Half days in the eighth grade were a rare treat. For some reason we only had a three or four half days that year, so most of the kids in my grade took advantage of them. While some of my classmates would get into trouble around town, while my friends and I went to a comic store, eat lunch, and took in a movie.
This became a little bit of a tradition, and in January 1993 we told our parents of our plan to see “Aladdin” on our upcoming half day. In reality, we planned to sneak into the R rated thriller “Body of Evidence.” That’s right, we bought tickets for “Aladdin,” but once our tickets got looked over, we headed into “Body of Evidence” instead.
In case you don’t remember the movie, “Body of Evidence” was directed by Uli Edel and written by Brad Mirman. The film starred Madonna as Rebecca Carlson and Willem Dafoe Frank Dulaney. The supporting cast included the likes of Joe Mantegna, Anne Archer, and Julianne Moore. The movie revolved around Rebecca Carlson, an attractive woman who forms a relationship with a famed millionaire. When the man is found dead, Rebecca is in line to inherit the vast majority of his fortune.
Not the most original of plots, but hey, sometimes simple works best. Then again, maybe the filmmakers thought to cast Madonna as the lead and having her get naked was enough of a draw. Anyway, all seems well until suspicion for the man’s death falls squarely on Rebecca’s shoulders, and she’s charged with murder. The district attorney is sure of Rebecca’s guilt and will do whatever it takes t ensure she goes to jail and never sees a penny of the man’s money.
With her freedom in the balance, Rebecca hires Frank Delaney as her defense attorney. Frank is a respected lawyer with a wife and a family. Still, Rebecca’s seductive charms are too difficult for Frank to resist, and soon the two begin an affair. With Frank’s judgment now clouded, Rebecca tells him that she is innocent of the murder, but despite his attraction to her, Frank doesn’t trust Rebecca. Maybe it’s all the mind games she plays with him, or maybe he doesn’t trust her because Madonna cannot act and looked guilty even when we’re supposed to feel bad for her. Either way, good old Willem Defoe is in a deep heap of trouble!
To say that we all laughed throughout “Body of Evidence,” would be an understatement. We laughed because the movie takes itself so seriously that it’s funny. I get that they were going for a “Basic Instinct” tone, but that movie had a strong cast and a compelling story. “Body of Evidence” on the other hand, uses confusion instead of using mystery. The cast too doesn’t compare to “Basic Instinct.” Try as he might, Willem Dafoe couldn’t carry Madonna for almost two hours.
After bombs like “Bloodhounds of Broadway,” “Shanghai Surprise” and “Who’s That Girl?” I’m not sure why Madonna was the first choice to play Rebecca. I would say maybe someone at the studio saw her in “A League of Her Own,” and liked her work there. But “Body of Evidence” would have been deep into production by the time that movie hit theaters. So more than likely, someone at the studio said: “Show her naked 4 or 5 times, that should do the trick.”
“Body of Evidence” also has some weird moments that I thought would lead to something later int the film, but never did. For example: Throughout the trial, Willem Dafoe is reprimanded constantly by the judge. I’m sure there was a reason or this, but I don’t think it was ever explained. In another odd trial moment, when Dafoe is delivering his opening remarks to the jury, the camera focuses on an attractive young female juror.
The shot lasted long enough to let the audience know this woman was important. She gives Dafoe a sexy look. I took it as either she’ll seduce him too, or she’s in the jury to fix it one way or the other. But no, I was wrong. The woman is never mentioned again that I can recall, she turns out to be just an extra trying to grab Dafoe’s attention.
Maybe some stuff got left on the editing room because apparently “Body of Evidence” was originally rated NC-17. I didn’t know this at the time, so maybe that cut of the film had answers to these weird moments.
When my friends and I left the theater, we left disappointed. Even though we laughed our heads off and saw Madonna’s boobs a couple of times, it felt like we just had a couple of hours we’d never get back. While “Basic Instinct” was entertaining in a number of ways, “Body of Evidence” had me wondering who the hell greenlit this thing.
Oh well, thankfully it wasn’t all bad news. At least Willem Dafoe and Julianne Moore went on to bigger and better things after this movie.