Over the years, I've mentioned Lawrence Kasdan's 1981 film Body Heat numerous times on this blog, but I've never discussed it in much detail. Time to put that right, because it is, quite simply, my favourite crime film. I first saw it at the cinema in Leicester Square shortly after its release. I was impressed, and despite knowing what happens, I've enjoyed watching it several times since.
Body Heat is in the tradition of that great film (and book) Double Indemnity. That is, it's the story of a charming but weak man who falls for a femme fatale with an inconvenient husband. Some critics have taken the view that Body Heat is a mere act of homage, but although I am a great admirer of Double Indemnity, I think that Kasdan takes the central idea and theme and makes a truly distinctive film of his own, a film of real and lasting quality.
Everything about it is right. There isn't a wasted word in the script, and the film is visually alluring, with the oppressive heat of Florida's coast captured tellingly. And the brilliant score by John Barry is superbly atmospheric. Barry won five Oscars and also composed the definitive James Bond soundtracks, but I don't think this gifted musician did anything much better than Body Heat.
And then there is the acting. William Hurt is fantastic as the likeable but sleazy lawyer Ned Racine, whose incompetence at his job plays a crucial part in the very clever plot. Kathleen Turner made her name in this film, and although some critics have been rather dismissive of her acting skills, I think she gives a terrifically well-judged performance. You can really believe in Ned's obsession about her. The supporting cast, including Mickey Rourke, Ted Danson, and J.A. Preston, is exceptionally good.
What's not to like? If you're a crime fan, and you haven't seen Body Heat, you really do have a treat in store.