Body of Evidence
MGM // R // $14.95 // December 3, 2002
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted December 6, 2002
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In the wake of Basic Instinct's success, there was an almost biblical plague of imitators raining down on the direct to video shelves and late night cable screens, but the most high profile imitator had to be 1993's Body of Evidence. You can see the producers (which included Dino "When monkey die, everybody cry." De Laurentis) thinking- "Okay, we've got a Basic Instinctlike sexual/thriller/mystery. In Madonna , we've got a ready to bare it all mega-star with tons of publicity surrounding her kinky album Erotica and "Sex" book. With Willem DaFoe, we've got our critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated, legitimate male lead. We've got an edgy art house foreign director. Where can we go wrong?"... Well, as it turns out, in just about every way possible.

Gallery owner Rebecca Carlson's (Madonna) wealthy older lover is found dead and she is the prime suspect. The vixen is accused of using the combination of kinky love and cocaine to strain the mans feeble heart in order to get his fortune. Her lawyer (Willem DaFoe) finds himself attracted to his potentially dangerous client, and soon, despite his doubts, he is drawn into her sexually adventurous world.

Admittedly, back when it was a late night pay cable movie channel regular, I was roped into watching Body of Evidence. I was duped both by the films bad reputation and the fact that it starred an actor I like, DaFoe, and a director, Uli Edel, who did the great Last Exit to Brooklyn. Yes, unlike most of the masses, I was more curious about seeing the movie because of them rather than the titillation of seeing Madonna in the buff. She just isn't my type; I'm more of a Charlotte Rampling, Sherilyn Fenn, Maggie Cheung, or Anna Karina in My Life to Live kind of guy. Don't get me wrong, I didn't mind that Ms. Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone- Penn- Ritchie got naked, a whole lot, but I would have preferred the film starred Nastassja Kinski. Well, at least a young pre-critical darling Julianne Moore is DaFoe's wife and has a fairly decent bedroom romp. Anyway, I figured the DVD would be easy enough to review and I'm always open to give a film another chance.

Body of Evidence falls into, I guess, what one could call "neo-noir". Basically, these were new fangled, sexually charged takes on the old film noir staples that probably began with Body Heat and flourished in films like Body Double, Sea of Love, Fatal Attraction and more precise modern adaptations like the great After Dark My Sweet (based on a novel by noir writer Jim Thompson) and the weak Against All Odds (loosely based on the classic noir, Out of the Past). The premise is always some poor guy who gets his manhood caught in the noose of some dangerous vixen, who then manipulates his libido like a divining rod. Whereas Lana Turner, Jane Greer, Mary Astor, and Ann Savage relied on their acting skills and razor sharp dialogue and characterizations, as a femme fatale, the only thing Madonna can manage to offer is bad acting from a lame script and glimpses of her public thatch.

Amazingly Body of Evidence combines two movie plot clichés- the erotic thriller and the courtroom melodrama, like it is some kind of Penthouse Perry Mason, and it fails on both accounts, eroticism and legalese. What attracted its cast is beyond me. The dialogue is pretty laughable featuring such wit as this exchange, "What's this?"- That would be a nipple clamp."- "How would you know?"- "He's from LA." and poor Madonna trying to purr out the line, "Have you ever seen animals make love, Frank? It's intense- its violent." All the S&M kinks it features (being tied up, handcuffs, wax dripping, being cut) are about as erotic as imagining Marv Albert and his hotel room dominatrix dalliances. And, it has just general bad movie soap opera melodrama, from the pushy music score, to plenty of slaps to the face, dramatic head turns, and more courtroom crowd murmurs than you can count. I was very surprised there wasn't a drink thrown in someone's face, or, maybe, a grand revealing that the person responsible for the crime was Madonna's evil twin sister.

The DVD: MGM. Contains both the R-Rated and Unrated versions of the film. Which begs the question- "Would anyone buying an erotic thriller starring Madonna really give a damn about the R-Rated version?"

Picture: Widescreen, anamorphic enhanced. Well, MGM shoved this title out, one of their cheaper, standard back catalog releases. The image is fairly grainy, which of course, hinders the contrast, color, and sharpness a bit. I have no doubt that if they really cared about the release the picture could have been tweaked and presented with a clearer transfer. But, it is a budget title of a b-film and most people buying it will probably not gripe too much about the fair quality (much less admit to owning the film).

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with optional English, French, Portuguese, or Spanish subtitles and Closed-captioning.

Extras: 16 Chapter Selections (with giggle inducing titles like "Animalistic Love", "White-Hot Passion", and "Seductive Flirtation")--- Trailer--- "Love or Murder" featurette (5:42) Standard studio promo featuring the cast giving soundbites about the production and narrated by one of those overly dramatic movie trailer voice over guys.

Conclusion: Body of Evidence is just cheesy and notoriously bad enough for me to recommend it as a rental. Madonna fans (and potential stalkers) should be pleased enough with the transfer. And, let's be realistic, those wanting to have a laugh and see her bared flesh get a better deal paying a decent price for this fair DVD, rather than , say, shelling out $100 for her "Sex" book.

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