Body Heat Review

Rather than rehash the genre of film noir with gratuitous sex scenes and morbid violence, director Lawrence Kasdan showed in the early eighties that he was capable of holding his own amongst the highest level of his peers. Body Heat is a perfect representation of a forties film-noir, despite the fact it was made forty years later.

It's smoulderingly hot in Florida, and attorney Ned Racine (William Hurt) is a casual, highly sexually active man content to live his life in the same way day in and day out. However, one night his life is about to be sucked in by a fiery siren named Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner in her first role), who will lead Ned on a volcanic journey towards trouble. Matty is the kind of girl that attracts men of all sorts, but it's Ned that garners her attractions. As she says herself "You're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man." Soon, a torrid affair begins, despite Matty's marriage to the wealthy Edmund Walker (Richard Crenna). However, Matty has a plan up her sleeve, and it involves Ned bumping off Edmund, whether he wants to or not.

Body Heat is an eighties film. It embodies eighties hairstyles, fashion, sensibilities and tone, and yet because Kasdan is so clearly fond of earlier movies, and because he refuses to pander to (what was then) contemporary audiences, Body Heat remains a classic film-noir. It is because Kasdan ensures that Body Heat swears its allegiance to the conventions of the film-noir genre as opposed to the conventions of eighties cinema that the film maintains its charm more than twenty years after it was released. Kasdan's career may indeed have fallen by the wayside since then, but his films such as The Big Chill, Grand Canyon and Body Heat have remained popular classics.

Essentially, Body Heat has all of the ingredients to ensure its success as a film-noir. There's the dim-witted hunk in the form of Ned, played wonderfully lethargic by William Hurt. Hurt even employs a moustache for a change, and this seems to make him appear less intelligent, which is perfect for the part of Ned. Ned is the perfect example of someone who has convinced himself he is intelligent, despite reality actually suggesting otherwise. It's hard to believe that Kathleen Turner was making her first lead appearance in a movie in Body Heat, since she is confident in both her acting and her sex symbol persona. Turner gives Matty the perfect balance of sexual manipulation and fraught innocence, as if she is torn between giving the impression that she is either fully in control or completely in over her head. Matty isn't presented as an out-and-out cut-throat bitch like Bridget Gregory in The Last Seduction, and it's therefore easier to understand why someone like Ned becomes so quickly entangled by her sexual games. Richard Crenna gives a good performance as Edmund, the rich, obnoxious older husband whose sole crime seems to be his inability to sexually fulfil his wife. Sexual attraction is always presented as the most vital commodity in the genre of film-noirs. Arguably the most 'eighties' characters are Peter Lowenstein and Teddy Lewis, being that they are portrayed by eighties stalwarts Ted Danson and Mickey Rourke; two men who, for a time, owned the decade.

The stunning photography by veteran photographer Richard H. Kline burns through the heart of the movie, and replaces it with a boiling, visceral and yet ultimately heartless landscape in which passion sparks madness. In order for Body Heat to work, we the audience have to fully appreciate and feel the heat on screen, and Kline's cinematography in tandem with Kasdan's direction is the perfect combination to ensure this is the case.

Body Heat is a film made purely for 'genrephiles', and will be considered tame for those seeking more intrigue or more graphic sex scenes. The performances are very good indeed, and it's possible that Kathleen Turner never bettered Matty Walker in terms of acting quality in her own career. Essentially, the film tells us that no matter the place or the era, love and passion sparks danger, and in Body Heat the sparks fly.

Presented in matted 16:9 widescreen, the print is surprisingly very good if slightly hazy. Colours are deliberately muted to give a sort of overheated orange feel to the proceedings, and the swirling midst of steam that fills the screen occasionally suffers from artefacts, and often grain can be detected, but on the whole this is a very good early release from Warner Brothers. Ignore the packaging that states the film's ratio to be 'Regular', in the early days Warner jumped the gun slightly by assuming everyone had widescreen televisions, so 'Regular' just means regular for widescreen televisions.

Remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound quality is very impressive, with clearly audible dialogue and a very suitable John Barry moody score that is given decent spatial channelling. On most occasions, the sound track appears like it is 2.0 stereo with mono dialogue, but there are some slight rear elements at sporadic moments.

Menu: A silent, static menu incorporating a few promotional shots from the film.

Packaging: Yet again, the usual Warner Brothers snapper case, with an interesting cover shot and chapter listings restricted to the inner side of the cardboard casing.


Original Theatrical Trailer: A very steamy and intense trailer, especially as it contains no dialogue. It lasts for a minute and half and was a 1981 pre-release trailer.

Cast & Crew: Good, brief biographies of filmographies of the major cast and crew members, presented as text on screen.

Behind The Scenes: Brief background information on how the film came to be mind, presented as text on screen.


Given that DVD veteran Laurent Bouzereau has compiled extensive documentaries on more than a few Lawrence Kasdan films, it'd be advisable to wait unless desperate to see if we ever will be graced with a Special Edition of Body Heat. However, for this bare-bones release, the picture and sound quality of the film is fine and the low RRP might render this a worthwhile purchase.

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Last updated: 19/06/2018 18:55:40

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