Body Heat (1981) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes

Body Heat is one of the most widely imitated films in history. Just about every contemporary straight-to-vid "erotic thriller" seems to be a variation of this film. Soft-core sex films copy it. Murder mysteries copy it. Even hard-core sex films borrow from it. Even the name is copied. There have been five videos named Body Heat since 1989!

In fact, Body Heat itself was not really original, but was a brilliant revival of a long-dormant genre. The "duplicitous woman noir" was a popular B&W genre in the 40's and 50's, but disappeared for a while until Lawrence Kasdan brought it back in color, with his own flourishes, in 1981, casting Turner and Bill Hurt in the roles formerly reserved for Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray.

Hey, I'm not so impressed that this was Kasdan's first attempt to direct. I mean any schmuck can make a great directorial debut if he has a script written by one of the greatest screenwriters in history. Kasdan simply hired the guy who had written Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back, the two best films of the preceding year. Hell, the only thing Kasdan really accomplished was being lucky enough to hire that guy. Of course, finding him wasn't that hard. He only had to look in the mirror. Kasdan would go on to earn three Oscar nominations for films written after this one: The Accidental Tourist, The Big Chill, and Grand Canyon.

Kasdan did an especially good job at recreating the "sassy dame" dialogue from the 40s. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler would be proud of this, their step-child.

"You're not too bright, are you? I like that in a man."

"What else do you like? Ugly? Horny? Lazy? I have it all."

"You don't look lazy"

The plot twists were unpredictable when this film came out, although we've seen it copied so many times that it seems formulaic now. The fundamental requirement for a good femme fatale picture is that the woman has to make the patsy do her dirty work, but both he and the audience have to think it was all his own idea. If she pushes him into it, he will realize he's being set up, and we will lose the pleasure of the ultimate surprise. Therefore, the spider really has to do her homework on the fly's weaknesses, and she has to spin her web subtly and slowly, so as not to appear obvious. In this case, Ned Racine (Bill Hurt) really was intellectually lazy and incorrigibly horny, just as he claimed to be, so those were the faults that Matty (Kathleen Turner) exploited. I don't think women would agree with that other part about Hurt being ugly.

The film also includes some of the hottest, sexiest build-up of sexual tension in film history. Who can forget the scene when Turner and Hurt first make love? The wind chimes tinkle gently in the sweltering evening. Hurt can see Turner through the locked glass door. Hurt grabs the chair from the porch, shatters the door, storms through, and takes her. She is more than willing.

Finally, I have this on my short list of films where the casting director should have gotten a special Oscar. (The Outsiders, The World According to Garp and Bridget Jones's Diary also come immediately to mind.) The casting was sheer genius, right down to the minor roles. Check out Ted Danson of Cheers as the D.A. who really wanted to be a dancer. If only they could have obtained the musical rights to the dance classic written especially for him. I refer, of course, to "You Make Me Feel Like Danson."

Dude, what are you waiting for? If you haven't seen this film, do so. If you already love it, get your hands on the new special edition DVD and watch the deleted scenes.



The Silver Anniversary Special Edition DVD has now been released. Lord a'mighty, can 25 years really have passed so quickly? The disc includes the remastered film, vintage interviews with Hurt and Turner, and new featurettes which again feature interviews with Turner and Hurt as well as Kasdan himself. Most interesting to those of us who love this film, the DVD also includes five fully-finished scenes which were excluded from the final theatrical cut. What a treasure!

(By the way, the old DVD included a full-screen transfer, if that holds any interest for you. The new one does not. There is no additional nudity in the full-screen version.)


Kathleen Turner showed her breasts in several scenes, and her bum once. There is also a very dark, very distant frontal.

There is no more Turner nudity in the deleted scenes, but there are two scenes in which she is wearing a semi-transparent top, one of which features two minutes of footage with Turner clad only in that see-through bra and some panties.

Tuna's notes


This deluxe edition marks the 25th anniversary of one of the few perfect films.

First-time director Lawrence Kasdan didn't copy 40s film noir, he reinvented it in color. He began by writing a superlative screen play, something that he had already been known for. This time, however, it was for his own direction, which give him an extra incentive. He felt that it could well be his only chance to direct, especially if he didn't do well, so he was determined to get as much fun out of the project as possible. 

He was intent on hiring the perfect leads, but from relatively unknown performers. That way the audience would have no baggage from other roles to lay on the characters. William Hurt and Kathleen Turner were both trained and experienced stage actors, but were not cinema names.  When they tested together, Kasdan knew he had his leads. Turner had the perfect voice for the character, and was not at all hard to look at. She effortlessly made Mattie scorchingly sexy. Turner says the nudity and sex scenes were very difficult for her emotionally. After she heard "cut," she would hide in her dressing room shaking, trying to recover, although you would never guess that from her performance. Both Hurt and Turner loved the four weeks of rehearsal. It felt very comfortable to performers that were stage-trained.

Filming started with a serious problem. The script was set in New Jersey, and a SAG strike prevented start of filming until the weather in New Jersey was too cold for the story. They settled on Florida as a replacement, but it was the coldest winter Florida had seen to date, which makes their achievement of creating a heat wave you can feel as you watch it even more amazing.

Another of Kasdan's goals was to build complete characters in the supporting roles, and he managed brilliant choices for each of them as well, including Mickey Rourke and Ted Danson in their youthful days. I said in the beginning that this is a perfect film. I say that because I can't think of a single thing I would change about it, right down to the ending, where Mattie shows some regret. According to Hurt, Kasdan earned his chops as a director during the first scene they shot. The musical score was simply perfect in establishing the mood, the cinematography was amazing, and even the editing was done by someone who clearly shared Kasdan's vision.  I fully admit that I am incapable of objectivity on this film. The first time I watched it, it hooked me in the first few minutes, and  it just gets better each time I see it.

If you also love this film, you will want this edition. It includes five deleted scenes, fully color graded, that add up to plot twists that were removed. While there is nothing wrong with the scenes, the decision to cut was a good one, as they would have delayed rather than advanced the story. While there is nothing new about the transfer, the special features are both interesting and informative, and it is a perfect excuse to watch this film yet again.

The Critics Vote

  • Ebert 4/4

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.2/10, and it could well be higher. Unfortunately, the film has now been so widely copied that the value of its originality has been lost.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B. It's entertaining, literate, and sexy, and it single-handedly revived a forgotten genre.

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