Modern Pulp Aug 28 2018
BODIES, LUST, AND EMOTION
The Florida heat cooks up trouble in Lawrence Kasdan's masterful neo-noir.


Kill your husband for you? Sure, I can make that happen, I guess. Spousal murder is a film noir and pulp fiction plot tentpole, and the motivation for trying something so risky generally revolves around sex. But during the time the film noir and pulp fiction genres were extant their makers could only imply it. The neo-noir thriller Body Heat, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1981, fixed that problem, as not-so-bright lawyer Ned Racine, played by William Hurt, is seduced into a murder plot by whip smart bombshell Matty Walker, played by Kathleen Turner in her cinematic debut.
 
Body Heat is an apt title. The setting is South Florida during a heat wave, with most of the action set in the mythical towns of Pinehaven and Miranda Beach. Every frame of the movie seems to vent steam. There's copious slippery sex and nudity, all of it important to the plot. When the pair have their electric first encounter Hurt pulls off Turner's panties with an expression of pure awe on his face and intones, “So wet.” For just that moment he wonders if it's really him turning on a woman that much. And he's right to wonder, because it isn't him. What's turning her on is money.

Directed and written by Lawrence Kasdan, the film is a reworking of Double Indemnity, but it improves on the original in the sense that we fully understand the visceral reasons why murder has occurred. That moisture between Turner's legs causes an electrical short in Hurt's brain. After subsequent sexual encounters, including an anal session that's implied but clear as day thanks to some clever visuals, he's hooked like a bluegill. For a guy just smart enough to get a law degree, but not bright enough to avoid being known as his town's worst lawyer, bedding Turner makes him feel godlike. Surely he can pull off murder and make it look like an accident.

Body Heat made Turner, Hurt, and Kasdan superstars, and did the same for a few of its below-the-line players. Turner went on to become one of the pre-eminent actresses of her generation; Hurt, who had starred in the brilliant but under appreciated Altered States, became one of Hollywood's top leading men; and Kasdan directed Silverado, The Big Chill, and other hits. Co-star Ted Danson also blew up, and Mickey Rourke parlayed a blazing supporting bit into a career as Hollywood's go-to rebel creep. You know any film that ignites five such careers is top notch, but as a post-noir entry Body Heat is also cinematically important. Not only did it finally lay bare the motivation behind all those noir murders and obsessions, but it did so with a reverent visual style and pitch perfect mood. We can't recommend it strongly enough.

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Femmes Fatales Aug 4 2009
BODY LANGUAGE
Sometimes listening to your little voice can be a bad move.

William Hurt’s brain: Wow, this chick is frickin’ gorgeous. That hair-lifting/neck-rubbing thing she’s doing is crazy sexy.

William Hurt’s penis: Really? Let me have a look.

William Hurt’s brain: (tells arms to cover crotch with suit jacket) Don’t get too excited, P. I’m pretty sure she’s trying to frame us for murder.

William Hurt’s penis: And?

William Hurt’s brain: And we could go to prison forever.

William Hurt’s penis: We’ll worry about that later. Is she still doing the neck thing? Just imagine what her lips feel like. I bet she has a really soft tongue too. What size are her breasts? Hey, try to get a peek at her ass, wouldja? Just point at something and see if she turns around.

William Hurt’s brain: I’m feeling a little faint, P.

William Hurt’s penis: That’s because I’m borrowing some of the blood you use to function. Don’t worry about it. I’ll give it back later.

William Hurt’s brain: What were we just talking about? Man, I’m kind of dizzy.

William Hurt’s penis: You want me to drive for a bit? I don’t mind.

William Hurt’s brain: Would you? That would be really cool. I need to just… shut it down for a while.

William Hurt’s penis: Gotcha covered, buddy. Next stop, the promised land. Just move the jacket before you go, ’kay? Thanks. 

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Modern Pulp Jul 26 2009
THE PERFECT KISS
Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

Based on the poster, you’d think Kiss of the Spider Woman is about a femme fatale beguiling men in some romantic and faraway land. Close—it’s about two guys rotting away in a prison cell in some unnamed Latin American dictatorship. One of them—played by William Hurt in an Oscar-winning role—passes the time by telling his cellmate stories about an old Nazi propaganda film he once saw. And so in the form of his nostalgic narrative what we get is a film within a film and that’s where most of the romantic stuff comes in. Based on a novel by Manuel Puig, Spider Woman managed the rare showbiz trifecta of being produced as a play, a Hollywood film, and a Broadway musical. The movie is excellent, and quite dark, but we won’t recommend it because it isn’t really pulp. The poster on the other hand, with a lovely depiction of a character Sonia Braga plays in the film within a film, just kills. Kiss of the Spider Woman opened today in the U.S. in 1985.

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Modern Pulp Dec 25 2008
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS
The most intellectual sci-fi movie ever made premiered today in 1980.

Not exactly your run-of-the-mill X-mas flick, Altered States was a mindbending journey through inner space. William Hurt was electrifying and utterly believable as a brilliant genetic researcher who thinks God can be found inside human genes. He uses hallucinogenic drugs combined with sensory deprivation to tunnel into his own DNA. Problem is, when he comes out something comes with him. This all time sci-fi/horror classic, which is also one of the most profound love stories ever set to celluloid, is refreshing in its basic assumption that its audience was intelligent enough to get it. They not only got it—they bought it.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 18
1916—First Battle of the Somme Ends
In France, British Expeditionary Force commander Douglas Haig calls off a battle against entrenched German troops which had begun on July 1, 1916. Known as the Battle of the Somme, this action resulted in one of the greatest losses of life in modern history—over three-hundred thousand dead for a net gain of about seven miles of land.
1978—Jonestown Cult Commits Mass Suicide
In the South American country of Guyana, Jim Jones leads his Peoples Temple cult in a mass suicide that claims 918 lives, including over 270 children. Congressman Leo J. Ryan, who had been visiting the makeshift cult complex known as Jonestown to investigate claims of abuse, is shot by members of the Peoples Temple as he tries to escape from a nearby airfield with several cult members who asked for his protection.
November 17
1973—Nixon Proclaims His Innocence
While in Orlando, Florida, U.S. President Richard Nixon tells four-hundred Associated Press managing editors, "I am not a crook." The false statement comes to symbolize Nixon's presidency when facts are uncovered that prove he is, indeed, a crook.
November 16
1938—Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Created
In Basel, Switzerland, at the Sandoz Laboratories, chemist Albert Hofmann creates the psychedelic compound Lysergic acid diethylamide, aka LSD, from a grain fungus.
1945—German Scientists Secretly Brought to U.S.
In a secret program codenamed Operation Paperclip, the United States Army admits 88 German scientists and engineers into the U.S. to help with the development of rocket technology. President Harry Truman ordered that Paperclip exclude members of the Nazi party, but in practice many Nazis who had been officially classified as dangerous were also brought to the U.S. after their backgrounds were whitewashed by Army officials.
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