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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
straight-forward"
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book

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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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Interviews...

De Palma interviewed
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De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


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The Filmmaker Who
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Scarface: Make Way
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Deborah Shelton
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italkyoubored

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Entries by Topic
A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Are Snakes Necessary?
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Wednesday, April 3, 2024
MUBI VIDEO - SARAH SHERMAN ON HER FAVORITE MOVIE POSTERS
POSTER FOR BODY DOUBLE IS HER ALL-TIME FAVE, HAS IT HANGING IN HER SNL OFFICE

Posted by Geoff at 8:14 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 31, 2024
FANTASIA OF MUSIC & MAYHEM
WASHINGTON CITYPAPER'S NOAH GITTELL ON PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/beefaudience.jpg

Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise played in midnight screenings this weekend at E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C. Washington Citypaper's Noah Gittell told readers that the midnight viewings "will give you a chance to see it in the perfect mood: a little tired, slightly intoxicated, and with a crowd of similarly juiced weirdos." Here's more from Gittell:
A film about a principled artist who must sell his soul to the devil and immediately regrets it? It’s easy to see Phantom of the Paradise as an arrow fired by one of New Hollywood’s great directors to the executives that fund his work, but it’s not a simple act of youthful rebelliousness. Winslow, perhaps a stand-in for De Palma, despises the glitz and glam of Swan’s world, but when he burns his face in a bizarre record-pressing incident, he dons makeup and a mask in order to become the phantom. It’s a fascinating comment on how show business can make a principled artist become what he despises, even as he rejects it.

Despite his pointed critique (and self-critique), there’s a softness in De Palma’s perspective that sets him apart from his more accomplished peers. While Martin Scorsese was fantasizing about being a New York tough guy in in Mean Streets, and Steven Spielberg was examining his own masculinity in Duel and Jaws, De Palma made a film about a man consumed by unrequited love, and its profound vulnerability is supported by the androgyny of its male characters. Before his accident, Winslow is just a gangly, goofy loner who wears his crush on his sleeve. Swan, as played by Williams, is small and effete, with shades of Truman Capote. Then there’s Beef (Gerrit Graham), who Swan first hires to replace Winslow. There’s a corollary to Rocky from Rocky Horror, another muscle-bound object of desire who confronts hetero-normies with their unspoken urges. He also looks a bit like Michelangelo’s David, if he were covered in glitter and given an endless supply of cocaine.

De Palma is having such fun poking at our vulnerable spots, however, that these questions and contradictions don’t really feel explored. They are raised, embodied, and then swept into the film’s audacious style. As in most of the director’s work, there are betrayals, murders, and sexual longing, but unlike the rest of his work, there are few moments of restraint here. De Palma plunges headfirst into his fantasia of music and mayhem and doesn’t really let up until the credits roll. It’s a near-psychedelic experience built not on freaky visual effects but on pure passion and unadulterated artistry. It might be mind-blowing if viewed under the right, umm, conditions, but even the straitlaced freaks among us are likely to fall under its magic spell.


Posted by Geoff at 1:04 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 31, 2024 1:19 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 30, 2024
BOOK - 'UNSHOT COLUMBO' PAPERBACK COMING IN APRIL
UNCOVERS THE EPISODES THAT WERE SCRIPTED BUT NEVER FILMED, INCLUDING DE PALMA'S
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/unshotcolumbo.jpg

Thanks to Dene for sending along word of a book being published mid-April: Unshot Columbo: Cracking the Cases That Never Got Filmed, by David Koenig. Here's the description at BonAventure Press:
Can’t get your fill of Columbo? Then sink your teeth into 19 adventures that the show almost filmed.

From the author of the best-selling Shooting Columbo comes this unique, behind-the-scenes peek at the un-making of episodes that were shot down—and why.

Discover the early 1970s tales by “murder consultant” Larry Cohen and by a young, pre-Carrie Brian De Palma… the aborted pilot for Mrs. Columbo that was reimagined for Columbo… as well as the unmade masterpiece that Peter Falk desperately wanted to close out the series with as his final case. Find out why he never got the chance.


