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Tuesday, September 6, 2011
RON JEREMY ON 'DRESSED TO KILL' IN 1980
AND GLENN KENNY ON THE NEW BLU-RAY, OUT TODAY
Two Brian De Palma films were released today in the Blu-Ray format: Scarface and, from the director of Scarface, Dressed To Kill. Glenn Kenny offers a unique look at the latter by recalling the opinions of porn star Ron Jeremy, with whom Kenny knew through working as a production assistant in the porn industry during the "waning years of porno chic," as Kenny describes them. As Kenny explains, Jeremy felt that his past as a porn star would be less and less of a stigma as porn had been going through its "chic" years and mainstream films were becoming more permissive as far as depictions of sex:

Back in 1980 Mr. Jeremy was even more peculiarly delusional than he is depicted in the strangely poignant 2001 documentary Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy—albeit, perhaps, with better reason. A buff and boisterous 27 years of age, he was crowing to whoever would listen that he had just acquired his SAG card, and also completed some extra work in the new Woody Allen picture, which, as was even then the case with Woody Allen pictures, was as yet untitled. (My calculations put it as Stardust Memories, and I don't believe Ron made the final cut.) Because porno chic really still was a thing, and because of what was being perceived as the "new" or "newish" permissiveness in mainstream film, Ron believed that the porn thing would soon no longer be a stigma and that he'd be able to make a relatively painless and strain-free entry into the Hollywood firmament. I remember him waxing particularly eloquent on this topic with then-Playboy-writer David Rensin, who was visiting the set for an article and who sat around quietly dictating his notes into a mini-cassette recorder. Ron, I remember, had just done a threesome scene with two blondes that had sufficiently discombobulated him that he emerged from the bedroom set with his Fruit of the Loom briefs on inside-out. Warming to his topic, Jeremy ultimately decried the hypocrisy of the ratings system. "Did you see Dressed to Kill?" he asked Rensin. Of course he had; we'd all seen DePalma's Dressed to Kill, which had been released earlier that summer and was something of a succès de scandale. (Hey, look, I did the accent grave!!) I think I had seen it two or three times, 'cause me and my boys were big DePalma fans. Ron wasn't quite so sanguine about the picture. "I can't believe they gave that picture an R! It's total bullshit! I mean, come on. That shower scene in the beginning? I saw that finger go up there, you can't fool me. And they call US perverts."

Ron was referring of course, to the film's notorious opening shower-rape-fantasy scene, in which Angie Dickinson and, alternately, her nude double Penthouse Pet Victoria Lynn (and boy did Penthouse make hay out of THAT connection, if I recall correctly) are violently taken by an unknown hunky assailant. It was Mr. Jeremy's contention that the sex play in that scene indeed crossed the line into "hardcore," e.g., "penetration" and was getting away with something. Mr. Jeremy's subsequent public pronouncements, inasmuch as I've followed them, have not infrequently taken a similar why's-everybody-always-picking-on-me-when-somebody-else-is-doing-worse-stuff tone.

SCORSESE AND DE PALMA WENT TO SEE 'DEEP THROAT'
In Richard Schickel's recent Conversations With Scorsese, on page 116, Martin Scorsese delves into the days when porn was beginning to go mainstream:

[Discussing Taxi Driver]

Schickel: The woman—a society campaign worker—is attracted to Travis because he’s so out of her league, as it were. Her Junior League, I guess. Which makes this notion of taking her to a porn movie—

Scorsese: Oh! I know. Well, you have to remember, a lot of people don’t remember now, but at that time, they were trying to make porn acceptable, with Deep Throat and Sometimes Sweet Susan, and pictures like that.

Schickel: I went to a few of those.

Scorsese: It was okay to go with a girl. But Brian De Palma and I went to see Deep Throat, and he said, Look at the people around us, it doesn’t feel right. There were couples. I said, You’re right. We should be with all these old guys in raincoats. It was a wonderful kind of hypocritical thing that was happening—it opened up the society.


