On Movies: First Impressions of ‘Body Heat’….and Waiting for New Additions to My Collection

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Saturday, September 4, 2021. It is a hot meteorological fall day here in the so-called Sunshine State. The current temperature is 86˚F (30˚C) under partly sunny skies. With humidity at 56% and the wind blowing from the east-northeast at 3 MPH (5 KM/H), the heat index is 97˚F (36˚C). Today’s forecast calls for scattered rain showers and a high of 89˚F (31˚C). Tonight, scattered showers will continue. The low will be 74˚F (23˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQi) is 41 or Good.

Well, I can now say that after 40 years, I have finally seen writer-director Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 noirish erotic thriller Body Heat. Set in (then) present-day Florida during an oppressive heat wave, Body Heat stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston, and Mickey Rourke (in one of his earliest roles) in a story of a seedy small-town lawyer (Hurt) who is convinced by his new, mysterious lover (Turner) to kill her wealthy husband (Crenna) so they can go off together with his fortune.  

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. – Tagline for Body Heat

Body Heat was Kasdan’s directorial debut (at the time, he was better known for writing the revised screenplay for 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and the original screenplay for 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark), and it was an impressive one at that. The screenplay – which he also wrote – took many of the conventions of film noir – morally-ambiguous anti-heroes, a beautiful femme fatale, a love triangle doomed to lead to murder and betrayals galore, snappy, over-the-top dialogue, and the use of light and shadow – and spiced them up with erotically-charged scenes that earn Body Heat its R rating.

I can’t say that Body Heat was on my list of movies to add to my collection since the days of VHS videocassettes. While I like mystery thrillers, film noir, and even movies with erotic themes and content, I am more of an action-adventure, sci-fi kinda guy. As I’ve grown older – and hopefully wiser – I’ve tried to expand my movie-watching horizons, but you what they say about old habits and their long shelf lives.

So even though I’m a Larry Kasdan fan from way back, Body Heat always was the kind of title that would appear on my radar screen only on occasion – and then only because Kathleen Turner was supposed to be hot in it – and it would be quickly forgotten.

Anyway, I watched Body Heat over two non-consecutive nights: I watched the first half on Tuesday, and I finished the movie late last night after I’d watched a couple episodes of Soviet Storm – WW2 in the East on Amazon Prime Video.

I don’t feel up to writing a full-fledged review today; I’m tired and have a low-grade headache, so a more detailed write-up will have to wait for another day. Suffice it to say that Body Heat deserves the reputation it has of being a modern noir classic. Kasdan absorbed the elements of those moody, dark-lit, sexy, and often violent stories from the mid-40s to the mid-1950s as exemplified by D.O.A., Double Indemnity (a film from which Body Heat draws most of its thematic inspiration), and The Maltese Falcon so well that if you take away the nude scenes and change the period from the 1980s back to the ‘40s, it will fit in with the stories from the black-and-white era.

Even the dialogue from Body Heat is more in sync with classic noir than with films from 1981. Here, for instance, is one of my favorite lines written for Kathleen Turner’s duplicitous Matty Walker:

Matty: Well, some men, once they get a whiff of it, they trail you like a hound.

Or this exchange between Matty and seedy lawyer Ned (William Hurt):

Ned: You can stand here with me if you want but you’ll have to agree not to talk about the heat.

Matty: I’m a married woman.

Ned: Meaning what?

Matty: Meaning I’m not looking for company.

Ned: Then you should have said I’m a happily married woman.

This style of writing was archaic for a 1981 film, and a few reviewers wrote it was over-the-top and silly, but Kasdan makes it work. So, yeah. You could probably take the Body Heat script, edit the occasional modern profanity and shoot the love scenes with the actors appropriately clothed, and set it in 1940s Florida, and it would be a ringer for Kiss of Death, Jealousy, or, yes, Double Indemnity.

In other news, Amazon is still noncommittal about the ship date for Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection, although the box set is still scheduled for a September 7 release. Paradoxically, Warner Bros.’ Zack Snyder’s Justice League seems to be more of “sure thing” as far as its status is concerned.

By the way, with a running time of four hours and two minutes, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is going to be the longest film I’ve ever owned that is not a TV miniseries. Not having seen Joss Whedon’s version of Justice League, I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

I do know that if I didn’t already own Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I wouldn’t have bothered adding this to my collection. I’m getting Zack Snyder’s Justice League to see how he finishes the story arc he started in 2012.

I just hope I don’t have buyer’s remorse afterward.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

2 thoughts on “On Movies: First Impressions of ‘Body Heat’….and Waiting for New Additions to My Collection

    1. I’d rather have the Snyder Cut than Whedon’s version, if for nothing else than thematic constancy. I’ve heard that Whedon’s take on Justice League is so different (His is more “comedic” and less “serious” than Snyder’s.) I’m all for comedy and fun in a comic-book movie, but since the first two films in this story arc are tonally consistent and Whedon’s is not, I’ll go for consistency.

      I’m still gobsmacked that I’ll own a 4-hour-long feature film that’s NOT a TV miniseries. But the deed is done. In fact, Amazon just informed me my copy is shipping today and will be here tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

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