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DVD Review: Body Heat (Blu-ray)
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Body Heat
Blu-ray – 1981
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Starring Kathleen Turner, William Hurt, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, Mickey Rourke
Warner Bros Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 7, 2008

When Body Heat opens, our victim of love is on his balcony peering through the night at a fire from far away. The fire we learn is coming from an inn where Ned, the victim of love, used to eat when he was a young boy. He tells the hooker he hired for the night that his “history is burning up out there. Someone torched it to clear the lot.” He’s miserable and stunned that this has happened. By the film’s end, that restaurant burning will be meaningless because the history that this man will lose will be comparable to a fast-spreading forest fire; he won’t be able to do anything to prevent it.

This all happens because Ned’s love tries to encompass a woman who can’t be loved. There’s no question that Matty (Kathleen Turner) can feel love, but to be loved by her in return would be asking for too much. Right away after Ned (William Hurt) catches a glimpse of her, he falls under her spell. Then-first-time director Lawrence Kasdan makes it a point of recognition when she first appears on screen, drastically singling her out of a crowd. Hookers used to keep Ned busy and satisfied with his average life, but the spell that was cast upon him by Matty ignites a flame of love, passion and a strong willingness to her that can’t be extinguished. He works as a small-time lawyer dealing with small-time issues in a small-time town of Florida, which is suffering from a treacherous heat-wave. In a matter of time he finds himself involved in a case that towers over every case he has ever handled thanks to Matty.

Noir films originated in the 1940s and continued through the 1950s. Filmmakers of this genre didn’t realize what they were actually creating. They thought they were making B movies. To try and make a modern noir it has to be an even harder task. Kasdan, known for his scripts for Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back, penned his original idea to paper that would reflect the given time period which was 1981. Each noir film is played by the same rules: sexy and quick-witted dialogue, jazzy music, weak men and strong women, big cars and mansions, hot days and even hotter nights, which are all laced together by double crossing. All will and does ensue in Kasdan’s version of classic film noir that stakes its claim in a decade that was polluted with cheap thrills. Body Heat implies all the casual techniques this genre requires but also instills some inventive touches the genre hasn’t seen. Kasdan is aware of the genre he surrounds himself in, and undoubtedly he knows his film has some connections to Billy Wilder’s noir masterpiece Double Indemnity.

Barbara Stanwyck portrayed the vile, yet sexy, femme fatale who swayed her secret admirer’s feelings about killing her husband so she and her admirer could walk away with his insurance money. Making her screen debut as Matty is Kathleen Turner, who channels Stanwyck’s character every step of the way. Turner’s Matty is a married woman, but not a happily married woman, to a rich real-estate man who is weak and small and who doesn’t have a good bone in his body, that is all according to Matty. Like Stanwyck, she’ll use her secret admirer to kill her own husband.

Pinehaven is a small town for a woman like Matty. She lives with her husband in a mansion that calls to mind the mansion that was owned by Gloria Swanson’s character in another Wilder film, Sunset Boulevard. Matty’s home is secluded in the middle of the hot and steamy woods of Florida to convey secrecy and temptation. She’s the girl at the bar, since her husband is constantly on business trips out of town, which all men envy. None of them last longer than seconds when they try to sit next to her. She’s too cold, too sexy, too smart, and too evil to hold the thinnest relationship. But when one man proves he’s insistent about being with her, a man who throws a chair through her home window to make love to her, she’ll happily accept him and use him like a puppet. It is film noir 101.

Blu-ray Features

Film noir thrived on shadows, smoke, extremely dark scenes, and a camera that was able to move swiftly and freely around the film’s characters. Noir provokes evilness and corruption through its look. It’s where sneaky characters hide themselves in the foreground of blackness. Body Heat contains scenes that do just that while filmed in a techno light that seems to have lost its main tint and is beginning to dwindle away due to the scorching heat. It’s just the right touch to convey a noir film in color. Kasdan, to the best of his ability, brings a modern day noir to life as Body Heat offers more twists and turns than a normal noir and it’s filmed in color. There’s more eroticism here than the old noirs. This Blu-Ray manages to evoke the feeling and nostalgia that was present in the 1940s and 50s. The night scenes actually look as if they were filmed in black and white but its crispness is nothing less than modern.

The Plan (Standard Definition) — Kasdan discusses his previous history with writing scripts and the ties he had with George Lucas who helped him finance Body Heat. Kathleen Turner has a lot of face time as she’s spotlighted for having the perfect “˜noir voice.’ Her and William Hurt were pretty much unknowns to the film world. Kasdan loved it that way.

The Production (Standard Definition) — The making of the film and production stories include interviews with Kasdan, Turner, and Hurt.

Theatrical Trailer

Post-Production (Standard Definition) — A straightforward approach to the films process of editing and the music.

5 Deleted Scenes (Standard Definition)

DVD Rating ***1/2

1 Comment »

  1. A great film. Turner was on fire in her early films. She was perfect in this one.
    Great review.

    Comment by Jerry — October 16, 2008 @ 11:12 am

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