Raising Cain – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Raising-CainFrom master of terror Brian De Palma (Carrie, Body Double, Scarface, Dressed To Kill) comes a stylish psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final frame. Scream Factory has announced the release of the thriller Raising Cain [Collector’s Edition]on Blu-ray on September 13. Called “creepy and effective” by Moviehole, Raising Cain[Collector’s Edition] offers impressive bonus features including new interviews withactors John Lithgow, Steven Bauer, Gregg Henry, Tom Bower, Mel Harris and editor Paul Hirsch, a new featurette titled Changing Cain: Brian De Palma’s Cult Classic Restored, a new video essay by Peet Gelderblom titled Raising Cain Re-Cut, and a never-before-seen director’s cut of the film featuring scenes reordered as originally intended.

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Director’s Cut 

Carter Nix is a respected psychologist, a loving husband and a devoted father who decides to take a year off to help raise his daughter. Carter’s wife Jenny is pleased to have her attentive husband home – at first. When Carter shows obsessive behavior toward their daughter, Jenny becomes concerned, and to complicate matters, Jenny’s old flame re-enters her life. But nothing can prepare her for the emergence of Carter’s multiple personalities, and a fiendish plot to recreate the infamous experiments of his own deranged father.

Jason Coleman has been writing a bit about Brian De Palma lately in his Forgotten Friday Flick pieces here at Why So Blu.  You need to check them out if you haven’t, it just so happens I’ve landed with one of cinema’s masters’ films and one that maybe could fall into “forgotten” territory.  Raising Cain marked the director’s return to the thriller genre he mastered in the 70s and early 80s.  However, while the film was a decent hit at the box office, reviews weren’t as kind and it really hasn’t had a major legacy like his other works.  Looking at it, on face value there is enough to enjoy.  Lithgow obviously is great and having a hammy good time.  Lolita Davidovich gives a pretty great performance, too.  Its also full of trademark De Palma players and things that bring his auteur-ness into full swing.  One highlight being a very long, very obstacled tracking shot during a ton of exposition being given from Dr. Waldheim to Gregg Henry’s Lt. Terri.  Just one brief look at the film and you know its De Palma.

On the problematic side is that the film is a bit choppy, a little too weird from the get-go and one wrong blink or sniff and you might kinda get lost.  But, really, I don’t think you’re lost, you’re just not sure of yourself.  As legend has it, De Palma at the last minute re-edited the film to change things around.  However, he was never happy about this.  Then, not too many moons ago, someone meticulously edited the existing film and footage into a cut that resembled De Palma’s intended version that he had (Or as close to it, some footage here in there is long gone).  This cut got passed around there was some high praise and re-assessing of the film.  De Palma saw it and found it to be his definitive version of the film. So much so, that he apparently encouraged Scream Factory to put this cut on the release.  This could be something of the biggest fan edit of all time if you think that way, or not since it was putting back together what the director had always intended.

And boy, what an astounding difference it makes in the film.  There are no added lines or extra scenes.  Just the rearranging of them.  It changes the narrative and correctly focuses on following Jenny to start off the film, instead of Carter.  Her affair with Jack and sneaking around is what kicks this off.  In this fashion it becomes much more clearer that this film was to be De Palma taking another “stab” at riffing Hitchcock’s Psycho.  The scene with watching the disposing of a sinking car was obvious, but the original intention was much more than that.  De Palma had already done this with Dressed To Kill, but here he explores some further ideas and references.  The whole Carter/Cain-multiple personalities plot becomes a surprising turn in the plot.  Even knowing what comes of Jenny when she first gets attacked by her husband is quite the jump in this new cut because you’ve been comforted and focused on her sneaking around.  This new cut does lay a cleaner, more easy to follow narrative, but here the little bait and switches are far more satisfying and pay off better.

I can’t tell you how cool this new “intended” Raising Cain is.  I’m actually pretty fascinated with it.  This is probably one of may all time favorite recut/director’s cut/extended cuts now.  I’m not terribly obsessed with those things, but when they actually serves some sort of purpose of fix something back to the intended doings of the creator I give them a chance.  And here, this is clearly a better film and the one it should have been.  Everything that worked so well the first time out is only enhanced here with a better structure and narrative.  This cut makes this release on of the funnest this year on Blu-ray.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Raising Cain makes its Blu-ray debut in a rather beautiful transfer from Scream Factory.  Its got a really nice, full looking softness (by design) to it, while maintaining a bold crisp look.  Details are pretty abundant on textures and patterns of clothing.  Even dirt, smudges and streaks on car windows show up looking quite good.  Plastic texture and surface scuffs and the like look grand.  A really, really nice job here from the Factory of the Scream.

Depth:  Dimensional work comes off looking quite good with natural, cinematic looking movments and free space.  Take for example, the super long take tracking shot that is one of the major highlights of the film.  It looks 3-dimensional and loose.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and deep.  Shadows and darkly lit scene are represented very well here, with some of the most lovely moments in the transfer appearing in the dark.  Clothing, hair and surfaces maintain detail through darkness as well.

