Turner Turns on the Heat

By Stu Kobak 

       As hot and sizzling as director Lawrence Kasdan tried to make Body Heat, it was the blatant sexuality of Kathleen Turner in her big screen debut that supplied the real fire of the film. Turner, 27 at the time, had appeared in some television soaps before Kasdan found his modern femme fatale for Body Heat. There is no mistaking the glamour that emanates from every bit of Kathleen Turner. She was a perfect choice for Matty Walker. 
     It would be easy to imagine Turner cast in a succession of femme fatale roles after igniting the screen in Body Heat, but whether by choice or chance, Turner has had the opportunity to show off an interesting acting range, proving herself more the droll comedienne than a screen hot lady.
     The fact is that Turner has never quite managed to replicate the astounding sexuality of that debut performance. Most of her films since have favored her comic side, often poking fun at her own sensuality. In The Man With Two Brains, which followed Body Heat, Turner is the object of Steve Martinís desire, while coldly avoiding his caresses. Here Turner, immediately understanding how close to parody her noir queen of Body Heat is, letting herself loose on the comic world. The next Turner film was so overtly sexual it probably turned her away from portrayals of such dark passions women permanently. Crimes Of Passion, as directed by Ken Russell, stars Turner as China Blue, fashion designer by day, hooker by night. Sounds like some sex-crazed super-woman, and while Turner is convincing, the film is so bizarre, it provokes laughter at the wrong moments.
     In some ways Turnerís career has failed to meet the expectations set up by Matty Walker in Body Heat. A number of the actressí films have done terrific box office, like Peggy Sue Got Married and Romancing The Stone. She often has seemed the canny artist in assaying roles from the all-too-protective mom in the camp John Waters film Serial Mom to another mom, the former CIA operative on New Orleans sabbatical in the critically lambasted Undercover Blues. In both these films, Turnerís comic instincts and deadpan delivery thrive. With the devious hit-woman of Prizziís Honor and the embattled housewife, is the brilliant, dark comedy, The War Of The Roses. Turner's work in recent years has been sparse. One assumes her focus has been on bringing up a family. Her best recent role is as agent Dee Dee Taylor in the very funny satire The Real Blonde.  Who would have expected that the neo-noir head-turner of Body Heat would have a career highlighted by mostly comic high points? Still, I miss Matty Walker.



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