Load Up For A Celebration of DePalma!
Brian DePalma is one of America’s greatest living Directors. Yet he doesn’t win Oscars, he doesn’t get much attention lately, and it’s a shame, because he has made some of the best movies of our generation.
DePalma one one of the 70’s true “new generation” movie masters: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas were his contemporaries – yet at one point he was more successful than all of them. I will be posting an additional list of his “classics”, which include “Carrie”, “Dressed To Kill” and “The Untouchables” among MANY more, but first I wanted to warm everyone up with his 80’s masterpiece – a movie that is one of the world’s most iconic, and introduced a generation to this line of dialogue, courtesy of Screenwriter Oliver Stone:
Here is a look at his best-known movie – a gangster classic that is quoted by virtually everyone, as well as two lesser-known gems that you should seek out!
Scarface – “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!”
Talk about a controversial blockbuster! “Scarface” is a modern day classic, but when it was released, it was very controversial – for many reason, not the least of which was Al Pacino’s depiction of young Cuban refugee Tony Montana, who wants to rule the world. And pays the price when he does…
When Fidel Castro opens the harbor at Mariel, Cuba, he sends 125,000 Cuban refugees to reunite with their relatives in the United States. Among all the refugees, there is one who wants it all, his name is Tony Montana. Tony and his friend Manny arrive in the United States and after showing his street smarts, Tony meets with drug kingpin Frank Lopez and falls for his boss’s girl, Elvira. Pretty soon Tony will know that those who want it all, do not last forever; that is the price of power. The world will know Montana by one name….SCARFACE.
Tony Montana: “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.”
The woman Tony wants is Michelle Pfeiffer – she is perfect as the bored, drug-addicted “trophy girlfriend”…
Once Tony makes it to the top, he quickly throws it all away, but forgetting that you NEVER touch your stash…your “yeyo”.
According to IMDB, which has a ton of great trivia about the movie, the word “yeyo” is used by Tony as a slang word for cocaine. This word was not in the script, and was adlibbed by Pacino during the first drug deal scene (chainsaw scene), and DePalma liked it enough to keep using it throughout the film. Pacino learned the word while learning the Cuban accent.
THE TONY MONTANA ACTION FIGURE!
Tony Montana: “What you lookin’ at? You all a bunch of fuckin’ assholes. You know why? You don’t have the guts to be what you wanna be? You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin’ fingers and say, “That’s the bad guy.” So… what that make you? Good? You’re not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don’t have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There’s a bad guy comin’ through! Better get outta his way!”
According to the “scorecard” feature on the Platinum Edition DVD, the word “fuck” and its derivatives are used 226 times for an average of 1.32 fucks per minute.
THE ICONIC DIALOGUE!
Tony Montana: You wanna fuck with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend!
Tony’s “little friend” is an M16 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel.
THE X-RATED “R” RATED SCARFACE!
THE BEST TRIVIA COURTESY OF IMDB: When director DePalma submitted the film to the MPAA they gave it an “X rating”. He then made some cuts and resubmitted it a second time; again the film was given an “X rating”. He yet again made some further cuts and submitted it a third time; yet again it was given an “X”. DePalma refused to cut the film any further to qualify it for an “R”. He and producer Martin Bregman arranged a hearing with the MPAA. They brought in a panel of experts, including real narcotics officers, who stated that the film was an accurate portrayal of real life in the drug underworld and should be widely seen.
This convinced the 20 members of the ratings board to give the third submitted cut of the film an “R rating” by a vote of 18-2. However DePalma surmised that if the third cut of the film was judged an “R” than the very first cut should have been an “R” as well. He asked the studio if he could release the first cut but was told that he couldn’t. However since the Studio execs really didn’t know the differences between the different cuts that had been submitted, DePalma released the first cut of the film to theaters anyway. It wasn’t until the film had been released on videocassette months later that he confessed that he had released his first unedited and intended version of the film.
