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Carrie by Stephen King

Ever wonder what Stephen King's career would have been like if he hadn't written Carrie? Would his career have been different if - say, Christine - had been his first effort? Luckily, Carrie was not only his first novel but it was also the first film adaptation of his work. And both were enormously popular with fans of the macabre. It also didn't hurt that the movie was directed by horror specialist Brian De Palma.

Carrie (1976) appeared at a time when movie audiences were still being inundated with ripoffs of The Exorcist and Night of the Living Dead. But it stood out from the ususal suspects. For one thing, the title character - a shy, awkward teenage girl who becomes the brunt of a vicious practical joke - was not your typical horror heroine. The contemporary setting also struck a nerve with audiences because it was a hellish place where we have all served time - high school. Admit it, the experience was scarier than spending the night in a haunted house. So, what starts out as a deceptively simple tale of a social outcast (Sissy Spacek) and her scripture-quoting mother (Piper Laurie) quickly develops into a creepy-crawly tale of religious hysteria, sexual repression and a strange phenomenon known as telekinesis (which was quickly incorporated as a plot device into numerous Carrie imitations like Patrick and De Palma's own thriller, The Fury)

Carrie is also one of the few horror films to receive Academy Award recognition; both Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie received Oscar nominations (Spacek for Best Actress, Laurie as Best Supporting Actress). It also helped launch the careers of Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen and John Travolta (who would become a superstar the following year, thanks to Saturday Night Fever). But you've really got to admit that Spacek is the one taking enormous risks in this film. How many actresses would take a role in which a bucket of pig blood gets dumped over their head?

In an interview with Sissy Spacek conducted by Mike Childs and Alan Jones for Cinefantastique, Sissy recalls the famous "prom crowning" sequence:
"I told them at first they could use real blood, I was so into the part! It was a mixture of Karo syrup and food coloring. It was so sticky, and I would freeze on the sound stage! Brian had intended to use a new modern school....California State University...but a big, modern glass school would have been too intimidating for Carrie. She would have crawled along the corridors to get to class! Eventually we found an old, abandoned school, Pier Avenue School, in Hermosa Beach, about forty miles from L.A.
"Jack (Fisk, Spacek's husband) rebuilt the gymnasium in the sound stage, as it had to burn. The special effects were very interesting. I had to stand on that stage while everything was on fire! I got all the hair on my body practically singed off! I got so involved in it! 'Fire?! What do you mean? It can't hurt me!I'm Carrie, I'll flex!' While I was on the platform, my cue was: 'Leave the stage only when you can't stand the heat anymore. But walk slowly!'

Cinefantastique: What about the sequence where you overturn Chris and Billy's car?

Spacek: That sequence was shot fast, but it was a stunt-girl, not me. Because the film was so stylized, I wanted to do it...except I didn't want to get run over, of course! I worked with the stunt girl a lot because at that point I wanted her body movements to be so stiff. The car was rigged with a 'cannon.' When the stunt-man got up to sixty miles-per-hour he shot a two-foot telephone pole out of the bottom of the car, which flipped it over! A second later, he blew up a gas can in the trunk...that flipped it over some more!

Cinefantastique: Was the stunt girl also used in the scene where Carrie falls down the stairs?

Spacek: Yes. They rigged a platform at the top of the stairs. When Piper stabs me, I fall back out of frame foot last. It's so well cut it looks like me. Poor girl. She had to do it three times! I have a still of her in mid-air, falling! This is one of my favorite sequences: the stabbing, the fall, the scooting across the floor. I just loved it.

Cinefantastique: Was that your hand in Sue Snell's nightmare?

Spacek: Yes, it was! Jack dug the hole, Brian yelled 'Grab!' and that was my cue. Those rocks were pumice and they were heavy. It was the last day of shooting and I was all dolled-up and they wanted my stand in to do it. But my hand is my hand! It was claustrophobic, but very exciting. I couldn't see and what with the blood being slippery, I almost broke Amy's arm! The rocks scratched my arm to bits all the way down, but I wouldn't have missed that for the world."

Now here's Mr. Briggs with the drive-in totals:

"CARRIE" Intro

You know, speaking of horrifying things your wife or girlfriend wants to take you to, do you guys know the five scariest words a man can hear at holiday time? "Take me to 'The Nutcracker.'" Why do we always PRETEND we wanna do this? Why do we sometimes even convince OURSELVES that we really do wanna go watch the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, even though most of the Sugar Plum Fairies are gawky gals from Miss Mathison's School of Ballet at the mall? Why do we sit there, year after year, waiting for all the women to say: "Look at the little tin soldiers. Aren't they CUTE? I think I spotted little Jason."