Posted by Geoff at 11:37 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 3, 2011
'DRESSED TO KILL' BLU-RAY SEPT 6
SAME DAY AS 'SCARFACE' BLU-RAY
September 6 will be a big day for De Palma fans who have a Blu-Ray player, as two early De Palma classics are released that day. FOX and MGM announced this past week that they will release Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill on Blu-Ray September 6th, with all the same extras as the regular DVD a few years ago. Earlier this year, Universal announced its Scarface Blu-Ray, also for September 6th. Judging by the cover of Dressed To Kill, shown here, the Scarface date may have had a lot to do with FOX's strategy to release Dressed To Kill on the same date (re: "From the director of Scarface).
(Thanks to Paul and Christopher!)

Posted by Geoff at 12:38 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 3, 2011 12:43 PM CDT
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Monday, April 4, 2011
'INSIDIOUS' SHOWS INFLUENCE OF DE PALMA
JAMES WAN AGREES, BUT ALSO CITES POLANSKI & SPIELBERG
Source Code wasn't the only film that opened this past weekend whose director discussed Brian De Palma as an influence. Last week, IFC's Stephen Saito talked with collaborators James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (screenwriter/actor) about their new movie, Insidious. The discussion turned to camera moves, mentioning Steven Spielberg's Jaws and Duel, Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, and Roman Polanski. Here is an excerpt:

Speaking of twisting, it seemed like the camera was always moving, which seems like a break from other films like this where there might be long panning shots, but the camera still might be shooting from a stationary position.

JW: Even though the camera moves a lot, I think it's there to slowly build the tension and they're not fast camera moves at all. They're very controlled. I definitely wanted to make a very classical, old fashioned horror film based on very classical, old fashioned filmmaking. If you go back and see what Spielberg did with the first "Jaws," it's all very controlled camerawork - or "Duel."

LW: I read one review that said your direction was very reminiscent of "Dressed to Kill." That's pretty cool. Is that something you noticed at all [with the camerawork]?

JW: I look back at my body of work and I definitely see things that excite me in the same way that excite Brian De Palma for sure.

LW: The way he loves to move the camera in...

JW: It's not just that. He moves his camera, but he does it in a really interesting way.

LW: That opening shot of "Insidious," to me, is a very De Palma-esque shot. [The camera] comes in upside down and then twisting around.

JW: I was very inspired by someone like [Roman] Polanski as well, [in how] he takes slow, brooding movies that are made in such confined spaces and just builds on that and builds on that and builds on that. That's what we want to do. But instead of paranoia that we're building on, we're building on supernatural things.


Posted by Geoff at 1:32 PM CDT
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Monday, February 21, 2011
'UNKNOWN' CRIBS FROM 'DRESSED TO KILL'
MUSEUM SEQUENCE SAID TO BE NOD TO DE PALMA

Several critics have noted that a museum sequence in Jaume Collet-Serra's Unknown (which opened Friday and led the box office this past weekend) pays tribute to the masterful museum sequence in Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill. indieWIRE's Drew Taylor mentions "a moment cribbed from Brian De Palma‘s exemplary Dressed to Kill that takes place in an art museum" as one of a handful of "perfectly timed and orchestrated" suspense set pieces. NPR's Jeannette Catsoulis was less impressed, stating that "a swirling museum scene featuring blown-up photographs of unidentified faces — which in the hands of Brian De Palma could have been delicious — is almost laughable in its complete lack of subtlety." Chris Hewitt at the Pioneer Press feels that Collet-Serra is "heading confidently" into a Hitchcock/De Palma level, and mentions that De Palma's Dressed To Kill is "saluted in a museum scene." Taylor riffs on Unknown some more at High-Def Digest, referring to the film as "yellowed paperback fun." Taylor writes:

The thing about ‘Unknown’ is that the implausibility never really slows it down. As the mystery becomes deeper and more complex, you go along with it. [Liam] Neeson hires a Soviet-era spook played by Bruno Ganz to do some private investigating, while Diane Kruger becomes his de facto partner-in-crime. Shadowy killers stalk our hero. In a great scene lifted from Brian De Palma’s ‘Dressed to Kill’, he tries to reconnect with Jones while dodging goons in an art gallery. The mayhem steadily intensifies, straining credibility until the breaking point, which culminates with a giant third act plot twist that threatens to dismantle the whole thing… But doesn’t. Maybe it’s the appearance of Frank Langella as a dapper villain, or the fact that Neeson is just a compulsively watchable character. He’s very much channeling his everyman avenger from ‘Taken’, but ‘Unknown’ is an altogether more stylish, sophisticated beast.


