“If you have a taste for terror, you have a date with CARRIE.” So intones the original theatrical trailer for 1976’s “Carrie,” Brian de Palma’s cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s identically named novel. This is a revenge story: Carrie is a high school student (at “Bates High” – yes this did come out after Psycho) who is tormented by her peers for her lack of physical prowess, weird family, homeliness, et cetera. Her contemporaries mysteriously overlook that fact that she is telekinetic and can…randomly set things on fire with a mere thought; thinking back to high school, I think that these two characteristics would have made her quite popular regardless of her volleyball ability. At any rate, the climax of the movie sees Carrie go ballistic and get her revenge on an uncaring high school populace and staff.
This movie is noted for being John Travolta’s first major motion picture (check out the great picture at IMDB by clicking on his name), Sissy Spacek’s only motion picture (not really), for the groovy disco “United Artists” logo, and for having some of the meanest high school students to ever grace the planet. This movie is also monumentally slow – the good stuff doesn’t really start until Scene 26 – that’s pretty near to the end of the 32 scenes. Suspense is great, but the meanness of the high school kids that torment Carrie is laid on so thick that there not really too much suspense left to build: you pretty much know that they’ve got it coming in a bad way.
Good 5.1, and for purists, the original English Mono as well. Mono French and Spanish are included, and subtitles are available for all three languages.
The video is somewhat grainy, but not so much that it distracts from the experience. The celluloid is fraught with minor but noticeable scratches, dust damage, and so on, so not the best transfer, but certainly not the worst. Colours seem to be somewhat bleached at times, but having flipped between some different scenes, I’ve come to the conclusion that my initial “washed out” impression can be blamed on the “brown-ness” of the seventies (remember this movie was released in ’76). The vivid, clear reds of the prom night scene and Travolta’s hotrod finally convinced me that this disc has actually reproduced the drabness of seventies fashion in deep, vibrant tones.
The menus have nice animations and fantastic transitions (good fadeouts), but by far the most annoying soundtrack I have ever heard. Vaguely creepy soundtrack music excerpts are overlaid by dialogue snippets presumably chosen for how ridiculous they will sound out of context. The sound has a loop length of about 10 seconds – definitely too short. Looking too deep in the menus (i.e.: for more than 20 seconds) is absolute torture.
The extra material on this disc was actually a quite nice bonus. Lawrence D. Cohen (the screen writer for the movies) and Betty Buckley (Margaret White in the musical) have an interesting featurette on the artistic genesis of “Carrie: The Musical.” One strange thing about this featurette is the angle that Lawrence sits at while talking – he is about 45 degrees off of vertical – very unimportant, but kind of funny. Lawrence Cohen shows up again with Brian de Palma in an excellent documentary (40 minutes) on “transforming Carrie from words to images.” Apparently de Palma fought for the right to direct this film – some cool Carrie trivia.
Theatrical trailer: Apparently the producers also recruited the “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” commentator to narrate the trailer. It is absolutely hilarious (and sort of weird) – very much like those old AirWalk wildlife/snowboard hunter commercials, and definitely a highlight of the disc.
Finally, the photographic slideshow (“Animated Photogallery”) is one of the more esoteric extras to be found on discs. It is a PowerPoint presentation (complete with all your favourite slide transitions) of still shots set to some of the drearier music in the movie. I only lasted through 2:42 of its 6 minutes, but definitely go to 1:03 for the most insane, scary picture of Travolta you will ever see.
The quality of this disc makes it definitely worth purchasing for King or de Palma fans. If you liked the movie, the extras add a great deal to the experience. If you are general-purpose horror fan, this movie has some great slasher flick features such as over characterized “bad people” upon whom hideous revenge can be exacted, random religious images, and unexplainable physics (such as gymnasium fire hoses whose stream can knock out people out fifty feet away), and so on. All told, a good effort.
Special Features List
- “Acting Carrie” documentary
- “Visualizing Carrie” documentary
- “Carrie the Musical” featurette
- Animated Photo Gallery
- “Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie”
- Theatrical Trailer