WHY DO WE DO THIS? Haven't there been about nine million ballets written over the last 300 years? Can't we OCCASIONALLY watch another one? But no. It's "Firebird Suite," "Swan Lake" and "Nutcracker." "Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake" and "Firebird Suite." The swans, the toys and the gal in red chiffon. Just these three shows, over and over and OVER again, but MOSTLY it's the goldang "Nutcracker." You know what I do? I wait for the Chinese guy to come out. There's a part where a Chinese guy comes out and hops up and down like a geek. It's the only part I like. But the main reason I wait for that part is because I know, once the Chinese guy does his hippity-hop, we're in the home stretch. The goldurn thing is ALMOST over. It's just a matter of how much money they spent on the artificial snow they're gonna throw around on the stage in the last act.

A couple years ago I went to this Christmas show called "The Hard Nut," choreographed by a guy named Mark Morris, and what he did was keep the whole "Nutcracker" music but change the story around and make it funny, so that he had these enormous fat guys dressed in tutus, leaping through the air and throwing fairy dust over their heads. I LOVED the Mark Morris version. I would go to THAT version every dang year. But does anybody do that version at Christmastime? They do not.

You know how I've finally decided to deal with this? When she says, "Take me to 'The Nutcracker,'" I say, "Gee, honey, I'd love to go, but that's your mother's favorite show. I think you should take HER.' WARNING: Make sure only two tickets exist. Research this in advance. Guys, listen -- there are EIGHTEEN bowl games on the tube this season. That just leaves NO TIME for Nutcracking around, you know? Start plannin for this immediately. I do not wanna have to tell you again.

And speaking of women throwin hissy fits, Sissy Spacek is on deck tonight, in the movie that thrust her into stardom and made her one of the most famous supernatural psycho killers in horror film history. I'm talking, of course, of Carrie. It's a great movie -- a horror classic. What more can I say than to give you those drive-in totals. We have:
Eight dead bodies.
Two breasts.
Twelve gallons blood.
One mother from hell.
Excessive girlfriend-slapping.
Mind-control body-flinging.
Psychedelic prom riot.
Satanic firehose.
Double electrocution.
Crucifixion with dinner knives.
Exploding house.
Imploding house.
One motor vehicle chase, with crash and burn.
Feminine Hygiene Fu.
And, of course, Pig's Blood Jubilee. Four stars. Check it out. We'll be back quicker than you can shake a pig at a prom queen.

[fading] There's some great dancing in this flick. REAL dancing. The old "transfer your weight back-and-forth from one foot to the other while trying to cop a feel" dancing. No practice required.

"CARRIE" Commercial Break #1

Those scenes between Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie just make your teeth grind, don't they? Especially when she locks her in the PRAYER CLOSET. Both actresses were nominated for the Academy Award for this movie, which NEVER HAPPENS in horror flicks. It was amazing. A lot of you probly remember Piper Laurie from "The Hustler." Remember? She's Paul Newman's alcoholic girlfriend that he meets in the bus station and then in the big Kentucky Derby sequence she kills herself in the hotel room. She was nominated for THAT performance, retired from the screen to devote herself to her husband, goes off to live in Woodstock, New York, then FIFTEEN YEARS LATER comes back to make "Carrie" and gets nominated again. Didn't work at all between the two movies. Anyhow, the movie is already making you TENSE, right? One of Brian DePalma's best ever. That shower scene at the beginning seems a little cliched now, but that's because it was the FIRST high school shower scene -- it's been copied nineteen jillion times. Would have been much better if we could of shown you the nekkid bodies, but what the hey, let's not dwell on it, okay? Okay, commercials, and then we continue the role that made Sissy Spacek a major star -- "Carrie."

[fading] She's supposed to be a high school senior, but she was actually 27 when she made this. Texas girl -- they can do that. Quitman, Texas, population 1000, up by Texarkana. Sissy's hometown. It's not till they hit 28 that they go all to hell. Twenty-seven: Miss America. Twenty-eight: Thunder thighs, Spandex shorts, and an old beat-up Camaro. Happens so quick, guys wake up screaming. Sometimes we have to send em to Timberlawn, shock treatments, lobotomies. They're happier.

