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Carrie – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

CarrieThe first film adaptation of a Stephen King book, Carrie was a box office hit, garnering Academy Award® nominations for the up and coming star Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner’s Daughter), and film veteran Piper Laurie (The Hustler), a rare accomplishment for the horror genre at the time.  In 1976, Carrie, the absolutely spellbinding horror movie” (Roger Ebert) directed by Brian DePalma (Scarface, The Untouchables, Dressed to Kill) and based on the best-selling Stephen King novel, premiered in theaters, forever changing the landscape of horror films, and launching much of its outstanding cast into stardom. On October 11, 2016, the SCREAM FACTORY™ home entertainment brand celebrates the 40th anniversary of the film with a 2-disc Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release which includes a brand new 4K scan of the film and nearly 3 hours of bonus material.  Over the last 40 years the ultimate revenge fantasy has become one of the all-time great horror classics, andCarrie is now, finally, offered as a definitive, two-disc Collector’s Edition Blu-ray.

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Film 

At the center of the film’s terror is Carrie, a high school loner with no confidence, no friends… and no idea about the extent of her secret powers of telekinesis. But when her psychotic mother and sadistic classmates finally go too far, the once-shy teen becomes an unrestrained, vengeance-seeking powerhouse who, with the help of her ‘special gift,’ causes all hell to break loose in a famed cinematic frenzy of blood, fire and brimstone.

By the time 1976 rolled around, it was director Brian De Palma’s turn. Everyone had been awaiting his big break out.  He was on the cusp.  His USC film geek buddies had all had theirs just years before him; Martin Scorsese with Mean Streets, George Lucas on American Graffiti, Francis Ford Coppola with The Godfather, and most recently Steven Spielberg with Jaws.  De Palma was seen as one of the most talented of the bunch with a unique eye and storytelling.  Adapting hot new author Stephen King’s first novel opened that gateway and finally gave De Palma the liftoff he was looking for.

Carrie still remains one of the most unique stories to hit horror then and since.  Its been knocked off, drawn from, remade, televised and sequelized in the 40 years since its release.  The story of a young girl facing the horrors of entering womanhood with no strong parental figure or knowledge while facing the terror of bullying resonates through every generation.  However, nothing quite nailed it like De Palma’s film.  Which, aside from a chuckle at William Katt’s mane of hair, holds up amazingly well and is just as effective today as it was back when it shocked and amused audiences back in 1976.

From the opening shower sequence, it sets itself apart from all other iterations of the film.  What sets De Palma apart from his contemporaries and most filmmakers is that he’s not afraid to go there.  He brings and voyeurism to filmmaking that had only been seen in few spots in pop culture films to this point.  Carrie’s shower discovery scene is shot and plays with a look and feel of a softcore porn film or a cheerleader/women’s prison exploitation film up until the gruesome shock her getting her first period.  Things quickly change gears as Carrie freaks the hell out, combined with the girls in the lockerroom giving her the nastiest possible response.  It sets a tone for the film where it isn’t afraid to hit certain beats and makes things that might have stood out as lewd (Nancy Allen going down on Travolta) a thing of normalcy.

As horror story, it doesn’t follow any sort of particular mold or formula that had come before it.  Carrie was something different that really felt fresh and that it hadn’t been done before.  Most of the horrors come from the suspense and tension of what the bullying classmates might do to Carrie along with the sheer zaniness of her own zealot mother.  Carrie casts a telepathic power that gets hinted to here and there, but more or less this thing isn’t oozing with jump scares, scary dreams or spook scenes.  Carrie takes to dramatics and character to build to get you on a side and feel really torn apart when the protagonist goes on a bloody rampaging massacre at the end of the film.  Its a mixed mess of emotion and its the perfect cross that De Palma manages to pull off.  You’re then rewarded with one of cinema’s greatest jump scares for the ride.

Carrie is notable for being a jump off for many young actors of the time and resurrecting Piper Laurie’s career (Nominated for an Academy Award for the film).  Pretty notably its the screen debut of John Travolta and being a further break out of Sissy Spacek.  PJ Soles also dons the red cap and makes one of her first appearances too.  Despite the obvious people, I really feel Nancy Allen dropped a break out/star making performance for herself in this movie.  Not only does she look gorgeous and has a certain glow to her, but her performance is an all-timer in the category of “so-good you hate them so much you want to punch them” roles.  She is SOOOOO damn nasty in this movie, but its only because she is killing it her role.  I honestly think over the years, she’s garnered appreciation, but maybe not enough as she serves as one of the strongest elements.  Allen is a fun, meaty part and its also quite powerful in terms of her effectiveness.

Much has been written over the annals of time regarding Carrie.  Its a seminal piece both the horror genre and essential films of the 1970s.  De Palma puts his skills to masterwork here, though he apparently isn’t a fan of his split screen usage in this film and the big prom sequence had to be saved and rethought in the editing room.  The film displays a slew of young breakout and powerful performances from its cast.  And a lot of this is credit to such strong source material from King.  It was the perfect storm of director, adaptations, changes for the better, casting and such that made this movie feel like lighting in a bottle.  Its been imitated, copied, re-adapted, followed up and remade to various degrees of success and failure, but nothing has even come close to holding a candle to this original film.  Its just perfect and pretty much timeless the way it stands.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC 

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Scream Factory has a beautiful new 4K transfer to boast on this release.  It looks to have kept its grain intact, with great details and clarity protruding through your screen.  The opening of the film is a bit rougher, as most credit sequences can come across in older films, but after the shower sequence things clear up quite good. Carrie, by its nature, is a bit soft, as it has that sort of glow with its lighting.  But, its about as sharp as it can go without any tampering.  This is a definite leap of improvement over the previous editions. 

