Body Heat (US, 1981)

Too hot to handle

Too hot to handle

There was a series of neo noirs in the eighties and nineties where the femme fatale not only seduced the hapless male protagonist but was allowed to get away with her ill-gotten gains. Unlike during the classic noir period where the Production Code’s ‘law of compensating values’ meant that they had to be punished for their sins. The Last Seduction‘s (US, 1994) femme could be the hardest of them all but Kathleen Turner’s (above) Maddie Walker certainly isn’t far behind.

I won’t give the plot away (though it is a remake of the brilliant Double Indemnity, 1944), suffice to say Lawrence Kasdan’s atmospheric (he also scripted) direction superbly conveys the sultry Florida atmosphere aided by great performances from all involved; William Hurt remains one of my favourite actors, he was great in this year’s The Challenger – a TV movie.

Some writer’s speculated that the resurrection of noir at the time was a reflection of male anxiety, just as it was in the post-war period when men were suspicious of their woman’s fidelity during the war. In addition, at that time women were being put back into the home having done ‘man’s’ work as part of the war effort. In the latter years’ of the 20th century anxiety was occasioned by feminists’ gains in the workplace and home. Looking at the ‘gender wars’ landscape now, however, it’s clear that men continue to win.


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