"CARRIE" Commercial Break #2

Yes yes yes, and in the original theatrical version of the movie, Nancy Allen does a little something special for John Travolta in the front seat of his car. We won't go into what it is, but men LIKE IT, if you know what I mean and I think you do. This was Nancy Allen's second film. Her first one was in the great movie "The Last Detail." And she was dating Brian DePalma when they made it, and then they were married in 1979, and they got the Big D in 1984. And by that time John Travolta had become a superstar, with "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease" and "Urban Cowboy," and then . . . he kinda dropped outta sight for a while and started doing Scientology, before he became just about the world's biggest box-office star. But when this movie was made, he was best known as Vinnie Barberino in "Welcome Back, Kotter." Everybody got famous who was in this movie. William Katt, who plays Tommy Ross, it was his first movie, then he did another great flick called "Big Wednesday," then he eventually became a veteran B-movie actor in stuff like House, and he started working with his mom a lot in Perry Mason TV movies. His mom is Barbara Hale. Anyhow, who else got famous? Betty Buckley as the girls gym coach. Her first role in film -- she was primarily a great stage actress and cabaret singer. Later she would replace the mom on "Eight Is Enough." Her mom is ALSO named Betty Buckley, so to distinguish themselves, in true Texas fashion, Betty Junior was called Betty LYNN Buckley, and Betty Senior was called Betty JO Buckley. Betty Jo happens to be a friend of mine. Works at the Casa Manana Theater. Where was I? Oh, yeah -- Amy Irving, the girl who plays Sue, the nice girl, Tommy's REAL girlfriend -- this was HER first movie, she went on to do many other movies and was nominated for an Academy Award, as Barbra Streisand's WIFE, in "Yentl." How many women have played Barbra Streisand's wife on the big screen? I think the answer would be "one." Then she married Steven Spielberg and had a baby and got the Big D from him and got 80 million bucks. And, of course, she was in "The Rage: Carrie 2," which was a big flopola, but I liked it. The point is, Brian DePalma got all these hot young actors together, most of em had done very little work before this movie, and they were petrified most of the time. Very nervous set. High tension. Which I think helps the movie. Okay, commercials, then back to the flick.

[fading] I know at least one other person who saw "Carrie 2" besides me. It was the guy who wrote in to tell me what a moron I was for liking it. Go ahead, people, write me. Care of TNT, 1010 Techwood Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30318. Or e-mail at You can even do it through the website: Go on, I can handle it.

"CARRIE" Commercial Break #3

The pig-slaughter scene from "Carrie." We had to tone it down a little bit. Not to be confused with the "squeal like a pig" scene from Deliverance. Remember when they did the musical version of "Carrie" on Broadway? What were they thinking, you know? It ran for all of five performances sometime in the mid-eighties. In fact, Betty Buckley was in it. But instead of the girls gym coach, she switched roles and played the mom. Now can you imagine what kind of songs that wrote for Carrie's mom? "You're going to burn in hell, so LET'S DANCE." Can you imagine a big Broadway chorus line going a-pig-slaughtering? "Here we go, a-slaughterin, a-slaughterin." That had to be tough. Anyhow, we've got the non-musical version of "Carrie" tonight, although it DOES have the creepy score of Pino Donaggio. Brian DePalma movies always have good music. He worshipped Hitchcock, so he LOVES to play around with music, creep you out with musical sounds. Just LISTEN when Carrie gets all dressed up for the prom. Roll the ads, and we'll get back to it.

[fading] You notice how sometimes Sissy Spacek looks ugly, and they highlight all her freckles, then when they want her to look beautiful, they make the freckles disappear? I've known girls like that in real life. Coyote Ugly. You know what Coyote Ugly is, don't you? You wake up in the morning, and she's sleeping on your arm, and instead of waking her up, you decide to chew your arm off.

"CARRIE" Commercial Break #4

Feminists don't like this movie. They've written a lot of articles about it. They think it's a sick view of women -- both Carrie, and her mom, and all the girls at the school. Makes women look manipulative and too concerned with their looks and ashamed of their bodies and hysterical about religion. And one writer called it "the greatest put-down of women ever made." So once again, let me state the official "Joe Bob's Hollywood Saturday Night" position on the treatment of women in "Carrie." And that position is: These are some hot babes. We like lookin at em. Okay, back in a minute.

