L13FC: Brian De Palma

Welcome back to the Lucky 13 Film Club and three cheers to my English buddy, Pete, for accepting my invitation to co-host this month’s discussion. We wanted to extend our admiration of Brian De Palma to you and encourage you to respond to everyone’s ideas in a positive way. Please join the conversation. Why is your favorite De Palma film memorable?

Pete’s opinion:

Blow Out. (1981)
I am starting with this film as I like it so much, and think it is grossly underrated. There is some real skill here, and the recurring use of sound and film editing, film techniques within a film. De Palma makes the most of going over the same thing time and again, with subtle changes that show the developments to the viewer, as they are discovered by the character of Jack (John Travolta) on screen. The director also shows his skill for pacing, as we happily wait for the painstaking research to play out before us, then get swept along by the excitement of the finale.
The split screen helps too, building tension, and saving running time in the process. Then there is the theme of ‘the scream’, one that runs through the whole film, and the idea of filming important scenes against the background of real events and large crowds, in vivid colour.
Body Double (1984)
This film stayed with me and is actually a lot better than it feels when you are watching it. The
story is secondary to the real purpose of the film though. That is De Palma playing fast and loose with an unbridled homage to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. For film fans, it becomes a delight to spot the references, many of which are about as subtle as being hit with a cinematic brick. At times it feels like the director has taken the films of the man he admired so much, and inserted them into Body Double in order of preference. They are so blatant, all that is missing is a title sequence appearing ahead of the scene. We have the voyeurism of Rear Window, the close-up collusion of Rope, and the use of the telephone from Dial M For Murder. Throw in some Vertigo and Psycho scene-alikes for good measure, and all we seem to be missing is the seaside scene from Rebecca, and the fairground from Strangers On A Train. But don’t let that put you off. It is a dedicated homage, cranked up for the 1980s.
Carlito’s Way (1993)
If the first choice was innovative, whilst derivative, and the second an outright homage, my third
choice is all about casting, and locations. This modern gangster film is far superior to De Palma’s overblown and out of control Scarface, made 10 years earlier. By this time, the director had grown into making something more serious, and despite using the same lead actor, Al Pacino delivers a fine performance that is a world away from hysterical Tony Montana. A barely recognizable Sean Penn captures the style and greed of the period as the friend and lawyer Carlito rely upon, and smaller roles from Luis Guzman and a testy John Leguziamo are memorable, too. Locations are bitingly authentic, from the run-down cafe early in the film, to the prison barge holding the Mafia boss, and the nightclub owned and run by Carlito. Everything smacks of authenticity, and if any of them were sets, I surely didn’t notice. Even though I knew some just had to be. This is my favourite De Palma film, with its sense of impending doom running all the way through.
Image result for casualties of war sean penn split screen image
Cindy’s thoughts: 
Remember in Casualties of War when the sarge, Sean Pean, was shaving looking into the camera like it were a mirror in front of him while soldiers talked about him without his knowing? I like how De Palma transitioned from the split screen to placing one image, usually a character, in the foreground. It happened later again when Michael J. Fox’s character is being transported via helicopter. It happens in many De Palma films. The trick forces the audience to focus on two stories going on at once.
Image result for carrie split screen image
The split-screen is a trademark technique. Repeating the stars from one film to the next is another trademark. John Travolta. Al Pacino. Melanie Griffith. Sean Penn. Can you sum up Brian De Palma? We know his stories are a parasitical obsession with Hitchcock. His stories are passionate displays for conspiracies and voyeurism. The scores are loud and melodramatic, and I am entertained when I watch them.
Image result for mission impossible one image of cruise hanging mid air
Mission Impossible is the best of the long franchise. Carrie is a horrifying film adaptation, probably the best of Stephen King’s novels.
My favorite De Palma film is The Untouchables. Robert DeNiro was electric as Al Capone. Jim Malone (Sean Connery) as the mentor to Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) was charming and Ennio Morricone‘s score sizzled. The best trick of DePalma for me, however, is his use of contrasts. He takes a beautiful setting–the hill country of Vietnam, the Canadian Rockies, the beauty of architecture, like sweeping stairs and velvet drapes, and inserts a horrifying situation or tragic character, the “humpbacked and crooked”, the two extremes, to create a binary experience. While De Palma films may seem like period pieces from the 80s and 90s and not as great as films from the 60s and 70s, I am nostalgic for them. He filmed on location in interesting places. I miss the  De Palma tricks, the colorful, melodramatic scores, and the corrupted souls fumbling around in the dark with the hope of redemption that rarely comes.
What’s your favorite De Palma scene? 
Thank you, Pete, for co-hosting! Check out Beetley Pete’s blog which can be found HERE.

