THIS is how I plan to spend my Halloween…
Isn’t this one of the most iconic images in film? A pig-blood-drenched Carrie White, about to exact revenge on her tormentors…a great Halloween horror film, and just one of the many Brian DePalma masterpieces…so let’s take a trip back and dip into some of the master’s greatest shockers!
Brian DePalma has directed some of the best films ever – classics such as “Scarface” and “Phantom Of The Paradise”, which I covered earlier, as well as “The Untouchables” and “Mission: Impossible” – and more recent works like “Femme Fatale”…but for a period in the late 70’s and early 80’s, DePalma was creating brilliant thrillers that evoked the best of Alfred Hitchcock – more on that later…
DePalma revamped the sexploitation film – taking what was a drive-in staple of the 70’s and turning them into high class, glossy thrillers with strong female characters who were empowered – and preyed upon. Let’s get started!
Dressed To Kill – 1980
A mysterious, tall, blonde woman, wearing sunglasses murders one of a psychiatrist’s patients, and now she’s after the prostitute who witnessed it.
DePalma pushed the envelope with this 1980 thriller starring Angie Dickinson, who bared all to tell the story of a sexually-repressed married woman who pays the ultimate price for her indiscretion…and unleashes a killer who can’t be stopped.
Angie Dickinson said the scene where her character gets seduced in the back of a cab was filmed on location in New York, where several gawkers observed the scene and shouted, “Right on, Police Woman!” (referring to her previous TV role).
Michael Caine stars as her Psychiatrist – who is also treating a much more unstable patient, Bobbi. And he must take calls like this:
Voice of Bobbi: “Don’t make me be a bad girl again!”
Bobbi is now on a roll, and the Psychiatrist has much more to worry about…
Voice of Bobbi: “This is Bobbi. You won’t see me anymore, so I thought I’d have a little session with your machine. Oh Doctor, I’m so unhappy. I’m a woman trapped inside a man’s body–and you’re not helping me to get out! So I got a new shrink, Levy’s his name, he’s gonna sign the papers so I can get my operation. Oh…I borrowed your razor…and–well, you’ll read all about it. Some blonde bitch saw me, but I’ll get her.”
Nancy Allen is the blonde that Bobbi must kill also, and it’s up to Angie Dickinson’s son to team with her to catch his Mom’s killer – and save her. A classic thriller with an unrated blu-ray out that includes a ton of extra supplements!
Blow Out – 1981 DePalma teams up with John Travolta again for this classic, under-rated thriller!
A movie sound recordist accidentally records the evidence that proves that a car accident was actually murder and consequently finds himself in danger.
This is influcned by the 60’s classic “Blow Up”, but in this case, Travolta’s desire to capture sounds at night for his movies gets him involved in a political conspiracy – and gets him targeted by killer John Lithgow.
Quentin Tarantino stated in an interview that this film is his favorite Brian De Palma movie. In fact, Tarantino cast John Travolta in Pulp Fiction because he liked his performance in this movie so much.
DePalma sets this thriller during the bicentennial year of 1976 – and takes on political corruption at the core of America – it’s got a downbeat edge to it, which may have hurt it upon release –
Nancy Allen co-stars in what is now considered a masterpiece – and released in a terrific blu-ray special edition!
The Fury – 1978
Here is another little-known DePalma thriller – even though it was a huge smash hit when it was released in 1978.
Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes and Amy Irving – this is a followup for Irving, whose first movie ever was for DePalma’s “Carrie” in 1976.
Amy Irving met Steven Spielberg around this time and were married for several years before they divorced.
Here is the plot of “The Fury”: A secret US agency gathers children with para-psychologic abilities and trains them to become killers in war situations. One man refused to accept his son’s death, and uncovers a conspiracy.
For her role as a psychic with telepathic powers, Amy Irving attended a biofeedback clinic to learn about different levels of consciousness. After personally experiencing psychic changes, she had a better sense of how her character could transmit and receive messages.
Another conspiracy thriller that showcased DePalma’s obsession…and then, he shared his other great obsession:
Body Double – 1984
DePalma’s other obsession was sex. SEX. He pushed the boundaries in “Dressed To Kill”, and tore them apart in “Body Double.”
Melanie Griffith stars as “Holly Body”, and adult film star who is hired to be a “Body Double”…but not for a movie, for a murder plot!
