The 1980s Film Starring Melanie Griffith as a Pornographic Actress

Pin It
Body Double, 1984(Film still)

In Body Double (1984), Brian De Palma merges the world of adult cinema with Hitchcockian tropes

“You’ve got to have a way to build up the tension and mystery. Just showing two people kissing and then making out in bed? There’s no illusion there! It’s very meat and potatoes. You might as well just turn the page! You’ve seen that scene a thousand times,” said divisive director Brian De Palma of how to shoot a sex scene. Certainly, this is a rule he followed when making his 1984 Hitchcockian follow-up to Scarface, titled Body DoubleThe film chronicles the story of actor Jake Scully (Craig Wasson), who has just lost his role as a Christopher Lee-cum-Divine-esque vampire in a hammy horror film, before arriving home to find his live-in girlfriend legs akimbo on top of another man – how unfortunate. Luckily for Jake, however, he is offered a place to stay in the Hollywood Hills, where he begins a voyeuristic affair with a woman living opposite him named Gloria Revelle (Deborah Shelton), most of which is played out through the eyepiece of a telescope. 

Until he witnesses and is framed for her murder, that is. Determined to discover what led to his lover’s death by drilling (no, seriously – she is skewered by a slapstick power tool), Scully’s curiosity leads him down a Playboy Bunny-shaped rabbit hole into the world of adult cinema, where he stumbles upon Gloria’s body double, Holly Body, portrayed by Melanie Griffith. Initially dismissed as pornographic trash, the film also garnered critical acclaim, with Roger Ebert bestowing it with four and a half stars. “Since the plot is so important in Body Double, and because the movie contains so many nice surprises, I won’t reveal very much more of the story,” the late critic said in his review. Likewise, we will follow suit, revealing nothing except a few tips on how to dress more like Holly and Gloria, who exude a peak-1980s aesthetic throughout. 

1. Say it with sunglasses 

Gloria is seemingly being stalked by several men at once. This includes her husband disguised in prosthetic make-up – giving him the look of Antonio Banderas melted under a grill – and Scully himself, who claims that his pursuit of Mrs Revelle is simply because he is trying to protect her from said plasticine-faced predator (sure, hun). Like Gloria, to avoid unwanted attention from irritating men, simply slide on a pair of gargantuan sunglasses as you go about your daily business; a sartorial language that succinctly communicates ‘please leave me alone’. 

2. Keep your handbag close to you at all times

Gloria is at the beach simply minding her own business, when, to add insult to injury, her other half – still concealing his true identity with Worzel Gummidge-style prosthetics – snatches her monogrammed Louis Vuitton pochette from her hands and runs off with it. Scully, clearly outraged by the flagrant theft of luxury leather goods, bolts after him and manages to rescue the handbag and its contents. Let this be a lesson learned: keep a firm grip on the strap of your It Bag at all times.

3. Take pride in your tattooed buttocks

The decision to get tattooed on your ass is usually reserved for ‘daytime drunk’ moments, when one is holidaying pn the Costa del Sol and heavily under the influence of black sambuca. Said decision is usually deeply regretted, with the resulting ink appearing on an episode of Channel 4’s Tattoo Fixers months later. Not for Holly Body, however, who bares her inked cheek – emblazoned with a sprig of holly, nonetheless – with pride.

4. Embrace the thong leotard 

In order to parade her precious tattoo around at all times, Holly opts for the high-legged, thong leotard as the central garment in most of her risqué ensembles. Whether leather and studded – with matching chaps and gloves – or gold lamé paired with 30-denier stockings, she knows how to work aerobics video realness with a touch of smut added in for good measure.

5. Brave the bleach

Holly’s crowning – pun intended – glory is her iconic blonde crop. Essentially a follicular hybrid of Pat Butcher and Pat Sharp’s mid-80s coiffs, on Melanie Griffith it is far more ‘YAS QUEEN’ than Queen Vic. A bottle of bleach and approximately nine and a half hours at the hairdressers is all it will take to emulate Griffith’s look; be brave and come to your appointment armed with plenty of small talk about where you’re going on holiday this summer.