96 thoughts on “L13FC: Brian De Palma

Add yours

  1. I havent seen all of them, but really enjoyed Carlito’s way and The Untouchables epecially. Didn”t really take note of the director back then, but he did a canny job 🙂

          1. She is very lovely in Blow Out but I grew up knowing her really as Lewis in Robocop with her short hair and that police outfit. I never really thought of her as a sex symbol until I saw years later 1941 and thought she’s kind of pretty with long hair. I’m yet to see Dressed to Kill properly but yes I have a soft spot for that kind of get up. One only need to read my Deadpool review to know that and yes Ms Allen wore it well. More importantly she was a very talented actress. Perhaps my first impressions of her as Lewis prove that maybe she was underrated for her versatility.

    1. I remember Sean Conner won Best Supporting Actor. I don’t remember who ran against him or if it was a token gesture, but his energy and his liability as Malone made it a favorite role among many.

  2. At the top of the post here, I immediately figured that being such a Stephen King fan, I should say “Carrie” is my favorite. But I remembered that despite knowing the end of the “Untouchable”, he held my undivided attention to the movie. Then I continued reading and you came to “Casualties of War” and “Mission Impossible” and I’m back to being undecided!!

      1. He has done a wide variety of films and they all are very different in terms of looks and whole composition. Some directors, their work seems more similar than different. (Wes Anderson, Coen Brothers)
        But look how disimilar Carrie, Scarface, Carlito’s Way, Blowout, and Casualties of War, Mission Impossible, and Untouchables are? They all evoke different emotions out of me.

        1. I’m not sure about that Cindy. I kind of feel he sticks mostly to thrillers and crime and has a certain style. They do evoke different emotions though. The Untouchables is very different to Scarface for example and they’re only 3 years apart.

          1. Yes, I see your point in that he sticks to similar genres. But look how different Carrie is to Casualties of War is to Scarface is to Bonfire of the Vanities…

          2. Quite right. Although Carrie is the most successful out of those outside the crime/thriller genre perhaps. Plus striking camera work/editing and female nudity are in that as much as his thrillers. Still I see a link between The Black Dahlia and The Untouchables but not necessarily Carrie. Scarface and Carlito’s Way could have been made by different directors. So yeah he can have a distinctive style and he has more success in certain genre than others but yeah he does switch it up for different films and so yeah maybe you’re onto something there. 🙂

    1. Ha! I really love Mission Impossible. It was new and fresh. That score was great to hear fm the TV show. I loved the friendship between the band of spies. I liked that it was filmed in Europe with the atmospheric buildings and cobblestones. And yes, Tom Cruise, had just the right amount of smarts, strength, and good looks to be the leader. Even if you don’t like all the MIs, the first one was very entertaining.

      1. I wholeheartedly agree Cindy, the first one is the best although I do think the last one Rogue Nation was a good exercise of style of substance helped enormously by a star is born performance of Rebecca Ferguson. Yet the first one is the best. Apparently DePalma and Cruise clashed. More’s the pity. Filming in Prague, that opening setpiece and the economic storytelling that sets up the comraderie, trust and shared history of this team before they all get blown away. There’s been hints lately of how he is a lot older and weather beaten by the life of the spy in the recent films and my hope is that is explored more fully in the new one. I think its something that interests the director.

        1. Hi Lloyd. There’s a new one coming out this summer. I will be there! It’s the one series I’ve watched from beginning to end. I don’t know how much longer Cruise can take being Ethan Hunt. I heard he shattered his foot doing one of his stunts (but I don’t know for what film or the result of it). I like Simon Pegg, too. BUT it’s the first one that was done well. It’s been interesting to see the different directors take on the franchise and how their style comes through in the filming of it.

