Body of Evidence (1993)

body of evidence


Death by Sexy !

In which Madonna kills with sex. Or does she? A jury decides.

Body of Evidence is the Shannon Tweed movie that Shannon Tweed turned down. It was made shortly after Madonna invented sex and wanted to commemorate the event via a triptych of movie, album (Erotica) and imaginatively titled coffee-table book (Sex).

The plot revolves around the extremely pale, extremely blonde Rebecca Carlson (Madonna), whose much older lover is found dead following a particularly vigorous love making session. The Police take one look at the nipple clamps by the bed and the home-made porno in the VCR and suspect foul (sex) play, so they haul Carlson downtown and demand to know if her lady parts have robbed a man of his life essence.

Enter defence attorney, Frank Delany (Willem Dafoe). He’s not too sure about Carlson but he is sure that you can’t boff someone to death, as he helpfully explains to his wife (Julianne Moore) and his way-too-young-for-this-conversation son over dinner one night.

Despite his initial reservations, Frank takes the case, works diligently to get his client off and it isn’t long before she’s returning the favour.

If boning his client doesn’t muddy the attorney-client waters enough, it’s soon revealed that Carlson may have tried to kill-with-coitus before. Thus, Frank becomes trapped in a moral, ethical and legal quagmire that in no way dissuades him from having sex with his client in a filthy parking garage on a bed of broken glass.


Arriving hot on the heels of Basic Instinct (1990), Body of Evidence mimicked its
femme-fatale and over the top sex scenes, but then upped the ante by casting the biggest female recording artist in the world as its lead. To all involved the movie must have seemed like a guaranteed hit, but instead of being trashy fun Body of Evidence is just trash.

Sure, at first glance Madonna appears to suit the Rebecca Carlson character down to the ground. She’s divisive, direct and refuses to be ashamed of her adventurous sex life, even as she’s grilled about it by a room full of male police officers. Unfortunately, Madonna’s performance is so flat and empty the film makers might have well stapled some blonde hair to an envelope and put it in front of the camera. Still, even with a better actress in the lead role, this film would still have “issues”.

Body of Evidence contains many an erotic thriller trope: Curtains billow, a saxophone wails and a wanton woman is punished for her transgressions. Unfortunately, it also features an unpleasant Last-Tango-in-Paris-flavoured sequence in which, Frank, annoyed by Carlson’s deceit and frustrated by her complete lack of shame, roughs her up, handcuffs her to a bedpost and assaults her. The film makers probably thought this scene was provocative and envelope pushing, but in reality its about as erotic as a cheese grater to the genitals.

The finished product is a confused, “loose women will be punished” morality tale with a bit of S&M window dressing.

Was this what Madonna signed on for?

A film that reinforced the same outdated, archaic attitudes towards female sexuality that she’d had been thumbing her nose at her entire career.

Or did something else happen?

Was the original ending of this film one in which Carlson is exonerated and sails off into the sunset with a suitcase full of money and a sly little smile on her face? Then, when Madonna was cast, was that ending hastily rewritten to one in which she, the biggest recording artist in the world, was assaulted then violently murdered?

Because, when you watch this film, it’s very hard to shake the feeling that someone, somewhere, was trying to teach Madonna a lesson.

Or, maybe I’m reading too much into it.


If you’re going to watch Body of Evidence, (which I wouldn’t recommend) here are some things to watch out for:

  • Attention to detail:

Body of evidence contains an astonishing amount of it, most of it revolving around Madonna’s eyebrows. Which become fuller and darker when her truer, more ‘evil’ self is eventually emerges. As it does with all women.

  • Julianne Moore:

Who looks older in a film made in 1991 than she does in 2018.

Evidence of a pact with Satan or a supernaturally-talented plastic surgeon?

  • Frank Langella’s sepulchral rumblings:

Particularly when he delivers the line: “she said she wanted to f#&* me like I’d never been f#&*ed before.”

Which is the monologue I’ll choose should I ever audition for RADA.

  • Madonna:

Wearing underpants so big they can only be described as shorts. Which I am all for.

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