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Body Parts Reviews

BODY PARTS was adapted from the novel Choice Cuts, by French writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the respected team who wrote Diabolique, filmed in 1955 by Henri-Georges Clouzot, and The Living and the Dead, on which Alfred Hitchcock based VERTIGO. The screenplay was co-written by director Eric Red, whose screenplays for THE HITCHER and NEAR DARK evinced a knack for invigorating genre conventions. Despite this prestigious pedigree, BODY PARTS is somewhat less than the sum of its parts. Dr. Bill Crushank (Jeff Fahey), a respected psychiatrist, is in all respects a normal, happy guy. He has a lovely home, a beautiful wife, Karen (Kim Delaney), two bright and loving children. But fate throws him a curve ball. Following a devastating automobile accident, he's rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Cool Dr. Alice Webb (Lindsay Duncan) breaks the additional bad news to his sobbing wife: Crushank's right arm has been severed, and it's too damaged to reattach. But experimental surgery offers hope: Dr. Webb gets Karen's permission to graft a new arm in place of the old one. After months of physical therapy, Crushank seems to have adjusted to his new limb. But he's haunted by nightmares and driven by strange impulses. He becomes moody, even violent, snapping at his children and manhandling Karen. Suspicious, he gets a friend at the police department to run his right fingerprints, and learns that his new arm once belonged to a sadistic murderer, Charlie Fletcher, who was executed for his crimes. Crushank tracks down two other transplant patients, Remo Lacey (Brad Dourif), a painter who was given the killer's other arm, and Mark Draper (Peter Murnik), who received his legs. Lacey is delighted with the results of his transplant: since the operation his painting has taken a turn for the dramatic and is selling vigorously. Crushank is horrified: the images are the same ones that have been haunting his nightmares. Draper seems uneasy but says he has no complaints; he's simply glad to be walking again. Is it possible that Charlie Fletcher's evil personality is somehow present in his flesh? Soon after, both Lacey and Draper are murdered, and their bodies mutilated--the transplanted limbs are missing. The police are skeptical of Crushank's story, until Fletcher himself, his head strapped into an elaborate brace, attacks him. In the ensuing car chase, Fletcher escapes. Crushank returns to the hospital to confront Webb, and kills Fletcher for the second time. With Fletcher dead, Crushank finds peace. BODY PARTS is visually polished, especially in scenes shot at night. The sequence in which Crushank receives his new arm is a standout, capturing the nightmarish quality of high-tech surgery and combining it with a series of disturbing details. Why, one wonders, does the operating room seem to be full of state troopers with shotguns? The image of Fletcher in the elaborate, fetishistic brace that attaches his head to a donor body is eerily effective, even though it owes much to Karl Freund's MAD LOVE (1935) starring Peter Lorre. The film suffers from high-minded silliness, an excess of philosophical exchange on the nature of the soul and its relationship to the flesh--the idea permeates the material, so it's hardly necessary to discuss it at such painfully concrete and demystifying length. Perhaps the film's most ludicrous image is that of Fletcher staggering from his burning car, the limbs he's stolen back from Lacey and Draper hung around his neck; it's not meant as comic relief, but it's terribly funny. BODY PARTS received some macabre publicity when its national release coincided with the arrest, amidst grisly reports of butchered bodies and cannibalism, of serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer in Milwaukee. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations.)