          1. You’re quite right Cindy, he did break his ankle on the last film which is coming out this year. The series was known for hiring different directors who brought their own style. David Fincher and Joe Carnahan were both going to do one in the early years of the 21st century which I still wish had come about. Instead we got J.J. Abrahams who as a fan of his show Alias I felt just repeated a lot of what he did better there. Brad Bird got the series back on track but it was when Christopher McQuarrie arrived that I think the best sequel was made. He is the first director to return to the franchise with No. 6 following No.5 and so I’m hoping for a throughline but I also feel like these films always remain somewhat superficial so I don’t think we’ll get it. You go to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for one thing. You go to Mission Impossible for a different reason and as far as that goes my hopes are high this will be good. I feel the trailer was one of the more exciting ones that came out during the Superbowl. But back to our earlier point, the first one remains the best. 😉

          2. Oh, yes. It’s popcorn. I need popcorn movies sometimes to get away from the downers I usually watch. MI films are smart enough to keep me engaged. If the chemistry between the band is good, I’m happy to check my “art hat” at the door.
            Movies are supposed to entertain you.
            I’m not embarrassed to say I enjoy them. It’s the same with James Bond films, too.

          3. Quite right although I always like to think there is good blockbusters and bad blockbusters. The Mission Impossible series has run the spectrum of that.

  3. Great post 🙂 Their is so much for me to comment on here so I am always going to keep you Cindy up to date on the replies 🙂 On that last question, (though I think I might have given you the link already), here is a link to my favorite Brian De Palma films


    For Pete: I love all of your thoughts on your three selected films. Since you basically said everything that is needed to be said about Blow Out, all I can add is the dramatic interpretations that I sometimes here from others about the film. Some have actually drew a similarity to Chappaquiddick (the Ted Kennedy incident in 1969) in terms of that car crashing into the river and the assassination of that political candidate in the car to be that of one of the two Kennedys (John and Robert). On the filmmakers part it is of course unintended but interesting to think about. The climactic sequence with Nancy Allen’s character screaming in front of the American flag also carries symbolism of how crazy things had become in American life by 1981 even though Ronald Reagan was in office. I even heard some say that the masterful climactic chase sequence carries the expressionism of Vincente Minnelli’s 1958 melodrama Some Came Running. As far as Body Double is concerned, I love that one and I love how you imply it as his ultimate Hitchcock homage (notice I said implied not exclaimed). Dressed to Kill is my number one favorite in that capacity, but that was debatably mainly referencing Psycho. Femme Fatale is actually my favorite in those terms although that one was not so much a summing up of his love for Hitchcock, as much as it was of his themes, visual style and in a more subtle way, his love of those kinds of films whether Hitchcock directed them or not. The beginning of Femme Fatale actually features the lead character watching Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity on television. As for Carlito’s Way, it does come off as superior to Scarface (which I also love) for all the reasons you state. The film has I think one or two steadicam sequences. The one here is when Pacino is on his yacht and the film moves slow, but steady which is perfect in this case since it is a character piece. Also, the way De Palma shoots that climactic shoot out is just amazing. Speaking of which, the French film critic magazine Cahiers du Cinema labelled Carlito’s Way one of the 10 best films of the 1990’s according to something I read.

    I shall reply on your thoughts Cindy next If not right away 🙂

  4. Now For Cindy: That image of Casualties of War with the fellow soldiers on the left and Sean Penn’s character on the right shaving is very expressive of how we the viewer are supposed to think about him, which we feel very skeptical on in terms of whether their is an ounce of humanity in him, which in this case their debatably does not seem to be as the film goes on. And yes, it was interesting that De Palma did not employ a split-screen here. Mission: Impossible was like De Palma’s first pure special effects film when it came to a lot of the action sequences. As for The Untouchables, he really shows that he can direct a commercial assignment and that expertly crafted climactic train station shootout sequence is worthy of comparison to Sergei Eisenstein’s Odessa sequence in Battleship Potemkin.\

    As for my favorite Brian De Palma sequence, I have a ton of them, but I would love to single out a crucial one in the 1978 Science-Fiction thriller The Fury. In it, Amy Irving is protecting herself from a corrupt government agent played by the late John Cassavetes. Since, she is telekinetic powers, she uses all of her might to literally make his whole body graphically explode. I read somewhere, that they filmed the entire sequence using four cameras and I think it involved a lot of work to make sure it denoted right at the moment that it was supposed to.

    Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    1. The station sequence in ‘The Untouchables’ is a direct homage to Battleship Potemkin’s ‘Odessa Steps’ scene, even down to the baby’s pram.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      1. I love Andy Garcia in this film. “I got ‘m” as he’s cooly marking his man always gets me. And the man in the white suit. Can’t say I’m a fan of following his face down as he plunges into the car (not sure what that trick is called) but he’s so sinister and creepy in white.

          1. I can’t confirm that Cindy but I can tell his name is Collin Hymes, son of Gary Hymes who was the stunt coordinator for The Untouchables. Gary is still working today on shows Sons of Anarchy. Collin served over six years as a Marine including operational service. He has now followed his father into the stunt business. Collin was 18 months old during filming and when Gary volunteered his son for the role his course for high risk employment was probably set. There’s some cool behind the scenes shots here http://www.moon-city-garbage.agency/untouchables/index.htm Part of the reason why young Collin is chilled as fuck in some of the shots was due to a crewmember holding up a stuffed toy above the little guy while the camera got his close ups.

          2. Name is Collin Hymes and he was 18 months old during filming. His father Gary Hymes was the stunt coordinator for The Untouchables and ‘volunteered’ his son for the gig. Must have set his course for high risk work because he’s now followed his father into the stunt business. He also was a United States Marine serving over six years in the Corp including overseas. Want to know how they got him to look so chilled for his close ups. There was a crew member off camera holding up a stuffed toy.

          3. Thanks Cindy, yeah there’s a picture of him overseas as well from IMDB. Thought you’d be interested. 🙂 Hope you’re having a great weekend. L13FC is another smashing success thanks to you and Pete.

    2. John, how wonderful to have you share your thoughts today! I’m glad you mentioned The Fury. I haven’t seen it in soooo long, I barely remember it, but your description of Amy Irving sounds great. I’ll have to give it a rewatch.

  5. It’s funny, John Charet and I recently had a conversation about De Palma’s films. In fact he sent me over here. Anyway, my favorite De Palma film is Blow Out. It’s one of my all time favorite films. Like John, I love the De Palma style, but I think sometimes it can get in the way of the film. In Blow Out, he kind of dials it back a bit and it’s a perfect marriage of style and substance. My second favorite is Dressed To Kill and here I think style trumps substance, but it’s done so skillfully that it elevates the material, kind of like Hitchcock elevated the Psycho narrative/ novel/screenplay. But back to Blow Out–it actually mirrors the 1967 film Blow Up. Blow out is vastly superior to that film in my opinion, though many people would disagree with me. The ending of Blow Out devastates me. I so much didn’t want it to go that way and yet it was undeniably poignant and fitting. It haunted me–just as it did the Travolta character, Jack Terry.
    Really great post on a really great director.

    1. Many thanks for your well-considered comment. As a big fan of both ‘Blow Out’, and ‘Blow Up’, I have to agree with your conclusion. Antonioni’s film, as much as I like it, was a simple pean to the wonder of the ‘swinging sixties’. Whereas ‘Blow Out’ had interesting, non-baffling complexity, and sought the full engagement of the viewer.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      1. Thanks Pete. I’ve read several of your posts and comments–we tend to travel in the same circles, though, undoubtedly you are far better traveled than I am. Nice to make you acquaintance.

          1. Thanks Cindy. I like your posts as well. You are very engaging and you have creative ideas that stimulate “conversation” instead or just analyzing everything to death like I do. When John sent me over to your site I was like “Oh, great. I know her. This is going to be fun.”

