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Body Heat

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Produced by Fred T. Gallo
Robert Grand
George Lucas (uncredited)
Written by Lawrence Kasdan
Starring William Hurt
Kathleen Turner
Richard Crenna
Ted Danson
J.A. Preston
Mickey Rourke
Music by John Barry
Cinematography Richard H. Kline
Editing by Carol Littleton
Studio The Ladd Company
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) August 28, 1981
Running time 113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $24,058,838

Body Heat is a 1981 American neo-noir film written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. It stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston, and Mickey Rourke. It may be cited as an example of postmodern pastiche, as its sets are an intentional mix of visual eras.

A substantial portion of the film was shot in downtown Lake Worth, Florida; and in the oceanside enclave of Manalapan. Both communities are located in east-central Palm Beach County, Florida.

The film launched Turner's movie career and was Kasdan's directing debut.



During a particularly intensive Florida heatwave, Ned Racine (William Hurt), an inept and rather sleazy lawyer, begins an affair with Matty (Kathleen Turner), wife of Edmund Walker (Richard Crenna), a wealthy businessman.

They go to great lengths to keep their affair a secret, though there are incidents like Racine making advances to a woman he thought was Matty but turns out to be Mary Ann Simpson (Kim Zimmer), one of her old school friends; and they are also caught in the act by Edmund's niece Heather (Carola McGuinness) at a time when she is staying with Matty. Racine even gets to meet Edmund himself when he comes across the Walkers by chance in a restaurant.

Matty soon makes it clear that she wants to leave Edmund but also wants his money. A prenuptial agreement means that in the event of a divorce she will be left with only a small fraction of his fortune. Racine, who is just as selfish and greedy, agrees that the only option is to kill Edmund.

Planning the murder, Racine consults one of his shadier clients, Teddy Lewis (Mickey Rourke), an expert on incendiary devices. Lewis also reminds Racine of some advice that Racine gave to him in the past: "Anytime you try a decent crime, there is fifty ways to fuck up. If you think of twenty-five of them you're a genius. And you're no genius."[1]

Edmund's will leaves half his fortune to his niece Heather, daughter of his sister Roz Kraft (Lanna Saunders). Matty dislikes this arrangement and tries to convince Racine to do something about it, but he blocks her suggestions on the grounds that nothing suspicious must happen in Edmund's life in the days leading up to his death.

Racine establishes an alibi at a Miami hotel and then proceeds to the Walker estate where he kills Edmund. He then drops the body in an abandoned seaside business called The Breakers which Edmund was known to be involved with and destroys it with an incendiary device in order to make it look like an arson job gone wrong.

Some time after his victim's death has been officially declared, Racine is contacted by Edmund's lawyer Miles Hardin (Michael M. Ryan) who raises the matter of a will that Racine is supposed to have drawn up on Edmund's behalf and was witnessed by Matty's friend Mary Ann Simpson. Racine did no such thing but has to play along in order to avoid suspicion. This supposed new will again leaves half the estate to Heather but has been so badly prepared that it is now legally null and void and means that Matty, as the wife of the deceased, is to get all the money.

Matty later admits to Racine that she forged the will, inspired by a similar incident that she got to know about while working in a lawyer's office in Chicago. Racine is annoyed by this since it means that there will be suspicions about Edmund's death and indeed Roz starts to pressure the police into making more in-depth inquiries into the case. She even takes Heather to the police station to tell about her seeing Aunt Matty and some man about to have what can only be described as oral sex. Heather meets Racine but fails to recognize him.

Racine no longer makes secret his affair with Matty, though he claims that it has only recently begun. His friends, police Detective Oscar Grace (J.A. Preston) and Assistant Prosecutor Peter Lowenstein (Ted Danson), warn him to stay away from her. They also reveal that Edmund's glasses, which he always wore, are missing. If he had been wearing them at the time of the explosion they would have stuck to his face but are in fact nowhere to be found. Matty herself denies any knowledge about where they are. Mary Ann Simpson has also disappeared, having supposedly left the country after witnessing the new will which Matty forged.

Already annoyed by the issues of the will, the glasses and the suspicions of the police, Racine experiences more events that cause him to doubt Matty's loyalty to him. Quite by chance he meets Michael Glenn (Thom Sharp) from a firm of lawyers who once sued him over a mishandled legal case. Glenn reveals that to make up for that he had recommended Racine to Matty Walker — before Racine had even met her.

Teddy Lewis is arrested on a separate charge. While in custody, he reveals to Racine that some "broad" came to him and bought another incendiary device and that he showed her how to set it to explode when opening a door. Lowenstein also warns Racine that Grace is making enquiries into his movements on the night of the murder. It seems that some stranger kept making phone calls to Racine's hotel room on the night in question but never got an answer.

Matty calls Racine to tell him that the glasses were found by her housekeeper who, in exchange for some money, has agreed to return them to the boathouse on the Walker estate. At her prompting Racine goes to the boathouse late at night but through the window he spots Lewis' second incendiary device, hooked to the door.

When Matty turns up, Racine confronts her at gunpoint. She admits to first meeting him on purpose but claims to now really love him. He tells her to prove it by going to the boathouse and getting the glasses. She does so and the building explodes in the presence of Racine and Grace who was looking for him, having obtained enough evidence for an arrest.

A body is found in the remains of the boathouse and identified through dental records in Chicago as Matty Walker (née Tyler). Edmund's money cannot be found. Now in prison, Racine becomes convinced that Matty is in fact still alive.

