Body Heat is a 1981 American neo-noir erotic thriller film written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan in his directorial debut. It stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and Richard Crenna, and features Ted Danson, J. A. Preston, and Mickey Rourke. The film was inspired by Double Indemnity (1944).
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lawrence Kasdan|
|Produced by||Fred T. Gallo|
George Lucas (uncredited)
|Written by||Lawrence Kasdan|
|Music by||John Barry|
|Cinematography||Richard H. Kline|
|Edited by||Carol Littleton|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$24 million|
The film launched Turner's career—Empire magazine cited the film in 1995 when it named her one of the "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History". The New York Times wrote in 2005 that, propelled by her "jaw-dropping movie debut [in] Body Heat ... she built a career on adventurousness and frank sexuality born of robust physicality".
During a particularly intense Florida heatwave, inept central Florida local lawyer Ned Racine meets and begins an affair with Matty Walker. She is married to wealthy businessman, Edmund Walker, who is home only on the weekends. One night, Ned arrives at the Walker mansion and playfully propositions a woman he mistakes as Matty. The woman, who bears a strong resemblance to Matty, is Mary Ann Simpson, Matty's visiting high school friend. Soon after, Matty tells Ned she wants to divorce Edmund, but their prenuptial agreement would leave her with little money. She also says that she wishes her husband dead. Eventually, Ned suggests murdering Edmund so Matty can inherit his wealth. To that end, he consults a shady former client, Teddy Lewis, an expert on incendiary devices, who supplies Ned with a bomb while strongly discouraging him from whatever he is scheming.
Ned, aided by Matty, kills Edmund and moves the body to an abandoned building connected to Edmund's business interests. Ned detonates the bomb to make it look like Edmund died during a botched arson attempt. Soon after, Edmund's lawyer contacts Ned about a new will that Ned supposedly drafted for Edmund and which was witnessed by Mary Ann Simpson. The new will was improperly prepared, making it null and void, with the result that Matty inherits Edmund's entire fortune, disinheriting Edmund's surviving sister. Ned immediately realizes that Matty forged the will, capitalizing on his past malpractice troubles, and knowing that it would be nullified, leaving her the sole beneficiary. Ned also knows the police will view the sudden change to Edmund's will shortly before his death as suspicious.
Following the will reading, two of Ned's friends, assistant deputy prosecutor Peter Lowenstein, and police detective Oscar Grace, seem to suspect that Ned may be involved in Edmund's death. Edmund's eyeglasses, which he always wore, are missing. Lowenstein also informs Ned that on the night of the murder, hotel phone records show that repeated calls to Ned's room went unanswered, thereby weakening his alibi, and suggests that Mary Ann Simpson cannot be found, despite police efforts.
Already nervous over the mounting evidence implicating him, and questioning Matty's loyalty, Ned happens upon a lawyer who once sued him over a mishandled legal case. The lawyer says that to make amends, he recommended Ned to Matty Walker, and admits he told her about Ned's limited legal skills. Later, in a jailhouse visit, Teddy tells Ned about a woman wanting an incendiary device, and that he showed her how to booby trap a door. Teddy also tells Ned that the police have been asking questions about the apparent arson.
That night, Matty calls Ned and says that Edmund's glasses are in the Walker estate boathouse. Ned arrives later that night and spots a long twisted wire attached to the door. When Matty arrives, after a confrontation, Ned asks her to retrieve the glasses. In the meantime, Det. Oscar Grace has arrived and is observing their interaction. To prove herself, Matty walks toward the boathouse and disappears from view; the boathouse explodes. Afterward, a body found inside is identified through dental records as Matty Walker (née Tyler).
Now in prison, Ned, having realized Matty duped him, tries to convince Oscar Grace that she is still alive. He believes the woman he knew as "Matty" assumed the real Matty Tyler's identity in order to marry and murder Edmund for his money. Ned surmises that the "Mary Ann Simpson" that Ned met had discovered the scheme and was blackmailing Matty, only then to be murdered. Had Ned been killed in the boathouse explosion, he reasons, the police would have found both suspects' bodies.
In the epilogue, Ned, in prison, obtains a copy of Matty's high school yearbook: in it are photos of Mary Ann Simpson and Matty Tyler, confirming his suspicion that Mary Ann assumed Matty Walker's identity. Below Mary Ann's photo is the nickname "The Vamp" and "Ambition—To be rich and live in an exotic land".
In the final scene, the real Mary Ann (Matty) is seen lounging on a tropical beach alongside a Portuguese-speaking man.
- William Hurt as Ned Racine
- Kathleen Turner as Matty Tyler Walker
- Richard Crenna as Edmund Walker
- Ted Danson as Peter Lowenstein
- J. A. Preston as Oscar Grace
- Mickey Rourke as Teddy Lewis
- Kim Zimmer as Mary Ann Simpson
- Jane Hallaren as Stella
- Lanna Saunders as Roz Kraft
- Carola McGuinness as Heather Kraft
- Michael Ryan as Miles Hardin
Kasdan "wanted this film to have the intricate structure of a dream, the density of a good novel, and the texture of recognizable people in extraordinary circumstances."
A substantial portion of the film was shot in east-central Palm Beach County, Florida, including downtown Lake Worth and in the oceanside enclave of Manalapan. Additional scenes were shot on Hollywood Beach, Florida, such as the scene set in a band shell.
There was originally more graphic and extensive sex scene footage, but this was only shown in an early premiere, including in West Palm Beach, the area where it was filmed, and was later edited out for wider distribution. In an interview, Body Heat film editor Carol Littleton says, "Obviously, there was more graphic footage. But we felt that less was more."
