"DE PALMA FINALLY WENT FULL HITCHCOCK WITH THIS 'VERTIGO' RIFF"
In honor of the new movie Midnight Special, which apparently pays heartfelt homage to the films of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter, A.V. Club's "Watch This" column is "recommending excellent homages to other films and filmmakers" this week. In today's post, Noel Murray looks at Obsession, Brian De Palma and Paul Schrader's direct homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.
"Obsession is both crazy and quasi-relevant," states Murray, "as well as being the most boldly Hitchcock-derived movie in De Palma’s filmography. (Body Double is a close second, with Dressed To Kill lurking just behind.) Screenwriter Paul Schrader patterned the story directly after Vertigo, a movie that circa 1976 was out of circulation, and had a mixed critical reputation. But Schrader and De Palma weren’t trying to fool anybody. They just both loved Vertigo, and rather than writing an essay for some film journal, they made a movie together that expressed what fascinated them about it."
And in his closing paragraph, Murray writes, "Obsession doesn’t exactly plumb any depths that Vertigo didn’t hit first, nor do its insights into one dangerously driven man differ much from what Hitchcock and screenwriters Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor had already done. But the movie’s extended, dialogue-free set pieces are mini-masterpieces of cinematic choreography. And the heightened luridness of Obsession does succeed in making Vertigo’s twisty plot seem all the more inessential to that film’s power. What both movies do is cut a tale of murder and madness down to its essence, exploring characters who’ve been damaged by social expectations and their own desires. The difference is that in Vertigo, James Stewart’s Scottie Ferguson is, deep down, probably a decent guy—while [Cliff] Robertson’s Michael is an empty suit, defined only by his wants. That’s the De Palma touch."