Depth:  The film has a nice free feel to it with good spacing and characters and objects feeling loose and distanced from their environments.  Movements are clear and cinematic in nature.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and deep.  Not too much details are hidden by them.  Grain is a bit heavy where black is deepest.

Color Reproduction:  Well, this is the 70s, so colors are a bit more toned down, however they do come out pretty strong and look very natural on clothing.  Red comes through as a star as it should.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent, keeping their appearance throughout the length of the film.  Freckles, dried blood, wrinkles, dimples and such all come through quite clear from medium and close up distances.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a nice layer of grain attached to this one.  All in all this print looks pretty accurate to what its source seems to be aiming for.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  I’m not really sure if this is the same mix as the previous release had. I want to say yes, but I’m not sure.  The 5.1 track seems to follow the previous comments on it being front heavy.  It does carry a weight and feels quite loud with some good refined effects presentation.  However, I actually recommend the 2.0 track as its very full and feels natural and is likely more true to the actual experience of the film.

Low Frequency Extension:  Doors slamming, jump scares, fire roaring, a car crash and a house tumbling down all pump your sub for vibration.

Surround Sound Presentation:  As mentioned earlier, this is a very front heavy track.  During the famous prom scene, there is some activity in the rear, but of all places that’s where you’d want it to be a bit more fun.  Not bad, but you’re going to get a better experience with the 2.0 in my opinion.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is all clear, crisp and loud. Nobody is going to laugh at you.

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Extras 

Carrie – Collector’s Edition is a 2-disc Blu-ray set that features reversible cover art displaying the original theatrical poster art.

Disc 1

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:02)

Carrie Franchise Trailer Gallery (HD, 4:12) 

Disc 2

Interviews

  • Writing Carrie (HD, 29:07) – An interview with screenwriter Lawrence Cohen.  He discusses his fascination with the book and King’s raw and real reflection of high school bullying.  Other topics, Lawrence mentions are the pushback challenges from the studio on stuff they didn’t want to use, to adapting and how the different mediums don’t lend things to one another and changes need to happen.  He also touches upon the stage versions of it.
  • Shooting Carrie (HD, 15:22) – An interview with the director of photography Mario Tosi.  The cinematographer talks about his lighting practices and inspirations.  He goes over how he found Brian De Palma (whom he’d never heard of) brilliant to work with and how he really challenged him and had a complete grasp of the set and material. He compares how different De Palma was than working with Joseph Sargent, that De Palma really gave him the freedom to take his instruction and stage it himself and allowed him to open some of his creative juices.
  • Cutting Carrie (HD, 25:09) – An interview with editor Paul Hirsch.  Paul talks about his history with De Palma and cutting his films.  He mentions that on the lot De Palma and George Lucas were friends because they had beards.  Hirsch infers that he was offered Star Wars but felt he had to do Carrie instead. He also mentions that the Star Wars and Carrie casting sessions were going on at the same time. Then he talks how some of the film is hard for him to watch because of stuff he felt was so well done.  And yes, he goes over the end jump scare.
  • Casting Carrie (HD, 16:03) – An interview with casting director Hariet B. Helberg. Some interesting trivia from this; Sondra Locke was considered Carrie.  Nancy Allen the most difficult to get through as she did not get through the first wave of studio approvals, but proved everyone wrong once shooting began.  Amy Irving was not cast as Carrie originally, and was a leftover from Star Wars casting sessions.  Louise Fletcher was a backup plan to Piper Laurie had they not got her. She’s a fan of the remakes as they make fresh a story that will always remain classic.
  • Acting Carrie (SD, 42:42) – This is a carry over from a previous DVD edition that wasn’t on the original Blu-ray release.  Its a retrospective documentary featuring key cast and Brian De Palma reflecting on the film.  Its a bit older and more studio-made safer.
  • More Acting Carrie (HD, 20:19) – Featuring interviews with Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Edie McClurg and PJ Soles.  Those that were involved with the original “Acting” featurette do repeat some things, but they are quite a bit more candid, loose, fun and in depth with their stories of their casting, working with De Palma and their thankfulness for the legacy of the film.
  • Visualizing Carrie (SD, 41:33) – Another carry over that is Brian De Palma going in depth on his take on King’s seminal novel.
  • Bucket of Blood (HD, 23:53) – An interview with composer Pino Donaggio.  Pino speaks Italian and its hard subtitled in English. He talks Paul Hirsch hooking him up with De Palma and that the two always need a translator still to this day.  He talks how he wanted to put homages to Bernard Hermann in the Carrie score as he was the original intended composer for the film before his death. He goes through the movie talking his different pieces, and talks about the cast, waiting for reviews and how the film sits over time.  He never met Stephen King, he says, but would like to know what he thought of the film.

Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (HD, 11:25) – Sean Clark visits the shooting locations in present day from the film.

Carrie, The Musical (SD, 6:23) – Interviews with the people who produced the stage adaptation of Carrie.

TV Spots (SD, 3:11) 

Radio Spots (HD, 1:29) 

Still Gallery: Rare Behind-The-Scenes (HD, 4:54) 

Still Gallery: Posters and Lobby Cards (HD, 3:56) 

Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie Text Gallery – A piece by Laurent Bouzereau documenting the history of the novel, adaptation process and comparing the book and film of Stephen King’s Carrie.

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Summary 

Without question, this is the best version of Carrie ever released.  From every angle, right down to the packaging (I really love the knew artwork too).  This sucker is LOADED with extras, mostly new.  The film’s new transfer is gorgeous, feeling like it evokes the look of seeing a good print in a theater.  This one is a no-brainer in the double-triple-dip upgrade department.  Its nice to get a nice suped-up De Palma movie on Blu-ray during this little renaissance his library is having thanks in part to the new documentary.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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