The woman he knew as Matty had a shady past: she once admitted to Racine that she had taken drugs. She therefore assumed the identity of Matty Tyler in order to marry Edmund Walker and get his money. The woman Racine knew as Mary Ann discovered this and played along, presumably in exchange for some of the money, but was then murdered and left in the boathouse.

Matty told him that she studied at Wheaton High School in Illinois. Racine writes to the school asking for the yearbook for when she left. The book confirms his suspicion that Matty Tyler and Mary Ann Simpson switched identities.

Meanwhile, the woman Racine knew as Matty, but who was really Mary Ann Simpson, known as the "Vamp" at school, is fulfilling her ambition as stated in the yearbook: being "rich and [living] in an exotic land".


Critical reception

The film received positive reviews when it was released in 1981, and it currently has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Most reviewers, like Roger Ebert, compared the film favorably to film noir of the past. An exception was Pauline Kael, who dismissed the film, citing its "insinuating, hotted-up dialogue that it would be fun to hoot at if only the hushed, sleepwalking manner of the film didn't make you cringe or yawn." Ebert responded to Kael's negative review:[2]

"Yes, Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat (1981) is aware of the films that inspired it--especially Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944). But it has a power that transcends its sources. It exploits the personal style of its stars to insinuate itself; Kael is unfair to Turner, who in her debut role played a woman so sexually confident that we can believe her lover (William Hurt) could be dazed into doing almost anything for her. The moment we believe that, the movie stops being an exercise and starts working."


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Body Heat is a 1981 neo-noir film about a woman, in the midst of a searing Florida heat wave, who convinces her lover, a small-town lawyer, to murder her rich husband.

Written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan.
As the temperature rises, the suspense begins.taglines


Ned Racine

  • You better take me up on this quick. In about 45 minutes, I'm going to give up and go away.
  • Sometimes the shit comes down so heavy I feel like I should wear a hat.

Matty Walker

  • Well, some men, once they get a whiff of it, they trail you like a hound.


  • Judge: Mr. Racine, the next time you come into my courtroom I hope you've got either a better defense, or a better class of client.
  • Peter: I'm really disappointed in you, Racine. I've been living vicariously off of you for years. You shut up on me now, all I have is my wife.
  • Teddy Lewis: I got a serious question for you: What the fuck are you doing? This is not shit for you to be messin' with. Are you ready to hear something? I want you to see if this sounds familiar: any time you try a decent crime, you got fifty ways you're gonna fuck up. If you think of twenty-five of them, then you're a genius... and you ain't no genius. You remember who told me that?


Matty: You're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man.
Ned: What else do you like? Lazy? Ugly? Horny? I've got 'em all.
Matty: You don't look lazy.

Ned: Maybe you shouldn't dress like that.
Matty: This is a blouse and a skirt. I don't know what you're talking about.
Ned: You shouldn't wear that body.

Peter: I think I've underestimated you Ned. I don't know why it took me so long. You've started using your incompetence as a weapon.
Ned: My defense was evolving. You guys got scared.

Ned: You can stand here with me if you want but you'll have to agree not to talk about the heat.
Matty: I'm a married woman.
Ned: Meaning what?
Matty: Meaning I'm not looking for company.
Ned: Then you should have said I'm a happily married woman.
Ned: Can I buy you a drink?
Matty: I told you. I've got a husband.
Ned: I'll buy him one too.
Matty: He's out of town.
Ned: My favorite kind. We'll drink to him.
Matty: Only comes up on weekends.
Ned: I'm liking him better all the time.

Ned: I need someone to take care of me, someone to rub my tired muscles, smooth out my sheets.
Matty: Get married.
Ned: I just need it for tonight.

Matty: Would you get me a paper towel or something? Dip it in some cold water.
Ned: Right away. I'll even wipe if off for you.
Matty: You don't want to lick it?

Matty: What are you doing in Pine Haven?
Ned: I'm no yokel, I was all the way to Miami once.

Matty: My temperature runs a couple of degrees high, around a hundred. I don't mind. It's the engine or something.
Ned: Maybe you need a tune up.
Matty: Don't tell me. You have just the right tool.

Ned: I like this place; it's got a nice feel.
Matty: You were on top.
Ned: So it could use a better mattress. See to it will you?
Matty: Yes sir.

Oscar: Whatcha got for pie today Stella?
Stella: I got cherry, cherry and cherry.
Oscar: Well, what do you recommend?
Stella: I like the cherry.
Oscar: Bring it on.

Ned: How's the cop business, Oscar?
Oscar: Real good. Always starts hopping in weather like this. When it gets this hot, people try to kill each other.

Peter: Assistant County Prosecutor is not the end of the line for me.
Ned: No, no. Someday, Deputy County Prosecutor.

Ned: Hey lady, ya wanna fuck?
Mary Ann: Gee, I don't know. Maybe. This sure is a friendly town.
Matty: Ned, this Mary Ann.
Mary Ann: We were just meeting. Ned made me feel very welcome.

Walker's Lawyer: Would anyone mind if I smoke?
[Everyone except Lowenstein lights up. Someone offers him a cigarette]
Lowenstein: No thanks. I'll just breathe the air.

Lowenstein: Ned, someday your dick is going to lead you into a very big hassle. That lady may have just killed her husband.
Ned: She's not going to inherit anything by killing me. Besides, maybe she'll try to fuck me to death. [He smiles sadly]


  • As the temperature rises, the suspense begins.
  • It's a hot summer. Ned Racine is waiting for something special to happen. And when it does... He won't be ready for the consequences.
  • She taught him everything she knew - about passion and murder.


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