Previously:
Brian De Palma & Jay Cocks' unproduced 1973 Columbo script discovered
David Koenig's Shooting Columbo details lost De Palma episode

Posted by Geoff at 1:49 PM CDT
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Thursday, March 28, 2024
MARK ISHAM AT ABBEY ROAD, RECORDING 'DAHLIA' IN 2006
MIREK STILES: "IT JUST OOZES CLASS AND IS ONE OF HIS BEST SCORES TO DATE"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/markishamabbeyroad.jpg

From an article at abbeyroad.com titled, "The History of Film Recording at Abbey Road Studios as told by Abbey Road's Mirek Stiles - Part Four:
The Black Dahlia (2006)

Director: Brian De Palma
Composer: Mark Isham
Engineer: Simon Rhodes

“I select music that I think will inspire the composer for that theme. Some composers don't want you to do that at all. Some composers don't want you to put temp tracks in, and you have to describe the music or say “it should be a little like Mahler's 3rd” or “a little of Puccini here,” you sort of describe the music to them and they go off. Morricone was like that, Herrmann was like that. But some people like you to give musical suggestions and I give them very clear musical ideas of what I had in mind.” - director Brian De Palma

The Black Dahlia is film noir crime thriller directed by Brian De Palma based on the 1987 novel of the same name. Both book and film are inspired by the heavily sensationalised media coverage of the gruesome murder of Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles 1947. It stars Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson with the music provided by distinguished New York session player turned composer Mark Isham. The highly anticipated release, after the success of film noir hit LA Confidential, is currently the renowned director's last big Hollywood studio project after the film tragically flopped at the box office.

I have been a fan of Isham since his compelling and gritty score for the 1988 hidden gem The Beast. The criminally underrated composer collaborating with the innovative director of Carrie, Scarface and Carlito’s Way was always going to grab my attention. Apparently, James Horner was originally hired to score the project but for reasons unknown Mark Isham was brought in to replace Horner at the last minute. Isham has a rather splendid background in jazz and is a tremendously skilled trumpeter, making him a savvy choice to match the atmospheric and beautifully shot neo-film noir setting.

The score opens with a sliky-smooth trumpet solo performed by Isham that establishes the musical voice of Josh Hartnett’s character. This opening sets the scene for a gorgeous mixture of jazz, blues, driving rhythms, irregular strings and fully orchestrated actions cues. The overall effect of the score is emotionally complex and a rewarding listening experience. Both the movie and music give a modern twist on an authentic film noir experience. It’s a fine moment in Isham’s career, it just oozes class and is one of his best scores to date.

“I build up my templates, and then along the way, ideas will presumably start flashing in front of me and I very quickly try to get them down. I don't necessarily worry about making them fit the picture or how long or short they are. If there's a good kernel of an idea, you just want to get it down. I’ll end up with maybe 20 different ideas all sketched out as a starting place.” - Mark Isham


The photo above, which comes from the article, shows Mark Isham in Studio One at Abbey Road.

 


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, March 29, 2024 12:27 AM CDT
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Wednesday, March 27, 2024
KEVIN SMITH IN WINNIPEG FOR 'PHANTOM' DOC NOV 1st
THE EVENT WILL BE HOSTED BY PETER ELBLING, ON THE NIGHT BEFORE PHANTOM 50th
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/kevinsmithphantom.jpg

Here's the news from the Winnipeg Free Press, from this past Friday:
A documentary paying homage to Winnipeg’s love affair with Brian De Palma’s cult musical Phantom of the Paradise will screen on Nov. 1 at the Burton Cummings Theatre, just in time for the film’s 50th anniversary.

Directed by Canadian filmmaker Malcolm Ingram, Phantom of Winnipeg features interviews with local “Phans,” original cast members, including star/composer Paul Williams, and director Kevin Smith, a longtime fan who will be in attendance at the screening.

The event will be hosted by Phantom actor Peter Elbling; Smith will take part in a post-screening Q&A.

Tickets, starting at $39.95 plus fees, go on sale today at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster. The event precedes two sold-out screenings of Phantom of the Paradise on Nov. 2 at the Burt.


Posted by Geoff at 11:35 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 26, 2024
M. EMMET WALSH, R.I.P.
CHARACTER ACTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE, WHO MADE HIS FILM DEBUT AS AN EXTRA IN MIDNIGHT COWBOY, WAS 88




M. Emmet Walsh, the character actor who had a small part in Brian De Palma's first studio film, Get To Know Your Rabbit, died last week of cardiac arrest. He was 88.

