, while appealing to his darker, most private fantasies." Todd McCarthy of Variety stated, "To his credit, DePalma moves his camera as beautifully as any director in the business today and on a purely physical level 'Body Double' often proves quite seductive as the camera tracks, swirls, cranes and zooms towards and around the objects of DePalma's usually sinister contemplation. Unfortunately, most of the film consists of visual riffs on Alfred Hitchcock, particularly 'Vertigo' and 'Rear Window.'" Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "When the drill came onto the screen, De Palma lost me and control of his movie. At that point 'Body Double' ceased to be a homage to Hitchcock and instead became a cheap splatter film, and not a very good one at that." Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times panned the film as "elaborately empty, silly and desperately derivative," and suggested that De Palma "finally may have exhausted the patience of even his most tenacious admirers." Paul Attanasio of The Washington Post wrote, "A lewd, gory, twisty-turny murder mystery swirling around Hollywood's porn industry, 'Body Double' finds Brian De Palma at the zenith of his cinematic virtuosity. The movie has been carefully calculated to offend almost everyone—and probably will. But, like Hitchcock, De Palma makes the audience's reaction the real subject; 'Body Double' is about the dark longings deep inside us."
Decades later De Palma reflected on the film with The Guardian. "Body Double was reviled when it came out," said De Palma. "Reviled. It really hurt. I got slaughtered by the press right at the height of the women’s liberation movement... I thought it was completely unjustified. It was a suspense thriller, and I was always interested in finding new ways to kill people.” 
The London Clinic for Battered Women asked Columbia Pictures for a percentage of the profits from the film claiming it was "blood money" for using "the victimization of women as a source of massive profit."
Body Double opened at number three at the box office earning $2.8 million.
The film developed a cult following, perhaps due to its directorial and aesthetic indulgences, its early 1980s new wave soundtrack, and the use of iconic Los Angeles locations. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 76% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 34 reviews, with an average rating of 6.17/10. The critical consensus reads: "Exemplifying Brian De Palma's filmmaking bravura and polarizing taste, Body Double is a salacious love letter to moviemaking."
|Golden Globe Award||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Melanie Griffith||Nominated|
|National Society of Film Critics Award||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle Award||Best Supporting Actress||2nd place|
|Golden Raspberry Award||Worst Director||Brian De Palma||Nominated|
Body Double is referenced repeatedly throughout the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho as the favorite film of the protagonist serial killer Patrick Bateman. He mentions that he has seen the film 37 times and rents the tape of it from a video store several times in the story. He also repeats scenes from the film to the reader or to other characters.
Body Double was remade in 1993 in India as Pehla Nasha. The film was directed by Ashutosh Gowariker in his directorial debut. Deepak Tijori plays the lead role alongside Pooja Bhatt, Raveena Tandon and Paresh Rawal.
- Hollywood Lays an Egg Jacobson, Harlan. Film Comment; New York Vol. 18, Iss. 3, (May/Jun 1982): 49-52.
- Williams, Linda (2005). The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 86. ISBN 0253218365.
- Cvetkovich, Ann (1991). "Postmodern Vertigo: The Sexual Politics of Allusion in De Palma's Body Double". In Raubicheck, Walter; Srebnick, Walter (eds.). Hitchcock's Rereleased Films: From Rope to Vertigo. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Archived from the original on February 11, 2013.
- Collin, Robbie (24 September 2016). "Body Double: why Brian De Palma's pornographic fiasco is worth another peek". Telegraph.
- Tempo: Director tames image of violence Beck, Marilyn. Chicago Tribune 12 Jan 1984: n_b10.
- BRIAN DE PALMA THINKS WE NEED MORE VIOLENCE IN OUR LIVES Lyman, Rick. Philadelphia Inquirer; Philadelphia, Pa. [Philadelphia, Pa]12 Feb 1984: 12.
- DE PALMA: A DEFINITION OF SUSPENSE Lyman, Rick. Philadelphia Inquirer 28 Oct 1984: I.1.
- Brunwasser, Joan (21 December 2013). "Behind the Scenes with Hollywood Screenwriter, Robert Avrech". Op Ed News.
- Plummer, William (December 17, 1984). "Despite His Critics, Director Brian De Palma Says Body Double Is Neither Too Violent nor Too Sexy". People.
- De Palma, Brian; Knapp, Laurence F. (2003). Brian De Palma: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 91. ISBN 1-57806-516-X.
- FILM CLIPS: 'BETRAYAL': SHOWDOWN IN THE COMMERCE CORRAL London, Michael. Los Angeles Times ]25 Jan 1984: g1.
- AT THE MOVIES; 'Top Secret' rock star aims to be lovable. Maslin, Janet. New York Times 22 June 1984: C.10..
- Gibron, Bill (September 9, 2006). "Body Double: Special Edition". DVD Talk. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
- "Body Double (1984): Acting Credits". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
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- BAD BOY BRIAN DE PALMA EXPLAINS HIMSELF Blowen, Michael. Boston Globe 28 Oct 1984: A8.
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- Attanasio, Paul (October 26, 1984). "'Double' Boiler". The Washington Post. C1.
- Clark, Ashley (7 June 2016). "Brian de Palma: 'Film lies all the time … 24 times a second'". The guardian.
- Women's clinic seeks share of film profits The Globe and Mail; 15 Dec 1984: M.8.
- New films in top three Scott, Jay. The Globe and Mail 1 Nov 1984: E.1.
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