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Theatrical release poster
Theatrical release poster

Body of Evidence is a 1993 American erotic thriller film produced by Dino De Laurentiis and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and originally had the rare NC-17 rating.[3] It was directed by Uli Edel and written by Brad Mirman. The film stars Madonna and Willem Dafoe,[4] with Joe Mantegna, Anne Archer, Julianne Moore and Jürgen Prochnow in supporting roles.

The first theatrical release was censored for the purpose of obtaining an R rating, reducing the film's running time from 101 to 99 minutes.[5] The video premiere, however, restored the deleted material. Madonna's performance in the film was universally derided by film critics and it marked her fourth film acting performance to be widely panned, following Shanghai Surprise, Who's That Girl and Bloodhounds of Broadway.[6]

In France and Japan, the film was released under the name Body. In Japan, Madonna's other 1993 film Dangerous Game was released there as Body II even though the films have nothing in common nor are related to each other in narrative.


An older man, Andrew Marsh, views a homemade pornographic tape. It is later revealed that Marsh died from complications stemming from erotic asphyxiation. The main suspect is the woman who has sex with Marsh in the film, Rebecca Carlson, who after being charged with murder is represented by lawyer Frank Dulaney. As the trial begins, Carlson and Dulaney enter a sadomasochistic sexual relationship behind the back of Dulaney's unsuspecting wife.

During their first sexual encounter, Dulaney, overcome by lust, notices too late that Carlson is tying his arms behind his back using his own belt. Carlson pushes him onto the bed, removes his underwear, and while he is restrained, humiliates him by pouring hot candle wax on his chest, stomach, and genitals, amused by Dulaney's frustration and increasingly desperate reactions. The two then have sex, with Carlson in complete control, an obvious counterpoint to their relationship in the courtroom, where Dulaney is the one in control.

Carlson proclaims her innocence to Dulaney in private and in court, but District Attorney Robert Garrett seeks to prove that Carlson deliberately killed Marsh in bed to receive the $8 million he left her in his will. The testimony of Marsh's private secretary, Joanne Braslow, reveals that he had a sexual relationship with Braslow that could have contributed to his death, casting a reasonable doubt as to Carlson's guilt.

Dulaney maligns Carlson with accusations of her withholding information from him, threatening to drop her as a client and end their affair. In response, Carlson contacts Dulaney's wife and discloses the affair. When Dulaney's wife confronts him, he initially plays it off as if she is paranoid, but is unable to deny telltale evidence. Dulaney goes to Carlson's home and confronts her, which ends with them having rough sex on the floor. When Carlson pulls out handcuffs, Dulaney cuffs her hands to her bedpost and roughly initiates sex with her.

Carlson is shown in court to have had previous sexual relationships with a number of older rich men, including Jeffery Roston, in which her lovemaking was just as rough. Roston says that she abruptly ended their relationship when he got heart surgery and became healthier. Carlson's testimony convinces the jury, which acquits her. Before leaving court, she mockingly thanks Dulaney for getting a guilty client off, fully aware that he cannot repeat what she said and that she cannot be tried twice for the same crime.

That night, Dulaney visits Carlson's home, where he finds her with Marsh's doctor, Alan Payley, freely discussing the way they conspired to kill Marsh. She taunts Payley by telling him to lie low, as he could be convicted of perjury, and tells him to leave because she has already forgotten him. Carlson bluntly tells Dulaney that her sexual prowess is how she is able to make men do anything. An enraged Payley lashes out at Carlson physically and, after Dulaney pulls him off, Payley shoots her twice. She plunges from a window to her death.


Reception and controversy

The film was nominated for six Golden Raspberries, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Willem Dafoe), Worst Director, Worst Supporting Actress (Anne Archer) and Worst Screenplay, with Madonna winning Worst Actress.[8] It also appeared on the 2005 list of Roger Ebert's most hated films. The screenplay and performances were especially disparaged.[9] Body of Evidence has an 8% rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews.

Gene Siskel called Body of Evidence a "stupid and empty thriller" that is worse than her softcore coffee table book Sex.[10]

Body of Evidence performed poorly at the box office.[11] In its second week it experienced a 60% drop.[12]

See also

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