"With his distinctive lumbering form and droll delivery, Walsh was an ideal supporting player," states Chris Koseluk in an obituary at The Hollywood Reporter. "A master of off-kilter comic delivery and dogged edginess, he excelled at roles that dwelled in the darker corners of humanity. No matter whom he played, he made a colorful impact."

Here's a bit more from Koseluk:

Michael Emmet Walsh was born on March 22, 1935, in Ogdensburg, New York. His father was a customs agent.

Raised in Swanton, Vermont, Walsh attended Tilton School in New Hampshire before enrolling at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, where he roomed with future Knots Landing star William Devane. (In 1998, Clarkson honored Walsh with its esteemed Golden Knight Award.)

Walsh graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1958 and moved to New York City. Three years later, he joined the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and began plying his craft in summer stock and regional theater throughout the Northeast.

Walsh appeared on an episode of The Doctors in 1968 and made his Broadway debut a year later in the drama Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? in a cast that included Al Pacino and Hal Holbrook. In 1973, he replaced Charles Durning in the role of George Sikowski in the original production of Jason Miller’s That Championship Season.

After making his film debut as an uncredited extra in Midnight Cowboy (1969), Walsh popped up in such notable features as Serpico (1973), The Gambler (1975), Bound for Glory (1976), Ordinary People (1980), Reds (1981), Cannery Row (1982) and Silkwood (1983).

Blood Simple marked a turning point.

Walsh was shooting a film in Texas when he got word of an indie project that two brothers in Austin were trying to pull together. He was intrigued by the private eye character, envisioning the role as a Sydney Greenstreet type with a Panama suit and hat. After watching a promo trailer they had shot to entice investors, he signed on.

With Joel Coen and Ethan Coen making heavy use of storyboarding and light on giving direction to their actors, Walsh wasn’t sure what to make of the fledgling filmmakers. He didn’t expect Blood Simple to have a big impact on his career.

“I didn’t hear from them for months after that. They didn’t have enough money to fly me in to New York for the opening of the film,” Walsh said. “I saw it three or four days later when it opened in L.A., and I was, like, ‘Wow!’ Suddenly my price went up five times. I was the guy everybody wanted.”

Walsh had a flair for comedy, as seen in Cold Turkey (1971), They Might Be Giants (1971), Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972), What’s Up, Doc? (1972), At Long Last Love (1975), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975), The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (1979), Fletch (1985), Back to School (1986), Wildcats (1986), Camp Nowhere (1994), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) and Christmas With the Kranks (2004). And he showed up in a curmudgeonly role in Knives Out (2019).


Posted by Geoff at 10:12 PM CDT
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Monday, March 18, 2024
35MM 'MISSION TO MARS' AT MUSIC BOX THURSDAY NIGHT
CINEMA MORRICONE IN CHICAGO
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetm2m35mm.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 10:34 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, March 18, 2024 10:43 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 17, 2024
THE 'UNDENIABLE PROPULSION' OF 'SCARFACE'
AWARDS DAILY'S DAVID PHILLIPS MOVES PAST THE LEGENDS TO LOOK AT DE PALMA'S FILM ITSELF
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarface2745.jpg

"Scarface, Brian De Palma’s nearly three-hour reach for epic-level greatness, is seldom talked about as an actual film anymore," states Awards Daily's David Phillips at the start of his "Reframing" essay about Scarface. "The movie," Phillips continues, "(and particularly Al Pacino’s no-holds barred performance as gangster Tony Montana) have drifted so far into iconography that the quality of the film itself has become secondary to its legend. And it’s one hell of a legend at this point."

Here's more:

As a film, Scarface has largely one pounding note to play—one filled with extraordinary levels of violence and drug usage (including Pacino going facedown in a huge pile of coke, and taking more bullets to the chest and still standing than any human ever). And it plays that note relentlessly for the entirety of its extended running time. There is a boldness in the film’s extreme approach that can be both exhilarating (De Palma’s camera movement is exquisite) and exhausting. Scarface is all just so much much.

And yet there is an undeniable propulsion in the film, a ferocity that exists throughout that cannot be easily dismissed. It really says something that Pacino, who played the legendary film gangster Michael Corleone in two of the greatest films ever made (Godfather I & II), might have eclipsed that seminal character with Tony Montana in the eyes of crime-film lovers. As his reluctant paramour and later recalcitrant wife, Pfeiffer gives one of the great ice-queen performances in the history of cinema (I swear, her bangs and bob were cut with steel). Written by Oliver Stone, the film is chock-full of quotable lines and in all technical aspects, Scarface looks and sounds remarkable.

