Very few readers’ comments have come in today. Is the whole country as hot as New York City, and everyone’s just lying around immobilized by the near-100 degree temps?

Speaking of extreme heat, this week I watched Body Heat. It’s a very well written film noir starring William Hurt as a sleazy Florida lawyer who gets involved with a dangerous married woman played by Kathleen Turner, and they decide to murder her husband. It has echoes of Double Indemnity but is a lot sexier and shows lots of flesh, though the sex parts are done aesthetically. (At the same time, one must say that there is nothing in all of cinema as sexually charged as the scene in Double Indemnity where insurance man Fred MacMurray first meets married woman Barbara Stanwyk, and they are, of course, fully clothed and doing nothing more than talking in a living room, she sitting back seductively in her easy chair, he leaning forward eagerly in his.)

I had liked Body Heat when it first came out in 1981, and it was a pleasure to see it again on DVD after 30 years. The DVD has interesting interviews with the stars and director/screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. Though the story takes place in a stylized noir universe where there are no air conditioners (in Florida in 1981!) and everyone is sweating all the time, in fact, as we learn from the interviews, when the movie was filmed it was very cold, and the actors, constantly being sprayed with spritzer to simulate sweat, had to pretend to be hot even though they were shivering. Sometimes it was so cold that Kathleen Turner had to put ice in her mouth before her scenes so that vapor would not come from her mouth when she spoke her lines.

The constant heat in which the characters toil is a metaphor for lust, greed, murder, and, in the final scene, the punishments of hell.

- end of initial entry -

Karl D. writes:

You said:

“Is the whole country as hot as New York City, and everyone’s just lying around immobilized by the near-100 degree temps?”

One word. Yes. Although I took the opportunity to stick my steaming hot dogs into a nice cold pond and listen to the frogs croak for a little while. Something which helped immensely. It felt very Huck Finn.

Greg W. writes:

It’s hot here in Texas (mid 90s). I’ve actually been out doing yard work for about three hours. I picked the hottest day this year to work outside.

Evan H. writes:

It’s a typical summer day out here in San Francisco - 55 degrees, windy, and overcast!

Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:

In Toronto, we also have had two days of high heat, with high humidity, a difficult combination. The weather report says it will be gone tomorrow, and we’ll be getting lower temperatures without the humidity from then on. A great summer climate.

David B. writes:

Here in MIddle Tennessee, the high will be 91-94 the next few days. In this area, the hottest time of the summer is usually late July and early August.

A reader writes:

Even though I’m now curious about the DVD bonus material you discuss, your aesthetic appreciation of Body Heat reminded me that it is a film that should be viewed on the big screen. When I first saw the film theatrically in 1982, it seemed as if the entire screen was bathed in red or white much of the time; on subsequent viewings at home (VHS!) this saturation effect (significant to both atmosphere and symbolism) was almost completely lost.

Relevant to feminism, friends and I have always pointed to this film as absolute proof against the common feminist assertion that “Yes means yes, and no means no,” when men are attempting to “read” (or even blatantly seduce) women. Matty Walker verbally says “No” to Ned Racine (“I’m a married woman”) from the moment he introduces himself, though ultimately to drive him to the point of smashing in the window through which she stares at him from inside her home, so that he may finally “take” her—a situation and set of circumstances she has orchestrated that, there and then, would enable her to call the police and effectively frame him for rape. He is already snared in her trap. In the end, the viewer unquestionably learns who was seducing whom.

LA replies:

It seemed to me that the colors, lighting, etc. looked very good on the DVD. And yes, there was a lot of red.

Alan Z. writes:

In your movie review you mentioned Double Indemnity. I saw it for the first time a few years ago and remember well the scene you describe, where insurance man Fred MacMurray first meets married woman Barbara Stanwyk. While watching it, I thought this scene, this dialogue, consisting of looks and implications, is hotter than anything I’ve seen in any other film.

I’ll give Body Heat another try. Have seen it, thought it was a little slow—maybe I brought the wrong expectations.

I work in Newark, where it reached 100 degrees by early afternoon.

LA replies:

Makes sense. As a native New Jerseyan who was born in Newark and grew up near Newark, I always felt that Newark was a little closer to hell.

Paul Henri writes:

Loved it. Watched it many times and would watch it again if it came on. It was odd to see Richard Crenna play such a dark role after The Real McCoys. But he did play in some excellent dramas earlier: Wait Until Dark and The Sand Pebbles. So I just admired him all the more. Talk about ageless? He and Robert Wagner must have been in competition.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 21, 2012 03:04 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):