Posted by Geoff at 10:58 PM CST
Updated: Monday, February 21, 2011 11:00 PM CST
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011
TYKWER ON RUN LOLA RUN
CITES DE PALMA AS INFLUENCE ON "ANY SPLIT SCREEN OR SLOW MOTION USE"
Thanks to Rado at the De Palma Touch for letting us know about Edgar Wright's wrap-up of his "Wright Stuff II," which took place over two weeks in January at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. On January 22nd, Wright screened Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy, Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, and Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run. Keith Gordon was a guest at the Dressed To Kill screening, and Wright mentions that one of his festival highlights (of which there were many!) was getting Gordon "to talk about being an 18 year aspiring director on the set" of that film. Wright also picked out a handful of De Palma trailers to play before Dressed To Kill: Carrie, Blow Out, Body Double, and Raising Cain (Quentin Tarantino also picked out the Carrie trailer to play in front of Wright's Shaun Of The Dead on opening night of "Wright Stuff II").

"THANK YOU BRIAN, MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE OF PLAYFULLY DARK SEXY STYLISH AND TERRIFYING MOTION PICTURES"
Prior to that night's midnight screening of Run Lola Run, Wright read out an e-mail message from Tykwer, in which the filmmaker paid tribute to De Palma:

Dearest midnight animals at the new beverly,

i am deeply frustrated that I cannot be with you tonight at my favourite theater showing my good old red hot riding hood baby. That is in particular as i am going to be in town just a few days from now. But i’ll see you at some of the other screening of Mr. Wright’s great choices later this week. Definitely not going to miss The Warriors and Thunderbolt and lightfoot. both Walter Hill and Michael Cimino have been heroes of my youth and it’s not difficult to find their traces in the movie you’re about to watch. And speaking of Mr. Brian De Palma who Edgar also salutes in this series with his super classic Dressed To Kill. Any split screen or slow motion use you’re gonna encounter in the next 80 minutesL thank you Brian, master of the universe of playfully dark sexy stylish and terrifying motion pictures.

Meanwhile – enjoy the other thing i hate to miss tonight: master of ceremony edgar wright’s introduction into: run lola run! yours, tt

Incidentally, Run Lola Run is a film De Palma himself was very impressed with when it was released back in 1998.


Posted by Geoff at 10:38 PM CST
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Sunday, January 16, 2011
WRIGHT PROGRAMS HITCH/DE PALMA NIGHT
UPDATE: KEITH GORDON TO PARTICIPATE! FRENZY & DRESSED TO KILL AT THE NEW BEV

Edgar Wright is currently in the middle of "The Wright Stuff II" at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. For next weekend, on Saturday and Sunday (January 22 and 23), Wright has programmed a double feature of Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy, followed by Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill. Wright plans to be at the Saturday screening of Frenzy to discuss the film, and this just in: Keith Gordon, who played the De Palma-like nerdy-science wonk role in Dressed To Kill, will appear in person during Saturday's screening of that film. Here is Wright's description of the double feature as posted on his blog, Edgar Wright Here:

Edgar says:
Late period Hitchcock and golden period De Palma, together at last. Both fantastic thrillers, breathtaking technical exercises and coal black comedies.

Frenzy had a mixed reception when first released as some were disappointed that Hitch finally showed in graphic detail what he had only hinted at before. I say this ruthless atmosphere only strengthens this grimly funny tale of a man wrongly accused of being a serial killer. As a Brit myself, I personally love the early 70’s grubbiness of the tale, murder among the fruit stalls and potatoes. Lovely!

Dressed To Kill opens with a dream sequence, but the nightmare never ends. De Palma conjures a dark cloud of doom over his ensemble and creates opera from terror. The technique in this film is absolutely incredible, one of those movies that is a mini film school in itself.

