Body of Evidence

It’s Flashback Friday!

This Week’s Flashback Movie….

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Release Date: January 15, 1993
Runtime: 99 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: MGM
Director: Uli Edel
Cast: Willem Dafoe; Madonna; Joe Mantegna; Anne Archer; Julianne Moore; Frank Langella; Jurgen Prochnow

Hoo-boy!!! This one’s a doozy! No one in this train wreck could possibly have thought that they were in a good movie. If they did, I have some waterfront property in Kansas to sell them.

In the wake of the success of “Basic Instinct” in the spring of 1992, the erotic thriller was a “hot” commodity. There was “Whispers in the Dark” in August of that year, “Guilty As Sin” in June of ’93, and William Friedkin’s “Jade” in 1995. Even “Basic Instinct” star Sharon Stone got back in the sack for “Sliver” in 1993. Most were lame excuses for big name stars to get naked. But none was more ridiculous than “Body of Evidence,” released in January (nuff said) of 1993. Starring Madonna and Willem Dafoe, this has to be one of the least intelligent movies ever put to celluloid.

Many erotic thriller plots center around a morally weak lawyer schtupping his or her client (“Body Heat,” “Guilty As Sin”). Same here. Dafoe is Frank Dulaney, charged with defending client Rebecca Carlson (Madonna), who is accused of, I kid you not, screwing her lover to death. Of course, I don’t have to tell you, they start porking in some very interesting ways (candle wax and champagne, on top of the hood of a car covered in broken glass). Did Rebecca actually kill the guy? Will Frank, ahem, get her off?

First, let me say that a few things in this movie are actually quite decent. Madonna looks great: her platinum blond hair and the way she is lit evoke the look of classic femme fatales like Barbara Stanwyck and Lana Turner. Her acting is atrocious, but she looks fantastic. In fact, her famous coffee table book, “Sex,” was released not long after this movie came out. Also, the production values are top notch. The movie is well lit, smoothly filmed, and uses its locations well. And we have Julianne Moore in an early role…she gets the best line in the movie when she confronts Dafoe about his affair, telling him, “You shouldn’t have fucked her!”

That’s it for the good. The rest is hilarious. This is one of those courtroom thrillers where the judge is sassy and full of attitude, bearing little to no resemblance to any judge in real life. It is also one of the fastest murder cases ever to be tried. One minute Rebecca is being lead away in handcuffs, the next second the trial is starting. Did the attorneys have time to prepare? How did they select the jury? Essentially, the story is just a scaffold upon which to hang a few sex scenes, most of which last longer than the actual trial. I get it, it’s an erotic thriller, so we have to have a heavy emphasis on the sex. However, that doesn’t mean that any semblance of credibility has to be tossed. The movie still has to involve us and we shouldn’t be taken out of the story by questioning things like how long the jury deliberated for.

The audience is also left questioning things like: What is up with the houseboat that Rebecca lives in? How does she afford something like that? (We learn much later that she apparently owns an art gallery). Was Dafoe unhappy at all in his marriage or have some other deep-seeded issue that motivated him to shack up with Rebecca? Did he have these kinky proclivities before he started sleeping with her? The conclusion we are left with is that he needed to start up with her and get into all this kinky sex because otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie.

Since the movie is not thrilling nor is it titillating on a prurient level, the only thing we have left to do, unfortunately, is laugh at it. It seems as though Julianne Moore is articulating not only her characters feelings, but also those of the audience when she gives Madonna a good slap in the face in that ladies room!

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