This 1981 suspense-thriller that made Kathleen Turner a star (in her very first movie role!) is the ultimate film noir. The 1944 "Double Indemnity" (on which it is based)seems laughably low-budget in comparison. To say the characters, dialogue, and plot twists in "Body Heat" are well-developed is an understatement. Even the diner waitresses and other bit parts are so realistic in the fictional town of Miranda Beach, Florida that they jump off the screen. The movie opens to a jazzy sensual musical score by John Barry. Close your eyes, listen and get in the mood...

NED RACINE(HURT) is a mediocre attorney with a reputation for taking on unsavory clients(kind of like a poor man's Johnny Cochran); making big legal mistakes; and numerous sexual conquests that he brags about to his pals: D.A. PETER LOWENSTEIN (comically portrayed by a pre-CHEERS tap-dancing DANSON) and Detective Oscar Grace(J. A. PRESTON). During a heat wave he tries to pick up an incredibly sexy woman named MATTIE WALKER (TURNER) even after she tells him she has a husband: "I'll buy him a drink, too." The husband happens to be incredibly rich--they live in the exclusive community of Pinehaven. She complains about being so "well-tended." "I need tending," he tells her, "but just for tonight." Mattie plays hard-to-get but Ned's persistent. We see him driving along the Coast trying to find where she hangs out. (This movie is nice to watch just for the South Florida scenery.) When she finally brings Ned home to her multi-trillion dollar mansion and they have their first encounter on the foyer floor...well it's probably what Selznick couldn't show after Rhett Butler carried Scarlett up those stairs!

Oscar and Lowenstein notice a change in Ned's behavior once he gets involved with Mattie. "I can't believe you're getting discreet. I've been living vicariously through you for years, Racine," Lowenstein says, "you clam up on me now and all I've got is my wife." The turning point comes when Ned runs into Mattie and her husband Edmund(CRENNA) in a restaurant and is forced to sit through a meal with the two of them. Edmund boasts about being a slick businessman and in an ironic foreshadowing complains to Ned about weak people who aren't willing to do whatever is necessary to get what they want. Ned decides it's necessary to kill Edmund. (So did I. Crenna is deliciously obnoxious as the filthy rich old man with a trophy wife.)

Ned goes to see a former client who owes him a favor--a professional arsonist named TEDDY LEWIS(MICKEY ROURKE, then unknown like Turner). Ned wants to learn how to rig an explosive device to set fire to the old abandoned Breakers Hotel that belongs to Edmund and his mobster friends. Despite all the sexy banter between TURNER and HURT the film's most memorable line is delivered by Teddy who knows Ned is in over his head and tries to warn him. (I'll certainly think of it when I want to kill somebody): "For every crime you commit there's fifty ways you can {screw}up...if you can think of 25 of them you're a genius..." And screw up Ned does. He deposits a dead Edmund inside the Breakers without his glasses. The plan was to make it look like Edmund drove there and torched his own property for the insurance money but didn't get himself out in time. The D.A. wants to know how a man who needs glasses to drive got there without them?

Besides his carelessness Ned is done in by Mattie's greed. Edmund has a sister and niece who were supposed to inherit half of Edmund's estate, but Mattie wanted it all. A new will is presented to the court, supposedly prepared by Ned, who, on a legal technicality actually voided the will thereby giving everything to Mattie. Of course it was Mattie who wrote the new will and forged Ned's signature. The irony is that Ned was reprimanded once by the law board for making that very same mistake in a will. Other small clues force Lowenstein and Oscar to suspect Ned of murder. Ned slowly discovers that he's been set up to take the fall in the "perfect crime."

Most women get great satisfaction out of this movie--seeing an arrogant skirt-chasing lawyer outsmarted by a woman. I do, too, but mostly I like it for the surprise ending. Watch this movie with someone you'd want to spend the rest of the night with...unless they have a husband or a wife.

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