          2. It’s not often I “meet” women who like “guy” films. I’ll talk all day with you if you like. 🙂
            Do you like different genres or are you glued to thrillers?

          3. Yeah. I like guy films. I’m not much of a chick flick kinda gal. My husbands glad. Ha!
            I never go to the movies with my girlfriends. I have no desire to see The Notebook done a thousand ways. I haven’t seen it period.
            I do have a real soft spot for The Way We Were. That movie gets to me. Big Time. I love Robert Redford so much. Gorgeous. Paul Newman too.
            I’m pretty much all crime genres. I do like comedy, especially Black Comedy, but any kind of comedy that’s done well. That’s the thing. Comedy is the hardest genre to pull off effectively.

          4. I agree. I like dark humor a lot. One good one I saw was ‘In Bruges’. Did you laugh at ‘Tropical Thunder’? I love Platoon and Vietnam films, so it cracked me up. Yes, to Paul and Robert. Dreamy!

          5. Haven’t seen In Bruges but I’ve heard good things about it. I’ll check it out. Yes I laughed at Tropical Thunder, particularly the “coming attraction clips.” I was really up for it and delighted by it but then, to me anyway, it kind of lost steam. It started out so strong but it wasn’t able to keep up with itself. My two cents. Ha!
            One of my favorite comedies is the original The Producers–Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel (however you spell his name). Hysterical. I like Peter Sellers a lot too.

          6. Yes. Me too. Blazing Saddles. High Anxiety. I like Tropic Thunder. What’s his name… Robert Downey Jr. He’s brilliant. Jack Black too. School of Rock…Did you like that one? And what about Bernie?

      2. Pete, imagine that the david hemings character is in reality the factory worker he pretends to be in the beginning, and the moment he steps into the limo is the beginning of his fantasy of being famous glamour photographer, and i suspect you will find blow up just as complex as blow out, and more than a simple paen to the swinging sixties. on that note, have you seen the documentary with michael caine, my generation, which actually is a pean to london inthe swing sixties?

        1. Hi Bill,
          I have seen that documentary. I come from the same area as Caine, a few streets away in fact. And my Mum lived around the corner from the hostel where Hemmings takes the photos of vagrants, in ‘Blow Up’. Antonioni’s film was a landmark for me at the time; great cast, interesting structure, locations, and so on. As I got older, I liked it less, and now it seems to be a simple case of style over substance. That in itself doesn’t usually concern me, but given that it inspired De Palma, I thought he gave it a good modern interpretation.
          Best wishes, Pete.

    2. Welcome! I love that John sent you over here and you obliged. Your thoughts are great and I agree with that Blow Out is underrated so I was happy when Pete wanted to talk about it. Wasn’t John Travolta just perfect? I love the theme of the scream that runs through the film. The dark comedy behind it and the final sequence which caught the final scream. Very sad and touching. I just loved the climax when the fourth of July red fireworks are reflected in Nancy Allen’s dying face. Sigh.

      1. Yes, it’s very tragic. I was about fourteen when I first saw it so it devastated me. It’s a terrific film and I think it’s one of Travolta’s best performances. The Untouchables is really great too.

        1. I watched The Untouchables (again) the other night. Many of De Palma’s scores are overblown and dates his films, but I thought Ennio Morricone’s score was complex and just right. It helped the film instead of distract.

          1. Yes, I agree. His use of music is very stylized like everything else De Palma. To me, it’s very 80s. Of course that’s the era of his body of work. It’s a time capsule that puts me right back into the streets of my youth so I don’t mind. The Untouchables is kind of a De Palma outlier but his fingerprints are all over it–in a great way, of course.

  6. Well Cindy, I’m going to turn in. I enjoyed breaking down De Palma and exploring some comedies with you. Feel free to drop by my site anytime. I’ll be dropping in on you too. Let me know what you think about One False Move. I’ll check out In Bruges.

