Release Date: November 3rd, 1976 (limited)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on: Carrie by Stephen King
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, John Travolta, Betty Buckley, P.J. Soles, Piper Laurie, Priscilla Pointer, Sydney Lassick, Michael Talbott, Edie McClurg
Red Bank Films, 98 Minutes
“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
It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen Carrie and I’ve wanted to review it for awhile. Especially, since I had been working my way through Brian De Palma’s old horror and noir pictures over the last year or more.
I first saw this movie when I was about the age of the characters in the film and honestly, it gave me a really disturbed, unsettling feeling. Sure, I liked the movie but it left me feeling in a way that I found it hard to revisit for a long time. I think that had more to do with the home life of Carrie more than her school life and the bullying she encountered, daily. There was just something really evil about the relationship between her and her psycho, religious mother that made this movie kind of stomach-churning.
As an adult, I have great appreciation and admiration for how effectively Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek’s performances are in their scenes together. I think that De Palma got the absolute best out of both actresses and despite knowing what I was getting into this time around, these scenes still punch you in the gut and make you feel genuinely uneasy and angry for Carrie, who has been nothing but a victim to all the horrible people in this story.
The rest of the film is also effective and, at times, hard to get through. Although, it still has these genuinely beautiful and sweet moments like the scenes between Sissy Spacek and William Katt at the prom before everything goes to absolute shit. Also, I think this makes things much more heartbreaking when they do go to shit.
What Carrie does to her shitty classmates is horrible but by this point in the film, it’s really hard not to feel her pain and feel like her actions are justified. It’s weirdly satisfying seeing the bullies and assholes get murdered and cooked by telekinesis and a blazing inferno. It’s also immensely satisfying seeing Nancy Allen and John Travolta have their car flipped and exploded, burning them alive. And I apologize to Nancy Allen, you are one of my all-time favorite actresses… seriously.
I think that the saddest thing about this picture, other than Carrie’s fate, is that she was possibly on the verge of having a somewhat normal life with normal friends, as William Katt’s Tommy really seemed to like her on some level and former bully, Sue (played by Amy Irving) really started to see how terrible she had been and wanted to be Carrie’s friend.
This is one of those movies where the atmosphere itself is almost its own character. The film feels stifling with this brooding, thick terror in the air. All of that is maximized by the look of Carrie’s home, as well as the way things were shot. The cinematography gives this an otherworldly look and the whole thing, especially in Carrie’s home and the scenes at the prom and the pig farm, you seem like you’re in a dream state.
I really like this movie a lot, mainly because it truly generates certain unsettling feelings in the viewer. De Palma was able to do this more effectively than the vast majority of directors that are considered horror legends.
At the same time, this makes Carrie a movie I don’t want to revisit often because it has that effect. And honestly, it’s not something that diminished with time or repeated viewings, which just solidifies the greatness of the picture.
Release Date: February 3rd, 1986
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
Written by: William Bleich
Music by: David Frank
Cast: Ken Wahl, Nancy Allen, Brian Robbins, Robert Culp, Stan Shaw, Rick Dees, Rosemary Forsyth
Walker Brothers Productions, New World Television, ABC, 98 Minutes
“There’s order to the chaos of the universe – as above, so below. I mean, even here, there’s a natural order posed by me, because here: I am God.” – Joe Barker
I really like Ken Wahl and Nancy Allen, so I thought a movie where Wahl turns vigilante and makes his truck a weaponized killing machine would be pretty badass! Well, I was let down.
Wahl’s truck is actually just reinforced with some heavy add-ons and a harpoon gun that basically immobilizes vehicles. He’s not really doing Mad Max shit but he is still trying to clean up the streets while hunting for the killer driver that murdered his brother and several other people.
I thought that Wahl was pretty good in this but the movie was slow as hell. It has some good, action-packed moments but it just leaves you wanting more and never really delivers in the way that you’d hope.
I felt like Nancy Allen was barely in it, as well.
But this was a movie that was made for television and there is only so much that you could get away with on network TV in the ’80s.
This is just one of those films that sits in limbo: it’s not necessarily a waste of time but it also isn’t worth going out of your way to watch.
