Full Body Massage Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: November 14, 2023
Video: 1.66:1 & 1.33:1/1080p/Color
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 93:05
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Nina (Mimi Rogers), a successful but world-weary art dealer, is surprised to find that her regular masseur has sent a substitute, Fitch (Bryan Brown), to continue her weekly massage sessions. Fitch’s therapeutic caresses, while charged with sexual tension, gain emotional significance as the opinionated pair first clash and then bond while relaying thoughtful meditations on intimacy and human relationships. Free to discuss her life, hopes, and failures, Nina is liberated from her confused world, indulging in a strange, erotic mysticism with her handy muse. (From Unearthed Films’ official synopsis)
The early ‘90s were a transitional period for adult entertainment. Hardcore porn was available for rent and sale, but, with the internet still in its infancy, you’d have to venture outdoors to find it. Those that wanted to stay home to watch smut, had a disapproving partner at home, or were too young to legally rent 18+ entertainment, needed access to a cable subscription. Assuming expensive pay-per-view rentals weren’t a viable option, either, most people turned to premium channels for their softcore fix. Only available late at night, premium cable adult entertainment steadily blossomed into its own mini-industry, most famously from Cinemax, whose Max After Dark line helped earn the station the schoolyard moniker Skinemax. While HBO tended to either air hard-R-rated movies or adult documentary series, like Real Sex (1990-2009) in late night slots, Showtime, content to make crime thrillers and B-horror/sci-fi movies (many as part of their Roger Corman Presents line), only occasionally challenged Cinemax’s supremacy. Despite their mediocre overall quality, Showtime managed to attract name talent behind the camera for their originals, including William Friedkin (Jailbreakers, 1994), Joe Dante (Runaway Daughters, 1994), John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper (Body Bags, 1993), and Arthur Penn (Inside, 1996). Among these largely forgotten films lies the most unexpected skin-flick from an overqualified filmmaker to ever grace Showtime’s release slate: 1995’s Full Body Massage directed by none other than the BAFTA, Palme d’Or, and Golden Bear-nominated icon Nicolas Roeg. Sold by Showtime as an excuse to ogle an eyeful of Mimi Rogers, Full Body Massage is actually a chatty pseudo-reimagining of Jacques Rivette’s La Belle Noiseuse (1991), described by Rogers herself as “My Dinner with Andre (1981) with a massage table.” It doesn’t scrimp on nudity or sensuality, but, based on the title and time slot, audiences probably weren’t expecting so many long, in-depth soliloquies on human nature and the philosophy of massage. The lack of actual sex scenes and growing sense of melancholy likely only compounded confusion.
Full Body Massage probably wasn’t the film that Nicolas Roeg fans were expecting, either, but it isn’t really out of step with his other work from the era. It was sandwiched between two movies he made for the TNT network – Heart of Darkness (1993), starring Tim Roth and John Malkovich, and Samson and Delilah (technically a miniseries, 1996), starring Dennis Hopper and Elizabeth Hurley – and premiered two months after his penultimate theatrical release, Two Deaths (1995). Remarkably, Two Deaths is a drama that, like Fully Body Massage, is centered on an unlikely relationship that spans social standing in which people confess profound truths while confined to an intimate space (a dinner table, instead of a massage table). Stylistically, Full Body Massage has the familiar sheen of a cable TV erotic fantasy, but that specific vibe actually fits the cool and deliberate tones of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and, if you really use your imagination, Walkabout (1971). Even the eroticism, despite the lurid haze, occasionally matches the delicate affection seen in the otherwise superior Don’t Look Now (1973).
Following its cable premiere, Full Body Massage was available on VHS from Paramount, but largely disappeared during the DVD and HD eras. The biggest Roeg and Rogers fans could import a disc from Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, where I imagine the film had a more substantial release, due to actor Bryan Brown being a star in the region. That and a Spanish disc from an unknown distributor were both presented in the 1.33:1 television aspect ratio. I assume that it must have been included with Showtime’s streaming service at some point, but can’t find empirical evidence of an HD version prior to this Blu-ray debut from Unearthed Films, who has included 1.66:1 and 1.33:1 options, both in 1080p. Given its relative obscurity, this is a surprisingly strong transfer that accurately reproduces cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond’s steely, clean photography, as well as fine film grain, minus too many obvious compression artifacts, save the slightest edge enhancement and some jitter during panning shots. The eclectic palette pops when necessary, details and textures are tidy, and the soft focus/high diffusion look of the flashbacks isn’t overly fuzzy. The minor print damage is typically represented by tiny white dots, though there are a few instances of blotchy mold or water damage.
Full Body Massage is presented in its original stereo and uncompressed LPCM 2.0 sound. The mix is simple and airy with a twinge of echo/reverb to really sell the scale of the main Modernist mansion set. The track is clean, though with a high enough sound floor to hear the vague hiss of the room. Harry Gregson-Williams’ smooth jazz score (sometimes diegetic, sometimes not) is the main stereo element throughout and fits the mixed salacious, sensual, and slightly silly tones of the film. It could use a bass boost, but the lack of discrete LFE channel isn’t Unearthed’s fault.
Unearthed Films trailers – Ryū Murakami’s Tokyo Decadence (1992) and Bruce R. Cook’s Nightwish (1989)
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.