And a special bonus that Saturday (Jan. 22) at midnight: Wright will be on hand to present a screening of Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run. Here's what he wrote about that one:

Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run is the kind of movie I wish I’d directed; there’s such a joyful explosion of ideas and techniques, such great momentum and perpetual motion. When I first saw this it made me want to direct another movie more than ever, I remember dragging friends to see it, including Simon Pegg & Jessica Hynes. Indeed it had an influence on my favorite Spaced episode Gone (2.5). It will be great to see this again with a crowd, it’s like a great party mixtape of a movie.


Posted by Geoff at 7:57 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011 6:32 PM CST
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
ANGIE'S VOICE WAS DRESSED UP...
RUTANYA ALDA SUPPLIED ORGASMIC DUB IN TAXI CAB SCENE


It is well known that Brian De Palma used a body double for Angie Dickinson's opening shower scene in his 1980 film Dressed To Kill. Now old school De Palma regular Rutanya Alda has revealed that she provided the orgasmic vocals for Dickinson's character, Kate Miller, as she is ravished by a stranger in a taxi cab. Alda, who appeared in several early De Palma films (Greetings, Hi, Mom!, and The Fury), was the guest of honor November 19th at the New York Film Academy Screening Room, where she took part in a Q&A hosted by New York filmmakers Bryan Norton and Joe Zaso. The video above, featuring clips from several of Alda's films, was played at the start of the evening. The video concludes with the aforementioned scene from Dressed To Kill, with a note of trivia superimposed that reads, "As favor to Brian De Palma, Rutanya dubbed Angie Dickinson's hilarious moans of pleasure in this scene from DRESSED TO KILL." Jed Central has a brief account of the evening.

There have been other known or rumored instances of voice dubs in De Palma films. Dressed To Kill features another familiar voice as "Bobbi," the alter ego of Michael Cain's Dr. Elliott, voiced by William Finley, and heard within the diegesis of the film only on an answering machine. It is rumored that Helen Shaver dubbed the voice of Deborah Shelton in De Palma's Body Double (which would mean, perhaps, that Shaver's is the voice of passion in that film's "yes/no" make-out scene just outside the tunnel). Charles Durning provided a voiceover dub for the opening interrogation scene in Scarface. And finally, Amy Irving provided a favor to De Palma by dubbing the voice of the young Vietnamese-American woman played by Thuy Thu Le in the final scene of Casualties Of War. After all this dubbing, it is interesting to watch Shelton show off her lip-synching abilities in this commercial (circa early 1990s) below: 


Posted by Geoff at 11:39 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 7:19 AM CST
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Monday, October 18, 2010
CAIN & DICKINSON ON DRESSED TO KILL
AS SAN FRAN'S CASTRO CELEBRATES THE FILM'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY
[The reimagined poster for Dressed To Kill pictured here was created by Mikael Kangas. More of his illustrations can be seen at Anna Goodson Management.]

Michael Cain's latest autobiography, The Elephant To Hollywood, was published earlier this month. In the book's photo section, a caption next to an image of Bobbi in a blonde wig from Dressed To Kill has Cain wondering, "Is this me or my body double?" Cain devotes about three and a half paragraphs to Brian De Palma's film, writing, "Who would have thought that the role that would rescue my career at that point would be that of a transvestite psychiatrist turned murderer? You couldn't make it up... but Dressed To Kill became a huge box-office success. It was an opportunity for me, too, to show the versatility of my acting skills, not to mention a first outing for me in women's clothing. It had to be the most uncomfortable costume I ever wore. I hated the tights, couldn't walk in the high heels, found that the lipstick got all over my cigars and stubbornly insisted on wearing my own underpants." Despite all of that, Cain writes, "In the end, many of the long shots in the film were actually played by a double-- a real woman-- who was as tall as me, but needed a bit of padding out. It was she who played the most notorious scene in the film when my character slashes Angie Dickinson's character to death with a razor. It is a horrifying scene-- one that I only saw later on-- and it caused a lot of trouble at the time. Brian De Palma-- who is one of the most technically proficient directors I've ever worked with-- was insistent that it was the right thing to do. It was the only death in the entire movie and he wanted maximum impact: he got it, all right."