  7. Thank you Cindy and Pete for another great Lucky 13 Film Club edition. I haven’t seen all of De Palma’s work but out of The Black Dahlia, Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible, Carrie and Carlito’s Way I would their style sometimes outweighs their storytelling. Mission: Impossible for example is fantastic popcorn flick but not much more is going on but hey what fun. The weakest for me The Black Dahlia is still kind of fascinating for how it subverts masculine men and shows the older De Palma still employing all his old tricks with finesse. SPOILERS AHEAD! The Untouchables was kind of fantasy world of larger than life period heroes. Classic mythic storytelling with four great central characters and actors playing them. I always remember that shot of terror on Charles Martin Smith’s face in the elevator. By being prepared to kill his heroes he gives the film weight but I always feel, marble staircases aside, the film loses something when Connery goes. I think this is more a lack of direction in the script than anything and Robert De Niro is wasted. Still what a score and so many classic lines. Scarface is even thinner on plot but has become so classic. Its pure male ambition, greed and aggression and where it ends if there is no balance. A classic crime trajectory elevated by a larger than life Pacino, 80s fashion and De Palma doing his thing. I’m much interested in Blow Out and Carlito’s Way. Blow Out is a lot of style over plot but in that one we get classic noir tropes, filmmaking as a form of investigation and two heartwarming performances from the criminally underrated Nancy Allen and a baby faced John Travolta. I think you’re onto something there Cindy, this maybe one of his best performances and I love your mention of locations in De Palma’s films. I’m not sure you could make a finale on that scale today with use of real crowds and in the centre of town. I’m not quite sure about the ending but I always feel sad about that shot with the fireworks. No wonder it didn’t blitz the box office but he made the classic. That leaves Carlito’s Way where the story for me works. Pacino as an older con trying to go straight is great and I love the way the shoot-outs are done. I genuinely care about Carlito and rate Sean Penn’s performance. I didn’t recognise him straight away. Carrie along with Carlito’s Way may be his most complete films. Scarface and Blow Out maybe better but their stories are not. You care for Carrie a lot more than Tony Montana. A fantastic slow burn and I love the way they realise her powers at the end. Plus the classic jump scare. Sissy Spacek of course is so important to that film a real beauty but somebody with a unique enough look that you can believe her in the role. I’m afraid this is more a rating of each film rather than an informed discussion of what makes them work. I gotta expand my vocabulary.

    1. Oh, no, your summaries of what’s good and not is most welcome, Lloyd. Yes, while Al Capone started off strong, there was no satisfying conclusion and yes, you are right, when Sean dies, something of the film dies, too. Blow Out, Carrie, Carlito’s Way are very satisfying. MI and Untouchables, well done, fun films. Popcorn and not art. But I’m always satisfied when I watch them. I can’t see Carlito’s Way over and over or Casualties of War. Depressing and dark.

  8. Favourite scene is tricky, I actually really like the bridge scene in The Untouchables. Such unbridled joy in the heroics but the marble staircases at the train station are pretty good. So many great setpieces in Mission Impossible. I’m thinking about my poor Mum watching it with us in the movies. She has a fear of mice and when that rat appeared with Jean Reno I think she missed the whole scene with Cruise hanging. Can you imagine the guts it took to take us to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Master Splinter. Ha. In fact it’s funny how favourite scenes of De Palma’s seem to involve set pieces for me. I guess those are all the obvious ones so let me point out the shoot out in the bar in Carlito’s Way I really like. Just him geeing himself up in the men’s room before he goes out for round 2 has always stuck with me.

  9. Just talking about tricks he employs, how about that 360 pan in Travolta’s office slowly revealing things. Genius. Well I think I’ve gone enough. Thank you so much Cindy and Pete for another great L13FC.

    1. Thanks, Lloyd. Style over plot substance, eh. Surely you are talking about Hitchcock here? 🙂
      (As De Palma adores him so much, I may actually have a pint…)
      I agree that this might apply to Body Double, and in my opinion, applies criminally regarding Scarface. But I think the plot of Blow Out is solid. The accident, the investigation, the techniques used in meticulous detail. Then the hunt for the pair, and the final showdown. That’s a plot, in my book.
      Carlito’s Way is my favourite for a good many reasons. Pacino at his best, Penn breaking the ‘character mould’ with such flair, and location, location, location, all so credible and authentic.
      Thanks for coming along to add your thoughts, and for your excellent personal appraisals too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      1. Thanks Pete, Hitchcock was a stylistic auteur for sure but I think his stories had more meat on the bones for some reason. I think you have a point about Blow Out though. There’s a mystery to unravel, good character dynamics, flashbacks and an arc for the central character. So you raise a good point. I’m not sure why he adds the scream that haunts him at the end or why he doesn’t follow up for justice but I guess the point is he’s broken and guilt ridden. Either way it’s so haunting and heart breaking. Not many films get that kind of emotional response that endures. It’s a great movie as is Carlito’s Way.

