With the screenplays for Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back under his belt, Lawrence Kasdan was ready to try his hand at directing. His freshman effort proved to be a stunner: Body Heat, a super-steamy update of the classic Double Indemnity, in which a sleazy Florida lawyer (William Hurt) falls for a routinely naked woman (Kathleen Turner) who needs help in knocking off her husband. It’s a spectacular piece of neo-noir — honoring its predecessor while still finding its own energy — and it opened today in 1981.
The same day saw the release of Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, the tale of a pair of Australian runners who end up in the middle of the disastrous attempted invasion of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Weir delivers a sobering meditation on the futility and waste of war, as well as a deeply personal story of the young men who paid the price for it. Not even the presence of Mel Gibson in an early role can distract from the power on display. The film also opened in 1981.