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Heavenly Bodies

Heavenly Bodies(1985)

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teaser Heavenly Bodies (1985)

Awash in the leg-warmers and spandex style of mid-Eighties fashion, the Canadian-made cult film Heavenly Bodies (1984) may offer more "dancercize" action than even the most hardcore hard body can stand. Capitalizing on the phenomenon of the Jennifer Beals aerobics potboiler Flashdance (1983), Heavenly Bodies attempts to ride that aerobics-centric film's coattails and make a buck from the combination of Lycra and gyrating pretty young things.

When the film opens best pals Samantha Blair (Cynthia Dale), KC (Patricia Idlette) and Patty (Pam Henry) are working soulless office jobs and dreaming of the day when they can realize their real dream: to open a mega-jazzercize complex where Samantha will teach. When they locate an industrial warehouse in a remote part of town, their new careers are launched as owners of Heavenly Bodies.

The women quickly find an eager audience for pretty single mom Samantha's high-energy classes, but complications to their perfect plan naturally ensue. When Samantha lands a job as an aerobics instructor on the local morning TV show, she enters a bitter rivalry with calculating blonde Debbie (Laura Henry) an aerobic instructor at Samantha's competitor health club, the Sporting Life. Anxious to get even with Samantha for winning the TV spot, the jealous Debbie sics her own boyfriend, Sporting Life guru Jack Pearson (Walter George Alton) on Samantha. Jack first attempts to seduce Samantha. When that plan fails Debbie hatches a plan to buy Samantha's exercise studio out from under her. In a hare brained effort to keep the club open, Samantha proposes the Eighties version of a Depression-era dance marathon. In a televised exercise "dance-off" with the Sporting Life crew, Samantha vows to keep Heavenly Bodies open, if only her team can out-dancercize their opponents.

In the meantime, a hot and heavy romance with football star Steve (Richard Rebiere)--whose wisecracking buddies have been taking classes at Heavenly Bodies--becomes complicated when he expects Samantha to just pick up and follow him to Chicago where he wants to open up a restaurant.

Filled with copious leering shots of torsos and thighs in action, Heavenly Bodies was rightfully called out in a New York Times review by Vincent Canby for having "the manner and look of the world's longest music video." The film features pop music of the era including Bonnie Pointer ("Heaven"), Sparks ("Breaking Out of Prison"), The Tubes ("Out of Control"), Cheryl Lynn ("At Last You're Mine") and Dazz Band ("Work It").

Co-produced by Playboy, there is evidence of that men's magazine's influence in those endless shots of huffing and puffing hotties. Additional sexual sparks are attempted, rather unsuccessfully, in an embarrassingly prolonged sex scene between Steve and Samantha and in another moment where Samantha orders up a topless woman to deliver a dominatrix-gram to Steve as he works out at Heavenly Bodies. The sexual innuendo reaches a climax of bad taste when Samantha breathes lustily to an unseen companion "I'm tired darling. Don't you think you've had enough?" Cut to Samantha's adorable little son Joel (Stuart Stone) lounging in bed for a story with his sexy mother. In another questionable moment, Joel, who has been reading Tom Sawyer asks his mother about a word he has come across in the book: "orgies."

Directed by Canadian character actor Lawrence Dane (Happy Birthday to Me, Scanners, both 1981), Heavenly Bodies is largely redeemed by the charming turn by star Cynthia Dale, most often remembered for My Bloody Valentine (1981) but who has also appeared in Moonstruck (1987) and more recently on television's Baxter (2010-2011). Though the location of Heavenly Bodies is never stated, the film was shot on location in Toronto. The choreography by Brian Foley, is remarkably good, turning all of those aerobics classes into carefully choreographed dance routines, though most critics tended to dismiss Heavenly Bodies as Canadian-exploitation with its cast reconstituted from other Canadian B-movies.

Producer: Robert Lantos, Stephen J. Roth
Director: Lawrence Dane
Screenplay: Lawrence Dane, Ron Base
Cinematography: Thomas Burstyn
Film Editing: Robert K. Lambert
Cast: Cynthia Dale (Samantha Blair), Richard Rebiere (Steve), Walter George Alton (Jack Pearson), Laura Henry (Debbie Martin), Stuart Stone (Joel Blair), Patricia Idlette (KC), Pam Henry (Patty), Linda Sorenson (T.V. Producer), Reiner Schwartz (T.V. Director), Cec Linder (Walter Matheson).

by Felicia Feaster

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