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Carrie Brian De Palma Main

Carrie Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Carrie Large

Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by Lawrence D. Cohen (based on the novel by Stephen King)
1976, 98 minutes, Rated R
Released on October 11th, 2016

Sissy Spacek as Carrie White
Piper Laurie as Margaret White
Amy Irving as Sue Snell
William Katt as Tommy Ross
Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen
John Travolta as Billy Nolan
Betty Buckley as Miss Collins

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Carrie White is a mousy wallflower who has no friends and few prospects of happiness. At school she is bullied by the popular girls and goes unnoticed by most of the faculty. Her home life isn’t any better, as she faces daily admonitions from her extremely religious and controlling mother who is quick to punish Carrie for any perceived sin. As if life were not challenging enough, with the onset of her first menstrual cycle comes the introduction of telekinetic powers that she does not understand and cannot control. Fellow classmate/tormentor Sue Snell grows a conscience and sets about doing something nice by asking her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom. Her friends see this as an opportunity to further humiliate their favorite punching bag, but Sue wants nothing to do with their schemes. Prom night arrives and proves to be an event no one at school will ever forget when Carrie finally reaches her breaking point and fights back.

In 1974, Stephen King released his first best-selling novel, Carrie; a disturbing tale of the trials of adolescence filled with isolation, repression and betrayal, tinged with the supernatural. It is a revenge fantasy where Cinderella goes to hell and comes out bloody. The novel is set five years in the future and unfolds through a series of third party accounts, letters, articles and excerpts from multiple sources, including court transcripts and survivor testimonies reported at different times in the wake of the tragedy. The epistolary structure is reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s use of correspondence in Dracula as it presents its information in a deliberate manner that reads at times like a mystery.

The book was adapted to film as a linear narrative by screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen (Ghost Story) and directed by Brian De Palma (Phantom of the Paradise). Sissy Spacek (Badlands) brings Carrie White to life with a sensitive performance that balances the painfully shy and delicate victim with the sympathetic villain she becomes in the final act. Spacek’s best scenes are opposite Piper Laurie (Twin Peaks) who plays her crazed religious zealot mother. Their relationship is the most intense dynamic and serves as the heart of the story. Both actors are at the top of their game and earned Academy Award nominations for their work.

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The supporting cast is equally impressive, led by Amy Irving (The Fury) as Sue Snell, who serves as the film’s moral center. She genuinely wants to make amends for the way she has treated Carrie and when she uncovers the plot to humiliate her at the prom she is helpless to stop it. Nancy Allen (Robocop) co-stars as Chris, the queen bitch of the in-crowd. She is cold and manipulative and shares few if any redeeming qualities. John Travolta (Blow Out) plays her boyfriend Billy, a budding sociopath who is just as deplorable as Chris and audiences will root for their downfall. One of the few decent characters present is Tommy Ross (William Katt, House), who takes Carrie to the prom. He is handsome and endearing and genuinely cares for her. The other positive influence is Miss Collins (Betty Buckley, Split), the gym teacher who serves as defender and a source of hope.

Brian De Palma is a genuine auteur who employs every trick and tool at his disposal to give the picture a sophisticated visual design. He is a master at generating suspense, starting several sequences on a hopeful note while keeping the threat of tragedy just on the horizon. From the soft, dreamlike opening exploration of the girls’ locker room to the triumphant dance at the prom, these sequences carry an ominous undertone of doom. Working closely with cinematographer Mario Tosi (The Stunt Man), De Palma uses creative camerawork, stylistic lighting, slow motion and split-screen photography to generate a rich atmosphere. He continues to build tension with the solid efforts of editor Paul Hirsch (Obsession) and composer Pino Donaggio (The Howling), who give the film its driving rhythm. Carrie ends on a powerful note with a final scare that is so effective that it continues to be copied in genre films more than forty years later.

Carrie is an unmitigated success and resides in the upper echelon of Stephen King adaptations. Brilliantly directed and featuring powerhouse performances, the picture launched the careers of many talents on both sides of the camera. It sparked a wave of knockoffs and telekinetic terrors, but few left such a lasting impression. A sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999), failed to connect with audiences, but did feature Amy Irving reprising the role of Sue Snell. There was a made-for-TV remake in 2002, starring Angela Bettis, followed by a Hollywood redux with Chloë Grace Moretz in 2013. Both of these versions have their merits, but lack the staying power of the original. If you’ve only seen the modern takes and somehow missed this one or simply haven’t seen it in a while, it is definitely worth revisiting and deserves a place in your collection.

