MELANIE GRIFFITH, a former burn-out case, makes a comeback as a "Body Double" in director Brian De Palma's latest movie, a sadistic, snickering murder mystery -- a horror comedy, if you will.
Griffith, original and witty, plays the practical gal's porno queen, Holly Body, a tough little punk who seems to know exactly who she is, even if the film's stooge, Craig Wasson, hasn't figured it out yet.
Wasson plays the Jimmy Stewart roles in what is essentially rehashed Hitchcock -- part "Rear Window," part "Vertigo" -- with sex and violence instead of suspense and subtlety. Wasson is actor Jake Scully, a claustrophobe who witnesses a neighbor's murder through a telescope.
Every night the woman across the way dances in her scanties in front of the open blinds until she can't resist herself. The finale is always the same; as blues singer Tom Waits puts it, "I'm going take myself home and take advantage of myself."
Alas, she is drilled to death as the wimp Jake, afflicted with the necessarily slow wits of your typical horror film lead, fumbles with the phone, the door and the watch dog. De Palma is not the sort of guy you let loose around pointed objects or power tools.
He's equally dangerous with phallic symbolism. His visual references to hot dogs are particularly pointed -- the Tail O' the Pup hot dog stand in L.A., just one of many, is shaped like a weiner caught in the harsh embrace of a giant concrete bun. Surely this says something about De Palma's own phobias. (Can this man be stopped?)
Meanwhile our hero Jake seems to be forever perched at the edge of some symbolic birth canal or another. But there is light at the end of the tunnel for this uptight sap who goes about solving the case, predictable as the solution already is to everyone else, in a rock video.
Yes, this video set in a porno studio is probably already for sale. It's a homage to Shirley Maclaine's masturbation scene with Peter Sellers in "Being There," set to "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It's kinky, but cohesive when compared with the movie as a whole. And speaking of music, you've never heard such racket as the "Soundtrack From Body Double," throbbing and moaning hoping to make something out of nothing.
"Body Double" twists and turns miserably between the comic and the macabre; it's definitely not dressed to kill.
BODY DOUBLE -- At area theaters.