The influential film critic Andrew Sarris passed away today at the age of 83. While Sarris was not exactly a fan of Brian De Palma's films, he often had positive things to say about them to go along with the bad. His favorite De Palma film was Mission To Mars. His least favorite appeared to be Dressed To Kill, for which he wrote two reviews, the second of which served as a rebuttal to Pauline Kael's and David Denby's positive reviews. The debate over Hitchcock and De Palma was played out between these reviews by Kael and Sarris. In his great new book, Un-American Psycho: Brian De Palma And The Political Invisible, Chris Dumas uses the Sarris/Kael reviews of Dressed To Kill as a sort of springboard into his attempt to "reposition De Palma in regard to Hitchcock." (I'm currently reading that book, and will write more about it later.)
This passage from the conclusion of Sarris' 2007 review of De Palma's most recent film, Redacted, sums up his general views on De Palma's cinema: "Mr. De Palma, now 67, has camped on the darker side of existence for most of his 40-year, 38-film career. The horrors of Carrie (1976), Dressed to Kill (1980), Blow Out (1981), Body Double (1984), The Untouchables (1987) and Raising Cain (1992), among his more successful works, seem to have anticipated the current craze for morbidity in our entertainments. Still, my favorite De Palma effort is his much underrated Mission to Mars (2000). The point is that he didn’t need Vietnam or Iraq to explore the evil depths to which human beings can descend when the opportunity arises. In this respect, the horrors of war simply multiply the horrors of so-called peacetime."