Release Date: August 3rd, 1984
Directed by: Stewart Raffill
Written by: Wallace C. Bennett, William Gray, Don Jakoby, Michael Janover
Based on: The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility by Charles Berlitz, William L. Moore
Music by: Kenneth Wannberg
Cast: Michael Paré, Nancy Allen, Eric Christmas, Bobby Di Cicco, Stephen Tobolowsky, Michael Currie
New Pictures, Cinema Group Ventures, New World Pictures, 102 Minutes
“You know, I got it all figured out… Navy owes me 40 years back pay.” – David Herdeg
In my mind, I thought that I had seen this movie once or twice, as a kid. I was wrong. I have never seen this until now and my memory played tricks on me by conflating images of other movies that may not even be remotely accurate. Hey, I’ve done some drugs at different points in my life.
Anyway, I thought that this was a really weird movie, even for ’80s standards and the story was pretty wonky. Still, I did enjoy it and I really liked the bond that developed between the leads: Michael Paré and Nancy Allen.
The story is about these two Navy seamen that were aboard a ship during a strange experiment where the Navy were trying to make the vessel invisible to give them a tactical advantage during World War II. This experiment made the ship vanish but with that, the two seamen were transported through time to 1984. The time travel also gave them some weird sci-fi side effects and one of the men keeps having seizures and electrical phenomenon happening to his body until he eventually explodes into pure energy and disappears. The rest of the film is a race against time, as Michael Paré’s character is trying to solve his dilemma before the same fate happens to him.
This is also an “on the run”/road trip movie similar to Starman and other films where a protagonist is trying to outrun and outwit authorities in an effort to reach their goal.
I liked Paré a lot in this and I always thought that he was an underutilized actor that should’ve reached bigger heights in the ’80s. I also liked Nancy Allen too but she’s been a favorite of mine ever since I saw the original RoboCop, as a wee li’l lad.
The film is entertaining and it was a cool picture in spite of its hokiness and strange premise. It is slow in a few parts and the climax is a bit weird but it’s still a worthwhile experience. Granted, I don’t know if it’s something I’ll ever go out of my way to watch again.
Pairs well with: other early ’80s sci-fi and “on the run” movies.
Also known as: The Night the Japs Attacked (working title)
Release Date: December 13th, 1979 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, John Milius
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Ned Beatty, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee, Tim Matheson, Toshiro Mifune, Warren Oates, Robert Stack, Treat Williams, Penny Marshall, Nancy Allen, Eddie Deezen, Slim Pickens, Dianne Kay, Wendie Jo Sperber, John Candy, Frank McRae, Lionel Stander, Michael McKean, Joe Flaherty, Don Calfa, Elisha Cook Jr., Mickey Rourke, John Landis, Dick Miller, Donovan Scott, James Caan, Sydney Lassick (uncredited)
A-Team, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures, 118 Minutes, 146 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 142 Minutes (TV cut)
“You get me up in that plane, then we’ll talk about forward thrust.” – Donna Stratton
Considering that this was directed by Steven Spielberg and is loaded with dozens of stars that I like, having not seen this until now seems like a crime. But honestly, it came out when I was a year-old and it wasn’t something that I saw on TV growing up in the ’80s. Frankly, it flew under my radar for years and even if I saw the VHS tape in a mom and pop shop, the box art wouldn’t have piqued my interest.
I have now seen the film, though, and while I enjoyed it, I can see why it wasn’t held in the same esteem as Spielberg’s other work at the time.
This features a lot of characters and ensemble pieces like this can be hard to balance. With that, this felt more like an anthology of separate stories that don’t really come together until the end, even if there is a bit of overlap leading to the climax.
Everyone was pretty enjoyable in this but at the same time, they all just felt like tropes and caricatures, as none of them had much time to develop. That’s fine, though, as this isn’t supposed to be an intense dramatic story about war coming to US soil.
One thing I will point out as great in this movie is the special effects and being that this featured World War II military vehicles, it almost felt like Spielberg’s test drive before directing the Indiana Jones ’80s trilogy, which employed some of the same techniques and effects style that this film did.
The miniature work was superb and I loved the sequence of the airplane dogfight over Hollywood, as well as the submarine sequence at the end. The action was great, period.
I also generally enjoyed the comedy in this. It’s almost slapstick in a lot of scenes and it kind of felt like Spielberg’s homage the comedy style of Hollywood during the time that the movie takes place in.
That being said, the costumes, sets and general design and look of the film was great and almost otherworldly. This felt fantastical but in the way that the films of the 1940s did. There was a cinematic magic to the visuals and the film should probably get more notoriety for that.
What hurts the film, though, is that it just jumps around so much and it’s hard to really get invested in anything. There’s just so much going on at all times that your mind loses focus and starts to wander.
