For someone who didn’t release a new film, 2016 has been an exceptional year for Brian De Palma. He was given a complete career retrospective at NYC’s Metrograph, A24 released the fantastic documentary chronicling his career in De Palma and we now have the much touted re-cut of Raising Cain available on home video as well as a stacked new edition of Carrie. It isn’t just a great time to be De Palma, it’s a great time to be a De Palma fan.
Starting with Carrie, since we might as well go in chronological order, it’s rather impressive how well De Palma’s now forty year old film holds up, especially considering that Stephen King’s novel has now been adapted for the screen (both small and big) twice since its release and we also saw a pseudo sequel in the form of The Rage: Carrie 2 almost twenty years ago now. A lot of this can be attributed to De Palma’s work behind the camera, especially when taking into account that final half hour which includes some of his best uses of split screen. But it would be unfair to talk about how well Carrie works and ignore Carrie herself, Sissy Spacek. Nobody who has attempted to play this part since 1976 has done it with the amount of pathos and dread that Spacek puts on screen here, making it easy to see why she earned an Academy Award nomination for her role (not a common feat for genre cinema) alongside her co-star Piper Laurie who is also in top form.
Raising Cain may not fare quite as well as Carrie does in holding up but the new re-cut is a cause for celebration. In its original theatrical version, Raising Cain is a fairly straight forward (and not all that successful) thriller featuring an electric performance by John Lithgow and not much else. In this new version, cut together by fan Peet Gelderblom based on De Palma’s original script, more time is spent on other characters, particularly Lithgow’s character’s wife (Lolita Davidovich) and the structure is a lot less commercial which is likely why the script didn’t end up on screen in its initial release. Unfortunately, both cuts of Raising Cain are lesser De Palma but the re-cut is absolutely better and it’s hard not to see De Palma’s finger prints all over it (especially in that climactic set piece which I won’t spoil) even if they aren’t 100% his this time.
Carrie had already been brought to Blu-ray a few years back by MGM in a decent transfer. This new 4K master from Scream Factory, taken from the original camera negative, is a marked improvement all around. Carrie‘s color palette is a bit on the soft side, which makes sense considering when it was made and who made it, but when it gets bold this transfer really pops – just look at the prom scene for proof. There’s no damage to note and film grain is inherent throughout. This is a really great job from SF. Audio comes in the usual DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 options. As always, I prefer the 2.0 just to stay faithful but the 5.1 isn’t excessive and finds an appropriate balance between the original soundtrack and the now requisite additional channels. If you want to see what’s really changed between the two tracks, just skip to the climax.
Raising Cain looks similarly good but maybe not quite as noticeable considering that we don’t have much to compare it to. The release includes both the re-cut and the theatrical cut and they look identical in terms of quality. Considering that the new version is primarily a re-structuring rather than an assemblage of alternate footage, it’s likely that they are pulled from the same source and master. This is a pretty dark movie, with a lot of nighttime outdoors scenes and dimly lit interiors. But the transfer is solid, with no damage to note and a film like presentation throughout. Both versions include DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 options. Like with Carrie, I’d opt for the 2.0 soundtrack but the 5.1 here is subtle and, considering this is even less action heavy than Carrie, there’s not too much for those additional channels to do.
Carrie gets a whole second disc devoted to supplements (the first disc just contains the feature and some trailers, no commentary track which is very unfortunate). To start with, we get a slew of newly recorded interviews. First up we get 20 minutes with actors Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Edie McClurg and P.J. Soles. They all have stories to tell and unfortunately don’t get nearly enough time to tell them, but what’s here is great. Next up is a half hour with writer Lawrence Cohen about adapting the novel to the screen. Cohen has a lot to offer and it should be an interesting watch for King fans too as Cohen also helped write IT and The Tommknockers adaptations for TV. Following that we get 25 minutes with editor Paul Hirsch who made no less than ten films with De Palma, so this talk is as much about Carrie as it is about their working relationship together over the years and it’s full of great info. Then we get 15 minutes with cinematographer Mario Tosi which is a bit more dry of a talk than the others, but it should offer some rewarding technical info for those interested in the subject. After that it’s 16 minutes with casting director Harriet B. Helberg who talks all about getting this cast together, which is a lot more drama filled than one would think! Lastly, we get a great 25 minutes with composer Pino Donaggio who, like Paul Hirsch, is a long time collaborator with De Palma and this talk covers that as much as it does the film in question. The only other new feature is another Horror’s Hallowed Grounds feature with Sean Clark. It runs about ten minutes and covers different locations used in the film. In addition to all of that, you get everything from MGM’s special edition DVD from 15 years ago. I won’t detail all of that here, but you can feel safe in ditching any older copies of Carrie you have!
Raising Cain isn’t quite as stacked but it has plenty to offer De Palma fans as well. The first disc, also containing the theatrical cut, has a bunch of new interviews. The first one is a great half hour long conversation with John Lithgow all about his dual roles in Raising Cain as well as his other work with De Palma. Next is 24 minutes with actor Steven Bauer who also appeared in Scarface and it’s a nice piece with Bauer offering some anecdotes about working with De Palma. We get another ten minute piece with Paul Hirsch who amazingly has more to say and could probably use even more time than he gets. Then there’s 15 minutes with actor Gregg Henry who is another De Palma veteran and has plenty to say about working with him over the years. After that we get eight minutes with actor Tom Bower who is pleasant but doesn’t say too much. Lastly, we have actress Mel Harris for eight minutes who mostly talks about her transition from TV to working on Raising Cain. On disc two, we start with a much too brief two minute profile of fan Peet Gelderblom who put together the recut. After that, we get Gelderblom walking us through the differences in the two versions via a 15 minute video essay which is a very welcome addition to the package.
De Palma fans have a lot to be happy about in 2016 and Scream Factory are the icing on the bloody De Palma cake. Both of these new editions of Carrie and Raising Cain are full of supplements, look and sound great and should be welcome additions to fans’ collections. SF have assembled enough great interview footage between these two releases for a second De Palma documentary. Highly Recommended.