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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Literature > Teens > Prom > Carrie (1976/United Artists/Fox-MGM Blu-ray)

Carrie (1976/United Artists/Fox-MGM Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: C-     Film: B



After 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 1976.


Sissy 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.


In tending 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.


Soon the stage is set for the most chilling prom night in cinema history.



The 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.


Why the 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.



The 1080p 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 being lost.


The DTS 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.


Extras 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


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