"Kathleen Turner ... has a beautiful, long-legged figure, big cheekbones, big teeth, flaring nostrils, and a hoarse, moaning voice that sounds like an aroused foghorn. One knows that Kasdan selected her for the late Jane Greer/Lana Turner pure-forties sluttishness, but there's no soul, no actress there. (There's no face either, just features. Having seen the movie twice, I can't exactly remember what Miss Turner looks like--a blanking-out effect produced by actors without much character.) She's sultry yet humorless, an embarrassing combination, and she moans everything--even the most straightforward expository lines."
David Denby, New York, August 31, 1981
“Miss Turner has angry eyes.… No matter how obliging, overwarm, and available her Matty made herself in [Body Heat], didn’t the eyes warn us of danger and intrigue too heady for Ned Racine? She could not keep the warning light of Femme Fatale out of her eyes. It was still there, at the end, when Matty is tanning in her listless paradise. She should have stayed home and fed on weak men forever.
“It was a remarkable debut, a begging part in a clever, funny celebration of male disaster. Along with her eyes was a voice that had an unaccountable harshness.... There was a strength in the woman that seemed likely to break out. It was not entirely comfortable….”
David Thomson, A Biographical Dictonary of Film, Third Edition (1993), p. 760
“….And what a woman! Kathleen Turner’s Matty Walker is right up there with Jane Greer in Out of the Past as what the late James Agee was wont to describe as a 'dish.' Just when we were beginning to wonder if there was anything on the screen in the realm of the filmic feminine between Bo Derek and Meryl Streep, there has emerged a succession of full-bodied females lacking neither intelligence nor sensuality. Kathleen Turner joins Jessica Lange in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Lisa Eichhorn in Cutter’s Way, and Kate Nelligan in The Eye of the Needle, among others, as torchbearers of grown-up passions....
“Kathleen Turner comes from the television soaps ..., and there is nothing extraordinarily original about the enticingly predatory character of her Matty Walker. We see a clone of Matty Walker almost every week on television in one private eye series or another. The brainy dame with the bottom line etched in the depths of her soul represents the noirish side of the woman’s movement. Still, there are dames and there are dames. Turner and Kasdan provide Matty Walker with extra does of wit and relentlessness. The first pick-up scene of Hurt and Turner bears comparison with the best of Bogey and Bacall in To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep….”
Andrew Sarris, Village Voice, September 2-8, 1981
Postscript. ‘Katleen Turner Turns a Corner’ with Romancing the Stone in 1984: “One might say a star is born when one begins mentally casting her for everything in sight. And so it is for me with Kathleen Turner at this moment in film history….” Village Voice, April ?, 1984
‘…. Kasdan has found an actress (Kathleen Turner) who is tall and has a lovely voice. But he poses her with such diligence that if she has any sensuality in her it’s completely blocked. In general, the most embarrassing thing a performer can do is to act more sexy than he or she appears to be, and Kasdan has led Turner into this trap, but she’s so remote that she isn’t even embarrassing. She lures a lawyer (William Hurt) who’s a chump to murder her rich husband (Richard Crenna), as if she were following the marks on the floor made by the actresses who preceded her. If we felt that this siren enjoyed her perversity and control—as Barbara Stanwyck did in Double Indemnity—there’d be some humor, at least, in her ensnarement of the lawyer. Or if she had Stanwyck’s smeary mouth and cheap, teasing way of rubbing against her fall guy, there’d be the suggestion of zingy, nasty sex. But what she’s hiding never peeps through. She’s groomed and cultivated, like Lauren Bacall in a fool’s reverie….”
Pauline Kael, The New Yorker, November 9, 1981
“The great film noirs of the ‘40s and ‘50s mirrored a realization that seemed to hit postwar America all at once: that even in utopia, in a land flushed with victory and prosperity, personal destinies could remain terrifying…. Most of the best film noirs … are about fairly ordinary men living dangerously ordinary lives, until something crosses their path and sets their darkest dreams aflame…. [T]he black cats are usually women, and extraordinary women at that—women who know that they’re igniting dreams, and know how to make those dreams seem to come true. Femmes fatales.
“We don’t often see film noirs these days, and maybe that’s because we don’t often see femmes fatales in the movies. This is a consequence of the age. The willful, ravenous sexuality of a Rita Hayworth, a Barbara Stanwyck, or a Jane Greer is out of fashion now, and that’s not because women don’t want to see it (the femme fatales is, after all, alive and well and living in the soap operas). It’s because the men don’t. Groping for the meaning of masculinity, contemporary men may find the broad-shouldered she-wolves of the ‘40s and ‘50s a bit threatening; how much easier it is to contemplate the innocent, vulnerable sexuality of child-women like Farrah Fawcett, Brooke Shields, or Bo Derek. But what would happen if a modern shlub met a classic femme fatale? Perhaps he would turn away and dismiss her, thinking, “It’s only a movie.” Then again, he might be too big a dreamer for that. Perhaps he would be like the feckless lawyer William Hurt plays in Lawrence Kasdan’s bewitching new movie Body Heat…-- a movie in which the femme fatale returns to the screen and brings all the humid glamour of the film noir with her.
“…. [V]ery quickly we learn that Ned’s a third-rate womanizer and a fourth-rate barrister; that he lives in a crummy little town near Miami, and that he probably always will…. [O]ne night, at an outdoor dance, … a woman rises out of the audience like an apparition—a woman in a white dress, with cascading hair and a cool, sensual walk. Hurt plays the scene beautifully: when he sees her, he looks as if he’d been slapped. The very existence of this elegant, long-legged beauty casts his whole life into shadow. The nurses [he usually went for], the clients, the town, the heat—all feel unutterably shabby and degrading. This woman is like a sex goddess from an old movie, but she seems more real than anything he knows. And so he has no choice. He follows her….
“The movie stands or falls with Hurt’s performance, … one of the most exciting movie performances of the year….
“But Kathleen Turner, a newcomer who’s worked in the soaps, has some awkward scenes, and so does the movie… Turner destroys a pivotal sequence in which she has to breathe one of Kasdan’s worst lines: ‘I’d kill myself if I thought this thing would destroy us.’ She isn’t a terrific actress, but she doesn’t have to be: she only has to be a terrific image. If you leave Body Heat struggling to remember what she looks like, that’s not because she’s not memorable—with her flaring, hungry nostrils and her husky voice, she is. It’s because Kasdan makes her flicker: she’s the fire in Body Heat. And like the femme fatale in every film noir, she’s also the ice.”
Stephen Schiff, The Boston Phoenix, Sept. 22, 1981