Body Heat (1981)
"It's a hot summer. Ned Racine is waiting for something special to happen. And when it does... He won't be ready for the consequences. "In the midst of a searing Florida heat wave, a woman convinces her lover, a small-town lawyer, to murder her rich husband.
A sultry, sweaty update of Double Indemnity
The coastal Florida town in Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat brings to mind
remote colonial outposts in movies like The Letter (nearby Miami, here,
seems as far away as London). A sweltering spell of weather settles
down for a long roost, and the distant glow of an old hotel – a relic
of the peninsula's past as an exotic getaway for northerners with money
– lights the opening scene; it's been torched for the insurance, an
occurrence so common as to warrant little comment.
It's a town where William Hurt, a lawyer who's neither very bright nor
very scrupulous, ekes out a modest existence that seems to suit him; he
can dine at the best restaurant in town once a month so long as he
doesn't order an appetizer. The rest of his time he spends lazily with
bourbon or beer or in bed with whoever obliges him.
Then he meets up with Kathleen Turner, who hangs around cocktail
lounges when her wheeler-dealer husband (Richard Crenna) is out of
town, which is a lot. After the ritual game of cat-and-mouse, Turner
and Hurt kindle a torrid romance, despite the enervating heat that
keeps everything else limp as dishrags. Soon, the pillow talk works
around to murder....
Of course, Body Heat is a latter-day version of the story for which
Double Indemnity serves as archetype: Duplicitous woman seduces
lust-addled stud into killing rich older husband, then leaves him to
twist slowly, slowly in the wind. There's not even enough wind to stir
the chimes that festoon the porch off Turner's bedroom -- can't the
rich old cuckold spring for air conditioning? Hurt and Turner are
reduced to emptying the refrigerator's ice tray into the post-coital
bath they share -- but Hurt's left twisting nonetheless, in one of the
better updates of this ageless tale.
In her movie debut, Turner makes her deepest impression with her best
asset, that dimple-Haig voice of hers, all silk and smoke (but neither
she nor Kasdan, who also wrote the script, quite justify her
character's long and intricate back-story of ruthless scheming). With
his long, lithe college-boy's build and wife-swapper's mustache left
over from the '70s, Hurt embodies the self-satisfied patsy whose zipper
leads him through life. Crenna (who played this Walter Neff role in the
1973 TV remake of Double Indemnity) now takes on the role of the
disposable husband, the victim (or rather, the first victim).
But it's two smaller parts that give the movie a special shine. Mickey
Rourke, as the local arsonist whom Hurt once helped out of a jam, ups
the voltage in his two scenes, warning the heedless Hurt, then warning
him again when it's all but too late. And, as Hurt's amiable adversary
in the town's tiny legal circle, Ted Danson proves surprisingly spry
and intuitive an actor (and he contributes a lovely little idyll, doing
a soft-shoe routine under a street lamp on a pier). There's a twist or
two too many in Body Heat -- it's a bit gimmicky -- but, after watching
it, you feel as though you, too, should be stripping off your clothes,
if only to wring them out.