In late 1980, Lawrence Kasdan met with four composers whose works he had admired, but only John Barry presented ideas which were close to the director's own. 10 demos were recorded on March 31 and Barry wrote the whole score during April and early May 1981. The composer provided several themes and leitmotifs—the most memorable was "Main Theme", heard during the main titles and representing Matty.
Barry worked closely with recording sessions engineer Dan Wallin to mix the soundtrack album, but for several reasons J.S Lasher (who produced the limited-edition LP and CD) remixed multitracks himself without Barry's or Wallin's participation.
J.S Lasher's album was released several times: as a 45 RPM (Southern Cross LXSE 1.002) in 1983 and as a CD (Label X LXCD 2) in 1989. Both editions also included 'Ladd Company Logo' composed and conducted by John Williams.
In August 2012, Film Score Monthly released a definitive two-disc edition: the complete score with alternate, unused, and source cues on disc 1, and the original, Barry-authorized album and theme demos on disc 2.
Body Heat was a commercial success. Produced on a budget of $9 million, it grossed $24 million at the domestic box office.
Upon its release, Richard Corliss wrote "Body Heat has more narrative drive, character congestion and sense of place than any original screenplay since Chinatown, yet it leaves room for some splendid young actors to breathe, to collaborate in creating the film's texture"; it is "full of meaty characters and pungent performances—Ted Danson as a tap-dancing prosecutor, J.A. Preston as a dogged detective, and especially Mickey Rourke as a savvy young ex-con who looks and acts as if he could be Ned's sleazier twin brother." Variety magazine wrote "Body Heat is an engrossing, mightily stylish meller [melodrama] in which sex and crime walk hand-in-hand down the path to tragedy, just like in the old days. Working in the imposing shadow of the late James M. Cain, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan makes an impressively confident directorial debut". Roger Ebert included the film on his "10 Best List" for the year.
Janet Maslin wrote that Body Heat was "skillfully, though slavishly, derived" from 1940s film noir classics; she stated that, "Mr. Hurt does a wonderful job of bringing Ned to life," but was not impressed by Turner's performance:
Sex is all-important to Body Heat, as its title may indicate. And beyond that there isn't much to move the story along or to draw these characters together. A great deal of the distance between [Ned and Matty] can be attributed to the performance of Miss Turner, who looks like the quintessential forties siren, but sounds like the soap-opera actress she is. Miss Turner keeps her chin high in the air, speaks in a perfect monotone, and never seems to move from the position in which Mr. Kasdan has left her.
Pauline Kael dismissed the film, citing its "insinuating, hotted-up dialogue that it would be fun to hoot at if only the hushed, sleepwalking manner of the film didn't make you cringe or yawn". Ebert responded to Kael's negative review when he added the film to his "Great Movies" list:
Yes, Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat (1981) is aware of the films that inspired it—especially Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944). But it has a power that transcends its sources. It exploits the personal style of its stars to insinuate itself; Kael is unfair to Turner, who in her debut role played a woman so sexually confident that we can believe her lover (William Hurt) could be dazed into doing almost anything for her. The moment we believe that, the movie stops being an exercise and starts working.
In a home video review for Turner Classic Movies, Glenn Erickson called it "arguably the first conscious Neo Noir"; he wrote "Too often described as a quickie remake of Double Indemnity, Body Heat is more detailed in structure and more pessimistic about human nature. The noir hero for the Reagan years is ...more like the self-defeating Al Roberts of Edgar Ulmer's Detour". Body Heat received mostly positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 98% approval rating based on 40 reviews, and an average rating of 8.01/10. The site's consensus states, "Made from classic noir ingredients and flavored with a heaping helping of steamy modern spice, Body Heat more than lives up to its evocative title."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 2001: AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 92
- 2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – No. 94
- 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- Matty Walker: "You aren't too bright. I like that in a man." – Nominated
- 2005: AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
Rourke earned critical acclaim for his performance, which helped him evolve from character actor to movie star.
- Spy (Nov 1988). "The Unstoppables". Spy : The New York Monthly. New York, New York: Sussex Publishers, LLC: 94. ISSN 0890-1759.
- Box Office Information for Body Heat. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
- Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; eds. (1992). Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (3rd ed.). Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5
- Schwartz, Ronald (2005). Neo-noir: The New Film Noir Style from Psycho to Collateral. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-8108-5676-9.
- "The 100 Sexiest Movie Stars: The Women". Empire Magazine. 1995. Archived from the original on August 3, 2020. Retrieved 2020-05-20. Alt URL
- Green, Jesse (March 20, 2005). "Kathleen Turner Meets Her Monster". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
- Corliss, Richard (August 24, 1981). "Torrid Movie, Hot New Star". Time. Archived from the original on 2006-09-08. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
- Jon Burlingame, liner notes from Film Score Monthly's Body Heat CD (FSM Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 4, 6-7)
- Jon Burlingame, liner notes from Film Score Monthly's Body Heat CD (FSM Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 13-14)
- "Body Heat". Film Score Monthly. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- "Body Heat". Variety. December 31, 1980. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
- Ebert, Roger (December 15, 2004). "Ebert's 10 Best Lists: 1967-present". rogerebert.com. Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2006-09-08. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
- Maslin, Janet (August 28, 1981). "Body Heat". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
- Kael, Pauline (December 9, 2005). "An appeal powered by steam". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- Ebert, Roger (July 20, 1997). "Body Heat (1981)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
- Simon, John (2005). John Simon on Film: Criticism 1982-2001. Lanham, Maryland: Applause Books. p. 52. ISBN 978-1557835079.
- Erickson, Glenn (2006). "Body Heat (Special Edition): Home Video Review". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
- "Body Heat". Rotten Tomatoes. San Francisco, California: Fandango Media. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-20.
- "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-20.
- Vagg, Stephen (March 15, 2020). "My Top Ten Bit Parts in Films". Filmink.
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