A modern masterpiece, virtuoso filmmaking, an unforgettable main character, and filled with DePalma moments…a classic in every way!
In the 70’s DePalma was known for his amazing creativity – split screens, multiple screens, an always-moving camera, and intense thrillers that evoked the master, Alfred Hitchcock.
YOU SAY ‘HOMAGE, I SAY ‘THIEF!”
After attending a showing of Hitchcock’s classic “Vertigo” director Brian De Palma and writer Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) were inspired to come up with a film of their own mirroring Hitchcock’s classic film but taking it one step further.
Veteran Actor Cliff Robertson played New Orleans businessman Michael Courtland, whose life is shattered when his wife and daughter are tragically killed in a botched kidnap rescue attempt. Many years later while visiting Italy he meets and falls in in love with Sandra Portinari – played by Genevieve Bujold, who bears a striking resemblance to his wife.
Schrader wrote a script that had three parallel stories running simultaneously; one set in the past, one set in the present and one set in the future. Forced to trim the film, DePalma cut the future sequence at the suggestions of composer Bernard Herrmann and retitled “Deja Vu” to “Obsession”.
Alfred Hitchcock was reportedly furious when DePalma decided to make Obsession, because he thought it was a virtual remake of Vertigo.
This charge of movie plagiarism haunted DePalma for years, when in fact his films took inspiration from Hitchcok and ran with them in ways that Hitchcock never did…I will be profiling some of those films in my next post.
Phantom Of The Paradise – 1974.
This is one of my 5 favorite films EVER. It is DePalma’s first masterpiece, a re-telling of “Phantom Of The Opera”, set in the world of rock’n’roll. When Alex and I got married, our first dance was to a song from this film, “Old Souls.”
Paul Williams stars as Record producer Swan – who steals both the music and the girl (Phoenix) from composer Winslow Leach. Disfigured Leach plans revenge on Swan and his rock palace, The Paradise, and becomes The Phantom.
William Finley stars as Winslow Leach, a talented yet naive songwriter who falls in love with young singer Phoenix, played by Jessica Harper. Because he wants her to sing his songs, Leach signs a contract with Swan to complete rock opera based on the life of Faust for Phoenix.
Winslow quickly learns there is more to Swan than meets the eye – the moment he has to sign his lifetime contact.
Swan: [holding a contract] It’s all here. Read it carefully, then sign at the bottom in blood. Messy, I know, but it’s the only way to bind. Tradition.
Swan: Ink isn’t worth anything to me, Winslow.
According to William Finley, the record press in which his Winslow character was disfigured was a real pressing plant (it was an injection-molding press at an Ideal Toy Co. plant). He was worried about whether the machine would be safe, and the crew assured that it was. The press was fitted with foam pads (which resemble the casting molds in the press), and there were chocks put in the center to stop it from closing completely. Unfortunately, the machine was powerful enough to crush the chocks that it gradually kept closing. It was Finley’s speed and timing that saved him from truly being hurt, as he got his head out just in time. Incidentally, his scream in the scene was real.
Garrit Graham is hilarious as “Beef”, the singer that Swan secretly plans to open The Paradise with. “Beef” quickly realizes something is wrong, and wants out – especially when The Phantom visits him in his dressing room in a spot on, classic parody of Hitchcock’s shower scene from “Psycho.”
Beef: “There really is a phantom. He was just in my shower. He threatened my life. He said his music was for Phoenix. Only she can sing it. Anyone else who tries, dies.”
The film is full of great songs that parody everyone from The Beach Boys to David Bowie and Kiss – and includes the classic ballad sung by Harper, “Old Souls.”
“Phantom Of The Paradise” was a box office bomb when it was released, but thanks to home video, it has become re-discovered as one of DePalma’s masterpieces…really worth buying, because as the tour manager says bitterly to someone waiting in line for the show: “THIS CREEP GETS NO COMPS!”
More DePalma classics coming soon!