Another great film to add to the list of excellent debut features is Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat. It's a moody, sexy, thrilling neo-noir film that perfectly balances it's noir roots with a newfound and more overt sexuality, displayed candidly by William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.
Hurt and Turner.
The story is classic noir (and certainly inspired by Double Indemnity). A small-time lawyer in a sleepy Florida beach community begins an affair with a married woman who doesn't much like her dull but wealthy husband. Their relationship develops to the point that they realize that the husband must disappear permanently for them to get what they want--unlimited each other, as well as the contents of the will!--so they contrive a plan to eliminate the husband and do just that. Things get sticky as everything begins to unravel and people begin to doubt their trust in one another. It's great! A moustachio'd William Hurt and a sultry Kathleen Turner star as the two lovers, and there are a few other familiar faces, including Ted Dansen as Hurt's DA buddy, and Mickey Rourke as an ex-con. (On a side-note, Kathleen Turner used to be such a babe! In the early 1980s she was the go-to sexpot actress, but now, as my friend Jane so succinctly put it, she has "morphed into a fridge," as her recent appearances as Sue Collini on Showtime's brilliant David Duchovny vehicle Californication is any indication.)
Kathleen Turner as Matty Walker.
This 1981 film perfectly captures an updated version of the noir sensibilities, with lots of suggestive dialogue, classic noir archetypes, great metaphors, and mystery right up to the ending. A great element to the whole thing is the fact that the town is going through a major heat wave which leads to some great dialogue, atmosphere, and lots of very sweaty people. Hot temperature really lends itself to noir stories, as it aids to create a mood of even further discomfort and claustrophobia, not to mention it invokes a hellish environment for our sinners to play out their lives. The heat and humidity are present to an almost nightmarish degree as all our characters quickly throw back drinks and then seemingly sweat them out instantly.
William Hurt as Ned Racine.
One obvious difference between this and the noirs of the original cycle is the overt sexual nature. This film is largely driven by sex and sensuality (the title is quite apt!) and it makes no bones about it. Due to the production code of the 1940s and 50s, studios were barred from having nudity or sex, and therefore had to find more creative ways to convey sensuality, and that came out through very suggestive and innuendo laced dialogue. Body Heat combines this style of writing, but in the more liberated 1980s America it also uses a fair amount of the naked bodies of Kathleen Turner and William Hurt.
Mickey Rourke as Teddy Lewis.
Definitely watch this film if you are interested in the noir genre, and it is highly recommended if you like a neo-noir take on things, it's a great example of a movie that embraces the past films to which it owes to much, but also adds new and more contemporary ideas to the genre. This film is great!
Hurt and Danson, in swelteringly soft focus.
The trailer: simple, suggestive, effective.