Craig Wasson stars as the nebbish guy who stays in a house that his new “friend, Frank, asks him to house sit…
Frank shows him his ‘favorite neighbor’, a well built woman who strips with her window open each night. Jake becomes obsessed with meeting her and is able to help recover her purse from a thief, but shows his own phobia, he is incapacitated by claustrophobia when the thief runs through a tunnel. When Jake witnesses a murder, he finds out that the police love to pin crimes on peeping Toms. Jake discovers that here are just too many coincidences but must hunt them down himself without the police.
Porn star Annette Haven was originally cast for the role of “Holly”, but Columbia Pictures decided to turn her down when their executives saw what kind of movies she had been making. Haven later stated that she was happy because of that, because she hadn’t liked the script and hadn’t liked to be in a film with gory violence.
Brian De Palma originally planned for this to be the first Hollywood film to boast unsimulated sex scenes. That didn’t happen, but an unrated blu-ray shows off a ton of nudity and more…
Carrie – 1976. And then there is “Carrie”, simply the greatest thriller ever made! I mean, how can you top this opening credits sequence, when Carrie takes a shower after gym class and discovers an unknown horror…
After her class mates taunt her about her horrified reaction to her totally unexpected first period one of them takes pity on her and gets Tommy Ross, her boyfriend and class hunk to invite Carrie to the senior prom. Meanwhile another girl who has been banned from the prom for her continued aggressive behaviour is not as forgiving and plans a trick to embarrass Carrie in front of the whole school. What she doesn’t realize is that Carrie is … gifted, and you really don’t want to get her angry.
George Lucas and Brian De Palma held a joint audition for Carrie and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. There is a long-standing rumor that originally, Sissy Spacek was cast as Princess Leia, and Carrie Fisher as Carrie, but when Fisher refused to appear in nude scenes and Spacek was willing to do them, they switched parts. However, Fisher refuted this story in a Premiere magazine article called “The Force Wasn’t With Them,” about actors who auditioned unsuccessfully for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. That article quoted Fisher as saying, “Not only do I love being nude, I would’ve been nude then… But anyway, it’s total bullshit that Fisher refused to play Carrie.”
In a 2010 interview with “The A.V. Club”, P.J. Soles said that Steven Spielberg often came to the set at Brian De Palma’s invitation because DePalma told him that there were “a lot of cute girls down here.”
Soles said that Spielberg asked out most of the women on the set, Soles included, and Amy Irving was the only one who accepted. Irving and Spielberg were married from 1985-1989 and had one son together.
John Travolta broke out big in as small role as Billy Nolen, a punk who just wants to make his girlfriend, Chris Hargenson, happy. Chris is played by DePalma favorite Nancy Allen. Their big dramatic scene takes place underneath the stage where Carrie White is about to be crowned homecoming queen:
Billy Nolen: Keep the light straight!
Chris Hargenson: [blood drops onto the flashlight] Watch it, you stupid shit, you’re getting blood all over the place!
Billy Nolen: [starts laughing] Who are you calling a stupid shit? I mean you can’t even keep that fuckin’ light straight
Chris Hargenson: [whines] Just hurry up, I wanna go home!
Billy Nolen: [drawls] Yes, Ma’am! We’re doing the BEST we can, we sure are!
Billy Nolen: Just keep your tits on, and I’ll let you pull the rope
Chris Hargenson: I intend to
Billy Nolen: I know
Piper Laurie was Oscar-noiminated as Carrie’s crazy, religious Mom…in a virtuoso performance that was central to the film’s success…
Margaret White: “I should’ve killed myself when he put it in me. After the first time, before we were married, Ralph promised never again. He promised, and I believed him. But sin never dies. Sin never dies. At first, it was all right. We lived sinlessly. We slept in the same bed, but we never did it. And then, that night, I saw him looking down at me that way. We got down on our knees to pray for strength. I smelled the whiskey on his breath. Then he took me. He took me, with the stink of filthy roadhouse whiskey on his breath, and I liked it. I liked it! With all that dirty touching of his hands all over me. I should’ve given you to God when you were born, but I was weak and backsliding, and now the devil has come home. We’ll pray.
Margaret White: We’ll pray. We’ll pray. We’ll pray for the last time. We’ll pray.”
“Carrie” is a masterpiece, and brilliantly directed by a master filmmaker – check out all of the special editions DVD’s and Blu-rays that delve into these terrific films!