Body Language (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Body Language is your basic "beautiful scheming woman dupes vulnerable lawyer into murdering her husband" film. You know, it's part of the Body Heat genre. Has there ever been another case where a film IS a genre. Quick, name some genres. Let's see ... there are crime stories, detective stories, sci-fi films, horror movies, musicals, Body Heat movies ...

I suppose Pulp Fiction came pretty close to being an entire genre as well, but Body Heat made it all the way.

This time around, in a modestly budgeted quickie made by HBO films, Tom Berenger plays the lawyer, and Heidi Schanz plays the conniving wench. Body Language is not a complete hack-job, and does have some positives: the first couple of minutes are involving (a critical element for this genre), and the director maintained tension throughout several key scenes later in the film. There are also some decent performances from Nancy Travis and Robert Patrick in secondary roles. Unfortunately, there are too many countervailing weaknesses. To begin with the secondary list, there's not much atmosphere, nothing really unexpected happens, the characters are generic, and there's no humor. In spite of those weaknesses, the film might still have been a guilty pleasure, but it has the three major weakness which can not be overlooked in evaluating the success of Body Heat films:

1. There's no sexual electricity between the leads. I like Tom Berenger, but he didn't seem right in this role. He looked old, out of shape, and passionless. His seductress, Heidi Schanz, seemed aloof, and completely miscast.

2. Men do not pant at the thought of bedding the female lead. To make this kind of film work, the director has to get the male members in the audience in the mental state where they think they might do anything for a woman like that. Heidi Schanz is tall and fairly pretty, but not exquisitely beautiful, and she didn't have either the stunning body or the vulnerable sexiness required for the role of an abused stripper capable of winning over a big-time lawyer. Of course, a good actress like Gwyneth Paltrow might have been able to overcome a rail-thin body, small breasts, and a less-than-beautiful face to play this role. The grandmother of the genre, Kathleen Turner, is not the most beautiful woman in the world, and she doesn't have a spectacular body, but she knew how to act sexy in the Body Heat role, to perform in such a way that men in the audience can believe that the male lead might do anything to be with her. Heidi Schanz just doesn't have enough acting ability to create a convincing femme fatale from her unimposing physical appearance, and she didn't have enough moves or enough basic dancing ability to be a convincing stripper.

I am writing this in October of 2005 and many of the principals in this film seem to have disappeared from showbiz. The director of this film, George Case, has no IMDb credits after 1998. The writer, Erich Harlacher, has no credits after 1999. The star, Heidi Schanz, disappeared after 2001. Heidi had a pretty decent B-list career going in the late 90s, with a lead in this small film and some small parts in big films like SE7EN and The Truman Show, but then in 2001 she could do no better than two unnamed characters ("stewardess", "model with attitude"), and after that her IMDb credits simply dried up altogether. A Google search doesn't turn up much info. Whatever happened to her?

3. The basic premise is not convincing. In Body Heat we can certainly believe that a highly sophisticated and predatory woman, after a thorough study of a half-bright man, could figure out how to use his weaknesses against him. The Bill Hurt character in Body Heat, Ned Racine, was a victim of his own weaknesses, his lust and his lazy legal preparation. In this film, Tom Berenger plays a hard-working and cunning hotshot of a lawyer who gets duped by a trailer-dwelling woman. What is worse, she doesn't even plan very well! It seemed that she was planning to get Berenger's co-operation just because he was lonely and she was vulnerable. Her plan was going absolutely nowhere. It only ends up working by accident - because her paranoid husband leaves a secret tape recorder lying around. Ol' Berenger just happens to walk into the room where the tape was rolling, and just happens to say something inappropriate about a case he is working on. That tape was not her idea, she didn't even know about it, and she did nothing to get Berenger near the microphone. In fact, she was trying to get Berenger into the bedroom - and if he had just listened to her, he would have been OK! He wasn't duped by listening to her, but by ignoring her! Ultimately, she had absolutely nothing to do with the tape, yet without it there would be no movie. Berenger would not have killed the husband if he had not been in danger of exposure, and there would have been no case against Berenger without the taped evidence.

That's it, strike three, you're outta there.

There is one other major flaw in the script. On the night before the police were to search his house and possibly arrest him (he got a tip!), Berenger was advised by his own lawyer (his partner) to get the hell out of Dodge - to pick up all his cash and his passport from his safe and just fly somewhere far away where nobody can find him. OK, nothing too crazy about that, except that he seems to have enough money in his wall safe to live comfortably forever. The problem is that he doesn't follow that advice. He does get the cash and the passport ... but then decides he needs to stop by the trailer and get the incriminating tape before fleeing.


First of all, he doesn't know where the tape is. Even more important, if he has already determined that he needs to live the rest of his life in Zanzibar, what the hell difference does the tape make? He just needs to get his ass to Zanzibar - ASAP-  before the cops start looking for him. Well, I'll tell you what difference it makes. If he spends the rest of his life sipping umbrella drinks and living under an assumed name in Zanzibar, he doesn't get the fate he is due, as per the genre conventions. His dangerous and illogical visit to the trailer is what a movie character must do, as opposed to what a real person would do in that situation.

Body Language is a film to skip unless you are addicted to Body Heat films.



  • There are no significant features, but ...
  • there is a very satisfactory widescreen anamorphic transfer of the film.


  • In a sex scene, Tom Berenger shows his bum when he is on top, and his testes when he's on the bottom.

  • Heidi Schanz shows her bum in that same sex scene, and her breasts and bum in various other scenes in which she is  dancing or walking around.

  • Mim Parker shows her breasts in s strip club.

  • Two other unnamed strippers show breasts.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major  reviews on file

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even 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. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). 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. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a very low C-. It's a highly flawed genre film which should have been much better, but I can't score it lower. I'm a genre addict and I found it barely watchable because of some pretty good nudity and some good moments here and there. On the other hand, if you do not love this kind of movie in general, this is one to avoid.

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