The story, itself, isn’t hard to follow but nothing seems that important, other than the Americans need to defend their home from this rogue submarine that appeared off the coast of Los Angeles.
In the end, this is far from Spielberg’s best and I’d call it the worst film of his uber successful late ’70s through early ’90s stretch. However, it’s still an enjoyable experience.
Pairs well with: other comedies with Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi or other Saturday Night Live cast members of the era.
Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Directed by: David A. Weiner
Written by: David A. Weiner
Music by: Weary Pines
Cast: Nancy Allen, Tom Atkins, Joe Bob Briggs, Doug Bradley, Clancy Brown, Lori Cardille, John Carpenter, Nick Castle, Larry Cohen, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Dante, Keith David, Robert Englund, Stuart Gordon, Andre Gower, Kane Hodder, Tom Holland, Chris Jericho, Jackie Kong, Heather Langenkamp, Don Mancini, Harry Manfredini, Kelli Maroney, Bill Moseley, Greg Nicotero, Cassandra Peterson, Diana Prince, Linnea Quigley, James Rolfe, Robert Rusler, Tom Savini, Corey Taylor, Gedde Watanabe, Caroline Williams, Alex Winter, Tom Woodruff Jr., Brian Yuzna
CreatorVC, 263 Minutes
Everything I said in my review of the first film in this series still holds true for this one. Reason being, they’re exactly the same in what they are. It’s just that each one features different films.
I think that I like this one a wee bit better for two reasons.
The first, is that I already know what I’m getting into now. I know that this will just fly through dozens of films and not give them the proper amount of time they deserve. As I said in the previous film’s review, I’d love to see each section spread out into a full episode and have these films actually be a streaming series.
The second reason, is that I like that the films are getting more obscure, as there were a few here I hadn’t heard of. With that, I walked away from this with a list of shit I need to watch and review.
Apart from that, this was more of the same. That’s not a bad thing, at all. I just wish that these documentaries didn’t fly through films and other topics so quickly.
I still like these, though. I know there’s a third one coming, which I look forward to, and there’s also one coming out on ’80s sci-fi flicks.
Pairs well with: the other documentaries in the In Search of… series, as well as other documentaries on ’80s horror.
Release Date: July 24th, 1981
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz
Cinema 77, Geria Productions, Filmways Pictures, 108 Minutes
“Ya know, the only trouble I ever got into was when I was too careful!” – Sally
After watching Dressed to Kill about a week ago, I didn’t want to waste much time before checking out another neo-noir thriller by Brian De Palma. I decided to go in chronological order so I picked Blow Out over Body Double but I do plan to watch that other one in the very near future.
Another reason why I wanted to get into this one was to see how it measures up to Dressed to Kill, as it came out just a year later and it featured some of the same players in Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz. Also, this re-teams Allen with this film’s lead, John Travolta. The two also starred alongside each other in De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie.
While this is the second film in a row where Allen plays a lady of the night, this character is very different from her character in Dressed to Kill. Here, she is more ditzy and too trusting where in Dressed to Kill, she was sharp as a tack and weary of those around here. I actually really like her in both roles and despite playing similar characters, they’re both different enough to show her range as an actress. And honestly, I’ve underrated her work and didn’t really recognize her ability until seeing her in De Palma’s films.
John Travolta is also on his A-game here and in fact, he’s dynamite. This may be one of the top two or three performances I’ve seen from Travolta and it’s surprising to me that not too long after this, his career sort of floundered and he didn’t bounce back till 1994’s Pulp Fiction.
The real scene stealer though is John Lithgow, who just has the uncanny ability to play crazy, really damn well. He’s played these types of characters multiple times but this is the oldest example of it that I can think of or that I have seen. He’s got the incredible ability to be a lovable patriarch on one had and to be an absolutely chilling bastard on the other. And here, with De Palma’s direction, he is a pretty intense predator that exudes danger from his very presence.
The fact that Travolta’s day job in this film is as a sound engineer for slasher pictures actually adds a lot to the film’s tone and narrative style. While this isn’t a slasher picture, it does present Lithgow as a slasher like character, as he stalks his prey (pretty women) and brutally murders them.
While this film shares a similar tone to Dressed to Kill it is less cerebral and is more of a straightforward political thriller. That certainly doesn’t mean that it is lacking. It still carries on De Palma’s Hitchcockian vibe that has been alive and well in his pictures before this. Because of that, though, this film has an energy and a style to it that is enthralling and intriguing. And despite channeling Hitchcock, De Palma’s films still have a certain panache that is all their own.