The question I suppose is to what end? What are we to take away from all of the sturm und drang displayed in Scarface? There’s a great scene late in the film, when an over-coked and over served Montana humiliates Elvira, makes a spectacle of himself in front a full house of a Michelin-starred restaurant, and turns to the milky-white patrons, dresses them down for their own largesse, and says, “Say good night to the bad guy.” In that moment, De Palma’s film asks some interesting questions about capitalism and who benefits from it. I wish the film would have delved deeper into that theme as opposed to settling for being a “wonderful portrait of a real louse.”

That being said, I cannot disagree with Roger Ebert’s assessment, even though it seems that many who have seen (and will see) Scarface will find what I would consider a strange and abiding love for that louse. Regardless of whether one is repulsed or invigorated by the film (or, maybe like me, both), what Scarface eventually reveals to us is less about what happens to the people on screen, and more about how its massive cult following has responded to it. Depending on your perspective, I suppose the film can be seen as “just a movie,” or a reflection of our large-scale societal affection for those who are unapologetically bad. De Palma’s Scarface prefaced the era of the TV anti-hero (see The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Ozark, and so on) but followed on the heels of films like The Hustler and Bonnie and Clyde—movies about the disreputable and our attachment to them.

Scarface wasn’t so much new or groundbreaking, as much as it was the most pitched variation on that theme. It’s hard to imagine films like Natural Born Killers or Fight Club without De Palma’s still troubling “classic” gangster epic. A distinction that one may have trouble wrestling with depending on how they feel about those aforementioned films.

One thing is clear though: The audience for “the bad guy” is in no way ready to “say good night.” Not on film. Not in real life.


Posted by Geoff at 10:44 PM CDT
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Saturday, March 16, 2024
'MORRICONE'S ROUSING SONIC PORTRAIT OF 1930 CHICAGO'
CHICAGO TRIBUNE'S MICHAEL PHILLIPS PREVIEWS MORRICONE TRIBUTE AT MUSIC BOX THEATRE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/brianennio1987med.jpg

As mentioned here last month, Chicago's Music Box Theatre will feature a week-long "Cinema Morricone" series, which launches this Thursday evening, March 21, with Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars. The series then continues the following afternoon with a 2pm screening of De Palma's The Untouchables. A couple of days ago, the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips previewed the upcoming film series:
Somewhere between 400 and 500. That’s a lot of film scores for one composer in one lifetime to write, and orchestrate, and store in the memory banks of millions of listeners worldwide.

The Italian maestro Ennio Morricone (1928-2020) hardly needed more than a handful of those scores for him to gain entrance to the realm of screen theme immortals. The howling-coyote signature melody for director Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and Ugly,” parodied to death for nearly 60 years now, would’ve been golden ticket enough.

But what if he had stopped there? Unthinkable! Decades and hundreds more movies, diminished. We wouldn’t have Morricone’s indelible evocations of nostalgia, and loss, and hope, in “Days of Heaven” or “Cinema Paradiso” or “The Mission.”

We wouldn’t have the rest of his collaborations with Leone, including “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Or – maybe my favorite, though I’ll change my mind by tomorrow – Morricone’s rousing sonic portrait of 1930 Chicago for Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables.” The film itself may be factually ridiculous because it cares not about sticking to the historical record. Welcome to the movies! The score creates an aura of myth, from the first notes of the threatening marvel under the opening credits.

This Thursday the Music Box Theatre launches “Cinema Morricone,” sponsored by MUBI. It’s a weeklong, 17-film festival of movies, famous as well as obscure, celebrating the sheer scope and earworm mastery of this composer.

With one foot in the avant-garde and the other in mainstream classicism with a huge dash of pop, Morricone embraced the film medium’s innate capacity for violence (John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” screening March 22 and 27). Also its ability to break, heal and warm hearts on screen and in the audience (Giuseppe Tornatore’s achingly nostalgic “Cinema Paradiso,” March 24 and 25).

