The PlotLike Vertigo, Body Double involves a man who has been set up to observe a murder. In Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart was asked by a friend to follow a woman he was told was suicidal. He watches her and slowly develops an obsession from afar. When she later appears to jump from a tower killing herself, Stewart’s testimony seals the deal with the law that she killed herself. However, Stewart’s obsession causes him to start looking for a replacement for the woman and, in the process, he stumbles upon the woman who pretended to be the supposedly suicidal woman and tricked Stewart into thinking the woman had killed herself when in reality she was murdered.
After this, Scully mopes around the house, upset at failing to save Gloria. Being the pervert he is, he starts watching porn. As he does, he sees a video advertised in which a woman (Melanie Griffith) is doing the exact same dance Gloria had done. Scully is suddenly suspicious. He tracks down Melanie and tries to determine if she had been paid to do the dance for him, and by whom. (As an aside, I find this to be a much more believable way for Scully to stumble upon the woman pretending to be Gloria than the way Stewart found the woman in Vertigo, which seemed far too random.)
Why This Film WorksBody Double is perhaps the best Hitchcock knock-off I’ve seen. This film not only captures the pacing and feel of Jimmy Stewart’s obsession in Vertigo but it feels even more natural to us. Indeed, unlike Stewart and Hitchcock, who were limited by the Hays Code, Scully is free to be more loathsome. This makes him more believable as a stalker and a peeping Tom. He’s also more believable as the dupe. Scully lies to himself about his problem and he comes across as not very bright. He’s not nearly as collected or as cautious as Stewart’s portrayal. That make it more believable that he would let himself be so easily manipulated and that he would make the wrong choices time and again.
Director de Palma deserves major credit here too. For one thing, his timing is perfect. The film never drags, but it also feels deliberate. It doesn’t rush. To the contrary, it takes the time it needs to make everything we see work. The images he picks help sell the story too. They paint Los Angeles as a maze, perfectly built for the cat and mouse game Scully plays with Indian. Making the characters actors helps sell the idea that the killer could disguise himself as the Indian, that Scully could find a way to join a porno, and that he would accept this arrangement in the first place. The film is very well cast as well, and it has an excellent score including the song "Relax" from Frankie Goes To Hollywood.