DICKINSON ON '70s NUDITY: "THIS IS HOW WE'RE DOING IT NOW"
Meanwhile, Todd Gilchrist interviewed Angie Dickinson last week for the Wall Street Journal, on the eve of the Warner Archive on-demand DVD release of Roger Vadim's Pretty Maids All In A Row (the first batch of orders received copies autographed by Dickinson herself, and sold out quickly). Gilchrist asked Dickinson whether nudity was "a necessity for continuing to work" on films in the 1970s. Dickinson replied:

If I’d had a choice, I would have said, oh no, let’s do it under the covers and stay covered up. That would be my favorite way to do it. But I also was grown up enough to know, “this is how we’re doing it now.” On “Big Bad Mama,” I said, “do we have to have so much nudity?” and the director said yeah (laughs). So it’s hardly my favorite position, but I was an actor, and this is what movies were doing [then], so I did it.

The conversation turned to Dressed To Kill when Gilchrist asked Dickinson if she sees "a difference in the filmmakers who were working then and who are working now":

I haven’t worked on any of those big movies where they make you do the blue screen and all of that, so I don’t really know. The ones that I’ve done have still been the kind where once you’re on a set, you’re on a set; I can’t speak to the ones that have all of the blue screen, where you’re not really in Egypt, you’re in Burbank. The last big picture I made was “Dressed to Kill,” and it was a big budget made by a director who has great attention to detail –- Brian De Palma -– and that was very hard. Because he wanted everything exactly the way he wanted it, and rightly so -– which is hard to do sometimes. But in that, and of course that was 1980, he had to have, again, the nudity. That was just a given.

Gilchrist then asked Dickinson, "Are there any other films you made during your career that you feel like are unappreciated or deserve to be rediscovered by audiences today?"

You know, “Dressed to Kill” might be one, come to think of it. Because by those who have seen it, it’s quite admired, because it is scary as hell — but I don’t think it was actually the hit that it would be today. But that comes to mind, and I did a television series called “Pearl,” and that was a great series about Pearl Harbor on the outbreak of WWII with Robert Wagner, Dennis Weaver, Leslie Ann Warren and myself. I always loved myself in that, and that’s always been, let’s say, shoved under the rug. But “Point Blank” is already in DVD, and that one is my favorite.

THE CASTRO REDISCOVERS PSYCHO & DRESSED TO KILL TOGETHER ON THE BIG SCREEN
Earlier this month, San Francisco's Castro Theatre featured a double bill of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and De Palma's Dressed To Kill, the former having been released 50 years ago, and the latter having been released 30 years ago. Kelly M. Hudson attended, and wrote on his blog that "there were a couple of sequences that made the audience I was watching it with erupt into enthusiastic applause and those were the attack in the subway and the finale in the doctor's office and the final dream sequence. And those people were right: they were brilliant." Dan at Dan's Movie Blog was also at the screening, and similarly stated, "I will say that a few scenes where Blake is menaced by the woman ratchets up the suspense to unusually tense levels. I'm specifically thinking about the scene in Michael Caine's office and in the bathroom at the end." Dan also recalls the "teenage boys in his clique" in the early 1980s talking "about the infamous opening scene featuring Angie Dickinson taking a shower." Dan notes that Dickinson's body double in the opening shower scene was Victoria Lynn Johnson "(August 1976 Penthouse Pet of the Month)."


Posted by Geoff at 5:14 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 18, 2010 5:14 PM CDT
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Thursday, September 9, 2010
NANCY ALLEN ON NANCY FRIDAY
AS MOVIE GEEKS UNITED SERIES CONTINUES

