(1976/United Artists/Fox-MGM Blu-ray)
B Sound: B- Extras: C- Film: B
establishing himself as a makers of Hitchcockian thrillers with a difference,
starting with Sisters and after
being a counterculture experimental filmmaker, Brian De Palma became the first
person to adopt a Steven King novel in what was the first-ever adaptation of
any of King’s works to the big or small screen.
So many have followed, especially bad ones, but few have been as effective
and enduring as that of Carrie from
Spacek plays the title character, a young lady living in a small town with her
repressive and religiously fanatical mother (Piper Laurie in a chilling
performance) and one who has problems integrating into her high school. The prom is on the way as the lingering
targeting of Carrie White starts to take off when she has her first
menstruation in the school shower and seeing she does not know what it is, gets
mocked by all the girls in the locker room.
This does not make her coach (Betty Buckley) very happy and she takes it
out on the rest of the class (played very effectively by Amy Irving, Nancy
Allen and P.J. Soles among others) and when the coach ties the punishment to
the prom, they decide to take it out on Carrie.
to set up the most unpopular girl in the school to be the Prom Queen, they
recruit one of their male student friends (William Katt) who they intend to use
in ways he is not expecting to get to her and humiliate her at the peak of her
celebration. That includes an off-kilter
boyfriend (John Travolta) of one of the gals (Allen) who is particularly
vindictive. But what even Carrie does
not realize at first is that she is developing telekinesis, something that only
increases after her first period.
stage is set for the most chilling prom night in cinema history.
acting here is very good, the casting amazing and De Palma tries to do a Horror
film without anything supernatural, but every visual suggestion he can make to
that effect is pulled up until its classic climax. Once again, he is able to deal with the issue
of feminine power and energy, something Hitchcock had a different approach to
and the resulting film is holds up very well.
The idea of teens doing bad and having to pay for it was more potent in
a less violent society, as well at the time of one in the middle of a
counterculture, but the film is not just a 1970s time capsule by any
means. Instead, it is an underrated
genre classic that shows a talented, ambitious director finding new confidence
and authority in his work.
De Palma and King senses mesh here is a question that requires a separate
essay, but the film remains compelling for so many reasons because so much
works here. Editing, pacing, dialogue,
compositions, music and the ability of Lawrence D. Cohen’s screenplay (adapted
from King’s book) to never let up or loose sight of what is going on is half
the battle won. But best of all is
Spacek, who manages to carry the film at a young age and turned into as respected
an actor as anyone in this rich cast.
That she moved on to serious dramatic roles after this is in itself
amazing, avoiding the genre work Soles and Allen would thrive on. Especially after a disastrous remake no one
wants to talk about, this definitive Carrie
is high up there with Apt Pupil and
Kubrick’s The Shining as among the
few and best films of King’s primary Horror works we will ever see. Edie McClurg also stars.
1.85 X 1 MPEG-2 @ 22 MBPS digital High Definition image was shot by Director of
Photography Mario Tosi (The Main Event,
Frogs, The Stunt Man) who used soft diffusion lenses for more than a few
shots, recreating the classical sense of old Hollywood melodramas before
subverting them in what remains his best work.
Despite the new print MGM was using for their DVDs, the older 12” Criterion
LaserDisc print had better color and was more film-like, despite the dotted
colors of the Fujirot the print seemed to have.
Though this is softer than the film should look considering the diffusion
work, color tends to have its moments, looking better than all previous
versions. However, the print itself
looks a bit worn and a new copy needs to be struck. We just hope this is not a film in danger of
HD Master Audio (MA) lossless 5.1 mix is the same soundmaster used for the
previous DVD, featuring the great Pino Donaggio score in full stereo, while
doing its best to present dialogue and sound effects with the clearest fidelity
if can. That mix arrived around the time
MGM licensed the soundtrack as part of their now sadly discontinued MGM/Rykodisc
CD Soundtrack series. In the case of the
Carrie CD, it had all the music in
stereo, plus soundbytes of the dialogue.
It is hard to hide the age of the non-music material, but until that
material is somehow remastered, this is the best the film is going to sound for
a while and that is still better than many other monophonic back catalog
releases on Blu-ray of the similar monophonic theatrical films of the time.
are almost nonexistent on this 25GB Blu-ray despite the extras included on the
MGM DVD (still in print) and the Criterion 12” LaserDisc (whose extras never
crossed over to anything from MGM, including Laurent (The De Palma Cut) Bouzereau’s audio commentary) so all we get is a
trailer. Missing in action is an
interesting featurette on the failed musical MGM made and thankfully, anything
on the awful remake, but MGM could have fit more and it is a shame they did not
include anything else. It is great to
have the film on Blu-ray, but soon, MGM needs to remaster the whole film and
give us the deluxe edition it deserves.
Until then, Carrie is a key
back catalog title from MGM’s United Artists holdings, one De Palma asked the
studio to push more feeling it could have been an Exorcist-sized hit instead of a teen/drive-in hit. Its endurance and the rise of King as a star
writer prove he was right (King would have had some clout in getting it wider
exposure had he been as popular then as he is now) and now you can see for
yourself better than ever here how true that is.
- Nicholas Sheffo