Retro Cinema: Body Heat (1981)

We take a look back at Lawrence Kasdan's 1981 erotic thriller, Body Heat

hot anal
Ouch. Stop doing THAT!
Not many movies get an annual screening in my home theater. However, Body Heat is one film that has remained on my radar since my first viewing sometime back in my teenage years. Armed to the gills with perfected production values, a lascivious narrative, and stunning decade defining visuals, this is a movie ripe with the passion of numerous performers coming together in an orgy of style and morally gradient substance. 

Back when we still had real movie stars that took chances with their art, Lawrence Kasdan delivered a hot blooded piece of carnal cinema that kick started his career and helped launch the burgeoning rise to fame for two of the '80s biggest stars. With sharp writing, obvious hints at an earlier (more grandiose) era in film making, touches of Hitchcock, tensely acted moments, and plot points heavily borrowed from Double Indemnity, Kasdan masterfully spun a torrid web of deceit and murder. 35 years later, Body Heat continues to entertain.

Soft lighting, sweltering heat, an omnipresent noir tone, and sensuality run amuck all add up to one of the best movies of the '80s. With a steamy performance from a sultry and seductive pre-Romancing The Stone Kathleen Turner and a youthful and scrupulously ambiguous performance from William Hurt, Body Heat is a sexy, no holds barred classic that still holds its own. With a seething chemistry that oozes eroticism between its two leads, the film is a reminder of how a well written story trumps all other elements. With a screenplay that falls just short of his Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark treatments, Kasdan's flair for creating rich characters and strong story arcs is quite apparent. Heavily influenced by pulpy detective flicks and sexually charged exploitation films, Body Heat is the product of great acting, perfected direction, and a cast that was ready to take Hollywood by storm.

kathleen turner
Now that I thought about it,
can we do THAT again?
Featuring support roles from an experienced Richard Crenna, a pretty faced Mickey Rourke, and a pre-Cheers Ted Danson, the film gives each actor their own place to shine. From Crenna's performance as the worrisome, filthy rich husband to Danson's strangely misplaced comical dance routines to Rourke's down on his luck ex-con, each support player feels like they lend a hand in creating something that went against the backdrop of standard early '80s fare. With Turner's career in its infancy and Hurt right off the mind melding Altered States, Body Heat not only sparked interest in these young actors but ultimately gave audiences an insight into the coming successes of two of Hollywood's greatest upcoming dramatic stars. 

Resting on a solid script and a mood enhancing score, Body Heat is a captivating snapshot of a time when character development was still important. Slipping and sliding through this cavernous tale of unbridled passion, audiences were offered a study in how easily a man's obsession with sex can overturn their perception of right and wrong. Being Kasdan's first Hollywood film, Body Heat still remains one of the best releases of the last forty years. If you've never seen it, take the time but be sure to wear protection. Things might get a little sticky.