Even before he drove up the value of the Motown back catalog and set off a nostalgia wave with The Big Chill, writer-director Lawrence Kasdan had already established himself as a savvy recycler of pop culture's past. Kasdan's scripts for Raiders Of The Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back paid reverent homage to adventure and science-fiction serials, respectively. More importantly, Kasdan helped resurrect the shadowy world of film noir, and he set off a neo-noir boom with his justly acclaimed directorial debut, 1981's Body Heat.
Set during a Florida heat wave so viscerally conveyed that the film stock itself seems to be perspiring, Kasdan's loose Double Indemnity redux casts William Hurt as a low-rent lawyer unencumbered by excesses of intelligence or integrity. When Hurt meets unhappily married sexpot Kathleen Turner, his already shaky sense of morality takes a dive, and before long, the hormone-crazed lovebirds are plotting the murder of Turner's wealthy husband (Richard Crenna). Since the hapless, overmatched Hurt might as well have "patsy" written in permanent ink on his sweat-stained forehead, the suspense comes from seeing how his poorly laid plan will fall apart. In Body Heat's superior second half, the noose around Hurt's neck tightens slowly but surely as it becomes apparent just how powerless he's been from the beginning. Turner's sly femme fatale allows Hurt to think he's the master of his own destiny when he's really just obliviously following her script.
With her masculine, unabashed sexuality and a smoky voice redolent of whiskey, cigarettes, and sin, Turner suggests Lauren Bacall reconfigured for a more uninhibited age. Kasdan wisely cast Turner, Hurt, a scene-stealing Ted Danson (as a dance-happy lawyer), and Mickey Rourke (as Hurt's client-turned-accomplice) when they were all fresh and exciting. Kasdan's long takes, meanwhile, wisely emphasize the film's uniformly fine performances and clever, smartly structured script. Turner was nominated for a Golden Globe for New Star Of The Year, only to lose to Butterfly's Pia Zadora, a travesty that proves noir isn't the only place where life isn't fair. Kasdan's moody tribute to cinema's dark past set a gold standard for neo-noirs that has seldom been equaled.
Key features: A number of saucy deleted scenes fleshing out the Turner/Hurt relationship, vintage interviews with Hurt and Turner, and three standard-issue documentaries covering casting, scripting, filming, and post-production.