Looking at Dressed to Kill and Blow Out side-by-side, I prefer the former. But that doesn’t mean that Blow Out is less of a film. Dressed to Kill was more my cup of tea because it’s damn twisted, somewhat taboo and a bit darker.
That being said, Blow Out is still a fantastic thriller and in the upper echelon of Brian De Palma’s oeuvre.
Pairs well with: Brian De Palma’s other noir-esque films: Dressed to Kill and Body Double.
Release Date: July 25th, 1980
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz, William Finley (voice, uncredited)
Filmways Pictures, Cinema 77 Films, 104 Minutes
“Doctor, I am not paranoid. Bobbi was making threats over the phone. She said she’s going to hurt me. My patient was slashed to death. And now my razor is gone. Now you don’t have to be a detective to figure it out, do you?” – Doctor Robert Elliot
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this picture but if Brian De Palma’s early films are any indicator, I knew that this would be bizarre, artistic and intelligent.
And it was those three things but it was also damn compelling and honestly, damn impressive.
I loved this film and it’s a shame that I hadn’t seen it before this. It was intense, melodic, sweet, scary and most importantly, intriguing.
While this picture is very De Palma-esque, maybe the most De Palma-esque of the man’s work, it is also very Hitchcockian, as the narrative and the shot framing displays a young De Palma’s callback to Hitchcock’s style and tropes.
Still, this is very much De Palma’s composition and not a cheap attempt at trying to emulate one of the masters before him. Honestly, it comes off as a respectful homage that creates a familiar framework that De Palma could then artistically build off of.
This is also very much a noir story. It has twists, turns, mystery, secrets that evolve and a shocking reveal when all is said and done. It’s pretty damn impressive that they were able to do some of the stuff they did in the time that this was made.
What really solidifies this as a great movie, aside from the solid direction and story by De Palma, is the cast.
Nancy Allen really carries this movie once she becomes the focus. And honestly, I’ll always love Allen simply for being a huge part of RoboCop but I never really thought much of her as an actress. Not to say she’s bad, she’s perfectly fine. But in this film, she really got to do some daring things. Honestly, it has motivated me to check out De Palma’s Blow Out in the near future as it also features her under De Palma’s direction.
I was really impressed with Keith Gordon and Angie Dickinson as well.
Michael Caine also plays an very important role but it’s Michael Caine, so one should expect a damn fine performance because I don’t think I’ve ever seen the guy not deliver.
I’d love to go deeper into the story and analyze some of it but I don’t want to spoil this for anyone. It’s a film that needs to be seen without knowing much about the plot and a Google search will probably spoil some major details.
If you like De Palma, Hitchcock influenced cinema or neo-noir, than you’ll probably like this picture.
Pairs well with: other early Brian De Palma films, especially Blow Out and Body Double.
Release Date: May 1st, 1993 (Japan)
Directed by: Fred Dekker
Written by: Frank Miller, Fred Dekker
Based on: characters by Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Robert John Burke, Nancy Allen, Robert DoQui, Felton Perry, Rip Torn, Mako, John Castle, CCH Pounder, Stephen Root, Jeff Garlin, Shane Black, Bradley Whitford, Lee Arenberg, Daniel von Bargen
Orion Pictures, 104 Minutes
“Well, I gotta hand it to ya. What do they call ya? Murphy, is it?” – The CEO, “My friends call me Murphy. You call me… RoboCop.” – RoboCop
RoboCop 3 should not exist. Well, at least in the form that it does.
For one, Peter Weller left the series and Nancy Allen’s Lewis gets killed off pretty early on, leaving us with a movie mostly devoid of the actors and characters we’ve come to care about except for a few minor side ones like the the police sergeant and Johnson.
Not even Dan O’Herlihy came back to play the Old Man in charge of OCP. I guess his absence was explained by OCP being bought by a Japanese company. So instead of the great O’Herlihy, we got a bored looking Rip Torn as the new head of OCP. Johnson was still there though, even if he felt out of place hamming it up with new office buddies.
The story deals with a bunch of poor people getting violently thrown out of their homes so OCP can steal the land and build Delta City, which has been an overused plot point since the first movie. RoboCop catches feelings for the poor people, especially after meeting a four year-old girl that hacks ED-209s and watching Lewis get gunned down by a private military company hired by OCP. There’s also some terrible cyborg ninjas in this. Oh, and RoboCop gets a pointless gun arm and a lame as shit jetpack.