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Video and Audio:

Carrie finally gets some much needed love with a brand new 4K scan and restoration of the original camera negative, presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This transfer is long overdue and blows all previous releases out of the water with renewed colors, a brighter image and an abundance of small-object detail. Picture quality is cleaner than the 2008 MGM Blu-ray, which is dull and plagued with heavy grain.

The original mono recordings are presented in a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that gets the job done. Better still is the expanded DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix that keeps dialogue front and center but enhances the music and sound effects cues, particularly during the tension-filled finale. Both tracks are satisfying and free from distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Disc 1: Feature Film

The theatrical trailers for Carrie (1976), The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999), Carrie (2002) and Carrie (2013) are included and all are loaded with spoilers. Stephen King’s name is misspelled in the 1976 ad.

Disc 2: Special Features

Screenwriter Lawrence Cohen reflects on the project in Writing Carrie (2016, 29 minutes). He begins with his thoughts on the novel and his determination to adapt it to film. He details the creative process of working with De Palma on the script and the additions they made to the material, including the revised ending. He talks about the importance of striking the proper tone and King’s response to the finished piece. There is also discussion of the failed stage production Carrie: The Musical.

Shooting Carrie (2016, 15 minutes) catches up with cinematographer Mario Tosi, who recalls his working relationship with De Palma as a little bumpy. He has fond memories of the shoot and explains how certain challenging shots and elaborate camera moves were achieved. Tosi is an energetic guy with a thick accent, so pay attention.

Editor Paul Hirsch sits for the featurette Cutting Carrie (2016, 25 minutes) in which he remembers his history with directors De Palma and George Lucas. He discusses his editing technique and his method for generating tension. Other topics include shooting the prom sequences in split-screen, the abandoned prologue, the slapping scene and crafting the ending scare.

Composer Pino Donaggio shares his memories of the film in Bucket of Blood (2016, 24 minutes) starting with discussion of how he approached writing the main themes and melodies. He talks about working closely with De Palma and their influences, primarily famed composer Bernard Hermann (Psycho). This interview is in Italian with English subtitles.

In Casting Carrie (2016, 16 minutes), casting director Harriet B. Helberg remembers how the main actors became part of the project. She has nothing but kind words for the cast and how the film served as a launching pad for so many careers.

The archival documentary Acting Carrie (2001, 43 minutes) celebrates the film’s twenty-fifth anniversary with members of the cast and crew, including Brian De Palma, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Nancy Allen, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley, William Katt and PJ Soles (Rock n’ Roll High School). There are plenty of entertaining production stories and it is nice hearing from so many high profile participants.

The contemporary companion piece More Acting Carrie (2016, 20 minutes) returns to the well as the film celebrates its fortieth anniversary, once again featuring Laurie, Allen, Katt, Buckley and Soles. A welcome new addition to the interviews is actress Edie McClurg (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark), who played one of the tormenting teens. Looking back, the cast continue to view the experience fondly and it is nice to hear more of their memories.

Visualizing Carrie (2001, 42 minutes) is another vintage piece, this time focused behind the camera with De Palma, Cohen and art director Jack Fisk. This is another solid look back at the production that provides some additional technical insights.

A new episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (2016, 11 minutes) hosted by Sean Clark takes a look at several of the film’s shooting locations. Although some of the houses and storefronts have been torn down or remodeled, the schools and streets remain unchanged.

Singing Carrie (2001, 6 minutes) finds Cohen sharing his thoughts on the challenging task of adapting his script from screen to stage for the infamous Carrie: The Musical.

A collection of five TV spots and two radio ads are also included.

There are two photo galleries: the first containing rare behind-the-scenes stills (60 images), while the second showcases a collection of lobby cards and international poster art (49 images).

Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie is a 23-page text gallery documenting the history of the book and how it became a film.

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Movie: Fourstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourandahalfstars
Audio: Fourstars
Features: Fourstars
Overall: 4 Star Rating

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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