Color Reproduction:  Colors look lavish and romantic while maintaining a life-like sense to them.  Reds and blues look rather luscious, but overall everything is pretty real in its approach.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural, maintaining a consistent appearance in the film’s runtime.  Facial details like moles, freckles, make-up covered acne, wrinkles and stubble all show through quite good in medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Its a rather clean transfer, but there is a minimal bit of grain, specs and dirt.

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

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Both 5.1 and 2.0 tracks are quite wonderful sounding.  I might give the edge to the 2.0 track as its more in line with maybe the film’s original design.  Plus its a film that doesn’t demand much in terms of surround.  Anyway, the mix features a nice boasting score that takes over expertly in big moments sounding striking and full.  Effects are also bumped up a bit for impact.  All of this is women in a healthily balanced mix along with the vocal track.

Low Frequency Extension:  Scoring beats, jumps in the film, gunfire, crashing and an impaling sequence all are examples of when the subwoofer brings a nice involved impact into the mix.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This is a more front-heavy track, with the rear speakers providing environmental ambiance for the most part.  Front speakers do give  a lot of good back and forth as well as accurately mixing and placing each piece of sound in a scene.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is nice and loud, clear and crisp.

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Raising Cain – Collector’s Edition is a 2-disc set that features reversible cover art that has the original poster art.

Disc 1

Not One To Hold A Grudge (HD, 30:00) – An interview with John Lithgow.  The legendary actor discusses his third outing with De Palma and the intricacies of the role and the script.  He begins with his early meetings with De Palma, to getting jobs because De Palma recommended him to his 3 rather devious, evil roles with him.  He very much enjoys the “Brian De Palma process”.  Its a lengthy interview where the actor goes across all his methods of preparation, delivery of playing multiple roles and the many aspects he loves of the “puzzle maker” auteur Brian De Palma.  In a fun moment, Lithgow discusses the many times he’s done alter-egos and multiple personalities within a role.

The Man In My Life (HD, 24:00) – An interview with Steven Bauer.  Bauer talks about his amazement and belief in De Palma.  He’s very animated and happy to talk about him playing a role of just being “beautiful” and something women would want.

Have You Talked To The Others? (HD, ) – An interview with Paul Hirsch.  The editor talks about how Raising Cain allowed him to leave 20th Century Fox as a “film fixer” to replace an editor that De Palma had no chemistry with.  He admits to not understanding the script at all when he first got there and shares his both confusion and understanding of the film.

Three Faces Of Cain (HD, ) – An interview with Gregg Henry.  He touches upon his previous working with De Palma (Scarface, Body Double) and fills in some interesting tid bits on how he would play the other Lithgow parts during rehearsals. Henry also dispels some notion that there was a rift between Steven Bauer and De Palma on set (At least from his experience).  And he gets into some heavy details on the intricacies of the long tracking shot in the film.

The Cat’s In The Bag (HD, 8:00) – An interview with Tom Bower.  Like everyone else, he notes he watched the De Palma documentary.  Bower shares his admiration for the director’s dedication to getting the shot and building an understanding through visuals first.  He’s also excited about a positive review he received from Pauline Kael.

A Little Too Late For That (HD, 8:43) – An interview with Mel Harris.  She talks about moving from finishing up Thirty Something to this film.  And she also talks about visuals as well as suspense and her admiration for Lithgow’s performance.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:05) 

Still Gallery (HD, 2:09) 

Disc 2

Director’s Cut (HD, 1:31:58)

Changing Cain: Brian De Palma’s Cult Classic Restored (HD, 2:25) – Peet Gelderblom, the man behind the re-cut version talks his following of De Palma’s original intended version of the film.  De Palma himself pushed Shout! Factory to include this cut on the release as its the version he intended it to be.

Raising Cain Re-Cut: A Video Essay (HD, 13:02) – Peet Gelderblom goes over his cut of the film that went for De Palma’s original intended ordering and cut of the film’s scenes.

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Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release of Raising Cain is one that not only well represents the film with supplemental material and a great presentation; it actually IMPROVES the film as well.  With the new “director’s cut”, Raising Cain absolutely now needs another look and to be re-assessed.  The film’s new narrative is so much stronger and more faithful to just being a De Palma film, its actually just flat out better and actually a good solid thriller instead of a bit of a decent one that’s a little harder to swallow (Or comprehend).  This is a must have for De Palma fans and those who love seeing really different cuts of films.



1 Response to “Raising Cain – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Jason Coleman

    Can’t wait to see the fan cut here. Brian talks very candidly in the De Palma doc about how he changed the order because he felt Lolita didn’t have the chops to pull it off and Lithgow killed it. Still dug the original and can’t wait to compare the two! (p.s thanks for the FFF shout out!)