Case Number 10211: Small Claims Court


Warner Bros. // 1981 // 113 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // October 24th, 2006

The Charge

Matty: Would you get me a paper towel or something? Dip it in some cold water.
Ned: Right away. I'll even wipe if off for you.
Matty: You don't want to lick it?

The Case

William Hurt (A History of Violence) and Kathleen Turner (The Virgin Suicides) wanted to put people at ease. They were about to film several intense love scenes for Body Heat where they would be completely naked on the set for several days. So the two thespians arranged a receiving line where they introduced themselves to every person working the technical aspects of the shooting. Not an abnormal thing, but certainly different when you consider they were both starkers. Yes, they greeted the crew naked so that everyone could work without any strain or awkwardness. It was important, because this was the screen debut of Kathleen Turner and the directorial premiere of screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (who helped pen one of the best sequels created -- The Empire Strikes Back).

Body Heat is an intensely sexy homage to the noir masterpieces of the '40s. Even though the film was shot in 1980, it has a timeless feel that keeps the picture from aging or losing impact. The story follows a seedy Florida lawyer (Hurt) who falls for a married woman (Turner) with sinister intentions. It pushed sexuality, but never went over the top to feel exploitative. The dialogue is intentionally noirish with melodramatic one liners, but damn if the actors don't find a way to make you believe in the hard boiled quips. The sumptuous, steamy production (amazing when you realize it was shot during a record-shattering cold winter in Florida), skillful editing, sultry saxophone-heavy John Barry score, and immaculate characters make Body Heat a film that begs to be in your collection.

Body Heat owes a significant debt to Billy Wilder's masterwork Double Indemnity, and the movie teeters on the edge of being a reproduction or parody. Even though veteran stage and soap opera actress Turner seems to channel Lauren Bacall, she makes the film work like the best of the true noir classics because she takes everything dead seriously. All the actors do this including a really young Ted Danson (Cheers), who makes a Fred Astaire dance fanatic district attorney feel real. Hurt carries the film ably even though at this point in his career he had only been featured prominently in Ken Russell's Altered States. The film marked the emergence of a new breed of top notch actors, and launched Kasdan as a director who would go on to produce films like The Big Chill and The Accidental Tourist. Hurt seems to be the director's muse, but oddly enough Christopher Reeve (Superman) was originally cast in the role. He turned down the offer because he was convinced he would never be convincing, so enter Hurt to make things real.

Body Heat has only been available on a 1997 bare bones release with an inferior transfer that showed the age of the film all too well. Body Heat (Deluxe Edition) offers a stunning, new, director-approved transfer, as well as support material that explores the film's production at every stage. The video picture still shows occasional traces of dirt and grain, but for the most part every scene looks like it's scrubbed clean and perfectly color corrected to make it more stunning than it was in theatres in 1981. The audio has been amped up from the original monaural track to a full blown surround experience. Deleted scenes and vintage 1981 interviews offer a look at the production's outtakes and leads right after they completed filming. In lieu of a commentary we get three featurettes covering preproduction, filming, and the aftermath of Body Heat. All of these components make the release a worthy double dip, and a reason to ditch the old bargain bin version. This is how Body Heat should be treated, finally.

Review content copyright © 2006 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 96

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted Scenes
* Three Featurettes on the Production
* Vintage 1981 Interviews with Cast
* Theatrical Trailer

* IMDb