The Movie Geeks United! tribute this week to "The De Palma Thriller" continued last night with a focus on Dressed To Kill, although several films were included in the discussion, including Home Movies (discussed with guest Keith Gordon and touched on with Nancy Allen), Obsession (discussed with guest George Litto), Mission To Mars, and more. The geeks got deep into De Palma discussion within the show's first hour, with Jamey talking about the merits of Mission To Mars, and Chris suggesting that he did not trust his not-so-thrilled assessment of De Palma's The Black Dahlia, because he knows it's De Palma, and he might look at it somewhere down the line and see that it is actually brilliant. The interviews on the show, including John Kenneth Muir, were terrific. Gordon showed a keen knowledge of De Palma's cinema that fit right at home with the geeks, who will feature a separate part of the interview with Gordon about his own directing career on an upcoming episode. Meanwhile, Nancy Allen mentioned that De Palma had her read books by Nancy Friday as preparation for her character, and in particular for her scene at the doctor's office with Michael Cain. A lot of great stuff on last night's show, which you can listen to on the site's archive. Looking forward to the final two shows: tonight, a look at Blow Out, with Allen, Muir, Litto, and Vilmos Zsigmond. Tomorrow night it's Raising Cain, again with Muir and editor Paul Hirsch.

Posted by Geoff at 12:43 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 24, 2010
SALON DOES "THE MOVIE EXPERIENCE I CAN'T FORGET"
DRESSED TO KILL, SCARFACE, CARRIE
Matt Zoller Seitz and company at Salon invited 15 writers and filmmakers to recall "the movie experience I can't forget." Odienator (aka Odie Henderson) recalls his "lenient" aunt taking him and his two cousins to see Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill when he was just ten years old. They were all expecting a typical horror movie by the guy who did Carrie and The Fury. "It was supposed to be an innocent time at the movies, full of violence we knew wasn't real and scares we could tolerate," writes Odienator. "It all started at the beginning," he continues a bit later...

The movie came on, and we were treated to a dream sequence with the Policewoman taking a shower in ways they wouldn't have allowed on ABC. "What the hell?!" I heard my aunt mutter. Then, Policewoman woke up, and she was being lousily hammered by her husband.

"Jesus Christ!" said my aunt, a little louder than before.

The movie went on, and by my aunt's silence, I deduced there was nothing objectionable occurring. What also wasn't occurring was the violence one would find in a horror movie. After a seemingly interminable silent pursuit sequence in a museum, which seemed creepy but had no scary payoff, Policewoman entered a New York City cab and proceeded to engage with her co-star from the museum sequence. I had no idea what they were doing (I was 10), but it sure looked interesting. Suddenly, I felt my aunt grabbing my arm. She dragged me and my two cousins out of the theater, an angry look on her reddened face. "Come on, we're going!" she yelled.

"What's wrong, Mom?!" my cousin asked.

"There is too much fucking fucking in this movie!" she explained. "Y'all can't watch this!"

(See the slide show at Salon for Odienator's full write-up.)

SCARFACE, OPENING NIGHT 1983 IN BOSTON
There are more moments being shared in the article's comments section. "NHBill" wrote about seeing Scarface on opening night:

My wife and I, two of the Whitest people you will ever meet, Conan O'Brien White, decided to head Downtown for Dinner and a movie. It was a date night for my wife but for me it was the chance to see the new Brian De Palma film "Scarface" on opening night. I am an enormous De Palma fan. Even his failures are fascinating to me. The audience for this screening to my everlasting gratitude was predominately Black. They loved Scarface. Particularity finding all of the humor and irony in Al Pacino's performance. We screamed in laughter when Pacino dove head first into a mountain of cocaine and moments later when he invited us to "Say hello to my little friend." We were all shocked and thrilled at the violence. But I was surprised how many reviewers did not find "Scarface" the least bit amusing! Every one of us leaving that theater knew we has [sic] seen an instant classic, the ultimate roller coaster ride laughing one minute shocked in horror the next. Scarface is not my favorite film. It's not even my favorite De Palma film but it was the best film going experience of my life thanks to that fantastic audience!

CARRIE SCARED HER TWICE
A letter to Salon from Robbins Read delves into several theater experiences, including this one regarding De Palma's Carrie:

Carrie”: The first time I saw it, there was a collective gasp from the theater audience and maybe a scream or two when the hand comes out of the gravesite. I remember that I gripped my armrests tightly. When I saw it a week or two later with my cousin, the same collective gasp occurred, and he was holding my wrist tightly. And even though I knew what was coming, I was scared again!

(Thanks to Rado!)


Posted by Geoff at 10:21 PM CDT
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