    1. Hi, Vinnieh. I like that scene a lot, too. After all the abuse, the explosion happens, there’s no turning back, and she lets forth her rage. It felt perversely satisfying to see her beat the hell out of the popular kids.

  10. I was introduced to Brian De Palma by way of “Obsession” (1976). From that day on, I was hooked on the director. I’ve seen this and other De Palma films, including “The Fury” (1978), “The Untouchables” (1987), “Carlito’s Way” (1993), and “Mission: Impossible ” (1996), but somehow don’t have them yet on DVD.

    I do have these films, however:
    “Sisters” (1973)
    “Carrie” (1976)
    “Dressed to Kill” (1980)
    “Blow Out” (1981)
    “Body Double” (1984)
    “Raising Cain” (1992)
    “Mission to Mars” (2000)
    “Femme Fatale” (2002)
    “The Black Dahlia” (2006)

    I think “Femme Fatale” is highly underrated. In addition to a masterfully orchestrated double helping of a pivotal slow-mo sequence, there are a number of clues provided in the film that we are not watching reality in play. Also, I happen to like the reveal at the end, though some people view it as a cop-out….à la “Identity” (a James Mangold film I like very much).

    Another underrated film is “Raising Cain.” It also plays with reality…à la “Mulholland Drive.” It’s worth multiple viewings to unravel everything.

    I suppose my favorite De Palma film is “Dressed to Kill” (I even have Pino Donaggio’s haunting score on CD), though I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve ̶v̶o̶y̶e̶u̶r̶e̶d̶ watched “Body Double.”

    1. Two excellent choices for your favorite. You seem to be a big fan! I have not seen ‘Raising Cain’. That’s one I should watch soon. I appreciate your thoughts today! Thanks for stopping by.

    2. ‘Raising Cain’ is a good one, David. Lithgow is on manic form, and the rest of the cast go with it.,:) Thanks for your comprehensive comment too. I was already aware how much you love De Palma’s films of course.
      Best wishes, Pete.

    1. As long as you enjoyed them, JC, knowing who directed them is neither here nor there. But one thing to consider is that if you really like a film, then finding out who made it might well be beneficial. You can search out his or her other work, and perhaps discover gems you might never have otherwise considered watching. Just a thought.
      Many thanks for your much-appreciated comment.
      Best wishes, Pete.

  11. Love, love De Palma. I grew up with his films (I found Hitchcock though him). He’s often described as a poor man’s Hitchcock, but I think that’s unfair. His films are technically perfect (I’m a huge fan of the split-screen technique) and he has an uncanny ability to take an old idea and make it look new and exciting.

    Here are my Top 5 (in order of preference):

    Obsession (1976) (reworking of Hitch’s Vertigo)
    Dressed to Kill (1980) (reworking of Hitch’s Psycho)
    Sisters (1973) (reworking of Hitch’s Rear Window)
    Blow Out (1981) (reworking of Antonioni’s Blow-Up)
    Carlito’s Way (1993) (a baroque reinterpretation of classic noir)

    And I really love the much-maligned Raising Cain (1992), which is in my opinion De Palma’s funniest film; a hilarious black-comedy with John Lithgow giving a one-of-a-kind-performance. He plays 4 (or is it 5?) roles and he’s a hoot!

    1. Thanks, Eric. I agree that ‘Raising Cain’ is sometimes overlooked in favour of De Palma’s other films, and Lithgow has obvious fun with his decidedly over-the-top performance. Thanks also for listing your top five, and I am pleased to see two of my own choices included in it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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