The special effects in this are laughably bad, even looked at within the context of the era this was made in. This is a much cheaper looking movie than RoboCop and RoboCop 2 by a wide margin. ED-209 looks about the same but I’m sure they just reused one of the robots from the first film. RoboCop himself is a new actor but he’s wearing Peter Weller’s suit, which was too short for the new actor and caused him a lot of pain.
RoboCop 3 is just one costly shitshow that has nothing redeeming hidden within it. I’ve only seen this one a few times but I’ve watched the first two at least a dozen times each. This is just really hard to sit through and pretty much a pointless film, overall.
Pairs well with: the first two RoboCop movies but they’re far superior and I guess any bad RoboCop ripoffs with an extremely low budget, hokey effects and crappy acting.
Also known as: RoboCop II (working title)
Release Date: June 22nd, 1990
Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Written by: Frank Miller, Walon Green
Based on: characters by Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Music by: Leonard Rosenman
Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Tom Noonan, Belinda Bauer, Gabriel Damon, Robert DoQui, Felton Perry, Willard E. Pugh, Stephen Lee, Frank Miller, John Glover, Fabiana Udenio, Mark Rolston, Patricia Charbonneau (uncredited)
Tobor Productions, Orion Pictures, 117 Minutes
“Sometimes we just have to start over, from scratch, to make things right, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to build a brand-new city where Detroit now stands – an example to the world.” – The Old Man
Do you remember that time that RoboCop showed up on a WCW pay-per-view to rescue Sting from the Four Horsemen? Well, that was a stunt to promote this movie. That being said, it would have been a better stunt to promote the third film, as this one wasn’t quite as cheesy as that terrible professional wrestling segment. Spoiler alert: the third movie is terrible but I’ll review that one at a later date.
RoboCop 2 is no RoboCop but it is still a pretty solid sequel, all things considered, and it is still to this day the second best RoboCop film.
Now this isn’t, by any means, a classic. It is, however, a pretty good example of a sequel that can expand on an already established mythos and expand on it in a new way, enriching the world these characters live in and giving us new material that isn’t simply just a retread of the already proven formula.
Peter Weller is still excellent and I was glad that we got to see more of him playing off of Nancy Allen. They have a nice chemistry, which existed in the first movie but didn’t really flourish until the end of it. Sadly, this would be the last time they’d share scenes together, as Weller dropped out of the series before RoboCop 3 was filmed.
The real scene stealer in this film is Tom Noonan, who just plays creepy bad guys so damn well. This was the first time that I remember seeing him but he went on to be one of my favorite character actors of his day. Although, the scenes with the young Gabriel Damon, who plays the child gangster Hob, were pretty f’n great too. The villains here aren’t as great as Kurtwood Smith and Ronny Cox in the first RoboCop but they are still fantastic foils and gave RoboCop two new types of threats that he didn’t face in the first movie.
I also liked the girl, Angie, and the top level henchman that looked like a cross between Joe Bob Briggs and Elvis.
Additionally, I love that Tom Noonan’s Cain is made into a new cyborg, appropriately called “RoboCop 2”. This was the first time that we got to see RoboCop fight a big villain that was similar to himself and not just a human meatbag. Granted, he has two run ins with ED-209 in the first film but those were relatively easy confrontations for him.
I liked that they really embraced the dark humor a bit more in this film too. The use of kids as legitimate juvenile delinquents in an almost post-apocalyptic Detroit was damn cool. Especially when I saw this as a kid.
A real standout for me though was Willard E. Pugh. I talked about him a bit when I reviewed the severely lackluster The Hills Have Eyes, Part 2 because he stood out in that film and was pretty funny and the same can be said here. In this film, he plays the mayor of Detroit and he’s just so enjoyable that it’s almost a crime that he didn’t come back for RoboCop 3. Other than this film, he is probably most famous for playing Trustus Jones in CB4.
My only real complaint about this film is that the score was all new. Basil Poledouris did not return so I guess they didn’t use his iconic themes. The score here is decent but it lacks the extra gravitas that the original RoboCop theme had. Poledouris would return for RoboCop 3, however.
RoboCop 2 is a sequel worthy of following its predecessor. It’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice, or so they say, but this was much better than other sequels to sci-fi classics.
Pairs well with: the first RoboCop movie and the first two Terminator movies.