The Leone/Clint Eastwood/Morricone “ Man With No Name” trilogy takes its rightful place in the festival, along with “The Untouchables,” and some less venerated titles from the windmills of your mind. “Red Sonja,” for example (March 26-27), the Sandahl Bergman/Arnold Schwarzenegger ode to sword, sorcery and cheese. These are just a few of the titles, and “Cinema Morricone” concludes March 28 with the documentary portrait “Ennio,” directed by his friend, collaborator and “Cinema Paradiso” director Giuseppe Tornatore.

How did one man write so much so memorably, showcasing a pan flute here, an ocarina there, operatic sopranos and harmonicas and whistling (so much whistling!) everywhere? To further my musical smarts a little beyond the level of “it’s cool, therefore I like it,” I talked to Columbia College Chicago’s Kubilay Uner. He directs CCC’s Music Composition for the Screen Master of Fine Arts program. Uner also has composed for movies (“Force of Nature”), theme park rides (Corkscrew Hill at Busch Gardens) and video art installations (he’s in the permanent collection at Los Angeles County Museum of Art).


A few questions into that interview with Uner, Phillips brings The Untouchables into the dicussion:
Q: Here’s a quote from “Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words,” conversations with Alessandro De Rosa, where he’s talking about music’s main function in relation to what’s on the screen. He quotes his friend Gillo Pontecorvo: “My friend used to say that behind every story cinema tells, there is a real story, one that really counts … music must find a way to bring out the value of that hidden story and highlight it.” That’s a really intriguing description of a film composer’s role, don’t you think?
A: I think all film composers can relate to that. There’s something fundamentally useless, most of the time, if you’re just duplicating with music what the film is already doing. Now, there are exceptions. Sometimes you want everybody (executing) the same moves for maximum impact, so the visuals, the storyline, the acting, the editing and the music all push one thing. That’s great for a high-intensity fight scene. But a lot of the time, and what Morricone’s so smart about, is what he’s describing in that quote, which is more prosaically called the subtext. There, the question for the composer becomes: What’s actually happening in the scene? It’s an essential description of what film music is supposed to do. Q: Morricone started as an arranger, and got his first on-screen composing credit for “The Fascist” in 1961. His output is staggering, across six different decades. Do you think he ever felt burned out, or that he’d sold out? A: I don’t think so. I don’t think you can write close to 500 scores with themes of his quality without believing in them. Even in his most accessible film scores, he’s pushing boundaries somewhere, with interesting chord progressions you just don’t hear in other movies.

Q: Until a decade or two ago I didn’t realize Morricone, and other film composers, often composed and sometimes recorded music before a film was actually shot. De Palma, in one interview, talks about “The Untouchables” (March 22 and 26), which is a score I love. Morricone read the script and met up with De Palma in New York for a few days and talked, and Morricone wrote several versions of four main themes for the picture on that trip. That kind of impressionistic film scoring versus scoring specifically to the director’s images —

A: — It does lead to a different result, obviously. I’m extrapolating, but I wonder if it aids in creating a kind of parallel story, the story underneath the story, that Morricone mentioned in that quote from the book. It’s not a super rare approach; some of the music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Oscar winners for “The Social Network” and Pixar’s “Soul”) I think was written that way. There was some criticism leveled at them from those who believe that isn’t really scoring in the purest sense. But think about the very beginning of music and movies: It was some dude sitting at a piano with a book of classical themes in the public domain, themes sorted by emotion or whatever. Love scene? Boom! Something by Brahms! Chase scene? Boom! Wagner! That’s how it all started, in a way.


Posted by Geoff at 11:31 PM CDT
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Friday, March 15, 2024
ODD & AUDACIOUS
AT "WEALTH OF GEEKS", RICHARD CHACHOWSKI RANKS HIS TOP 15 BRIAN DE PALMA MOVIES
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/wealthgeekstop15.jpg

"Less well-known but still crucial among these names is the cult horror director Brian De Palma," states Richard Chachowski in his introduction to his Wealth of Geeks slideshow ranking his top 15 De Palma films. "One of the unsung heroes of ‘70s and ‘80s film, De Palma served as the closest thing New Hollywood had to Alfred Hitchcock’s successor. Through his odd and audacious movies, De Palma crafted a new kind of horror movie that merged psychological suspense with plot twists and more visceral imagery."

This is a slideshow worth viewing, as Chachowski's writing about the films throughout is much better than the average click-bait slideshow, and he does seem to be familiar with De Palma's work. Check it out.


Posted by Geoff at 7:18 PM CDT
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