In 1981, Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat helped usher in a resurgence of interest in film noir. Laden with genre homages, including John Barry’s atmospheric score, sizzling on-screen chemistry between William Hurt and Kathleen Turner hotter than the heatwave that provides a heady backdrop, and with barely hidden plot twists, it is a film that compares favourably with classic noirs such as Double Indemnity.
With the cinematic beats of film noir so familiar, Kasdan makes little effort trying to disguise the plot, instead revelling in the depth and intrigue those beats provide. From the moment Turner – in her debut film role – breathily appears in a haze of cigarette smoke and soft focus, you know where things are headed; she might as well have stood provocatively beneath a bright pink neon sign screaming “femme fatale”. Hurt’s horny, knowingly seedy lawyer barely pauses to wipe his permanently sweaty brow before embarking upon a steamy affair with the married Turner, and the repercussions are as predictable as they are engaging.
And yet that predictability doesn’t lessen Body Heat’s impact. Film noir is renowned for style and murder – this isn’t the genre of complicated plotting and surprise-laden twists and turns. You come to the genre to be absorbed in the future-less nature of the relationships, to luxuriate in the lack of moral, principled characters and to drift away on a wave of smoke and bourbon. Kasdan knows his responsibilities and provides his audience with everything they would expect and more.
Accompanying the film are a selection of documentaries and footage from filming, but while interesting to a point, lack the style of the film itself and are rendered somewhat bland by comparison. The interviews are largely standard and provide little extra to what you may already know about the cast.
That said, if Body Heat is a film missing from your collection, then this is a good time to invest in a strikingly beautiful version. Despite being filmed in a cold snap, the heat the film generates will keep you warm on the chilly nights ahead. There has, and will rarely be, such a compatibly incompatible couple as Hurt and Turner, and as the film that turned the latter into an instant sex symbol and in-demand star, Body Heat carries a certain cinematic relevance.
BODY HEAT / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: LAWRENCE KASDAN / SCREENPLAY: LAWRENCE KASDAN / STARRING: WILLIAM HURT, KATHLEEN TURNER, RICHARD CRENNA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (HMV EXCLUSIVE)