[fading] I hate to take time out for political issues like that, but you know, they've come a long way, baby. Hear them roar. Right on! More day-care centers. Go, Hillary. Well, she's not really a model for empowered women, is she? She's more of a stand-by-your-man kinda gal. Go, Tina Turner.

"CARRIE" Commercial Break #5

Oooooooo, Piper Laurie, slashing produce at home. Anyhow, I love that scene where Sissy Spacek and William Katt get lost on the dance floor and twirl around like crazy. They were on a spinning platform, and the camera was on a device that moved it in the opposite direction of the spinning platform, and they had to say their lines at the exact moment the camera was on their faces as they moved. It's really a beautiful scene. One of those Brian DePalma things that he copies from Hitchcock. This was his tenth movie, but it's considered his breakthrough film. All the reviews said "DePalma does this" and "DePalma does that" and "Isn't DePalma cool?" -- and you know what was funny to me about the reviews? There was practically NO MENTION of Stephen King. It was all Brian DePalma. Hell, there was more mention of Lawrence D. Cohen, the writer who adapted the Stephen King novel, than there was of Big Steve. Pauline Kael wrote a nineteen THOUSAND word review without saying anything about Stephen King. And this was Big Steve's first novel, and it was the first MOVIE made from one of his novels, and I just think the guy shoulda got more credit. Maybe Brian DePalma is NOT the only genius involved here, you know? Sorry, but stuff like that just BURNS MY BACON. Steve's up in Maine, wondering why his monthly royalty check was only 70 million this month instead of 80 -- he could probly CARE LESS that DePalma gets all the credit. But he thought up the whole thing of, you know, 16-year-old girl has her period, doesn't know what's happening, mean girls throw Kotex at her -- she starts teleportin stuff to compensate. Anyway, if you're watching, Steve, WE remember. "Joe Bob's Hollywood Saturday Night" remembers. Okay, the really really good part is coming up right after the commercials.

[fading] Did you guys know Steve actually threw this novel away? He wrote seven or eight pages and found himself in that locker room with the screaming girls, and he crumpled up the pages and tossed em in the trash. But his wife dug em out and thought it was pretty good, and told him he should keep going. His wife. Come to think of it, what was Steve's wife doing rummaging around in his trash can? Steeeeeeve! What was she lookin for? Steevie boy!

"CARRIE" Commercial Break #6

Carrie at the Prom You know, I never like to interrupt Sissy Spacek at this point in the movie. Because I think she's JUST a little grumpy. Let's just go ahead and play this baby on out, okay?

[fading] The principal burned up REAL GOOD, didn't he? This is probly gonna be a LOT of detention hall for Carrie come Monday morning, what do you think? I'm joking. I love the picture. It tears me up. It really does. I can hardly even stand to watch the part where she's so happy and the blood's about to come down. Kinda rips your heart out. Great movie. Okay, let's do the ads and then finish it on up.

"CARRIE" Outro

Great surprise ending. In case you were wondering, that WAS Sissy Spacek's arm that came up out of the grave. Brian DePalma was gonna use a stunt woman, but Sissy insisted. She thought people might recognize her arm! So she got down inside there and thrust her hand through those heavy rocks and scratched herself all up and darn near broke off Amy Irving's arm pullin her down. The other thing I should mention is that, in that great scene where Carrie crucifies mom with the flying kitchen knives, they do a direct steal from Psycho. Those are the violins from "Psycho," as composed by Bernard Herrmann, the composer who worked for Hitchcock -- and Herrmann had already died, which is a good thing, because he would have HATED that. He believed that you wrote a piece of music for a specific scene, and then you should never use that music again. But Brian DePalma thought otherwise.

I wanna let you know that next week is the annual Joe Bob Briggs Christmas Special. Is it gonna be pathetic again? Probably. But the movies that night are Twins, the one about Danny DeVito and Arnold the Barbarian as brothers, followed by Rocky IV, which is the one where Sly Rocky Rambo fights Dolph Lundgren as the evil Rooskie. Also has Brigitte Nielsen in it. Boy, THAT brings back the memories, doesn't it? Must make it tough for Sly to watch his old movies, right? Brigitte! Isn't Mark Gastineau tattooed on her hiney? Okay, let's not dwell on it.

That's it for me, Joe Bob Briggs, asking everyone who believes in telekinesis to raise my hand.

Did you guys hear the one about the couple who are golfing one day on an exclusive golf course? The course is lined with million-dollar houses. On the third tee the husband says, "Honey, be careful when you drive the ball -- don't knock out any windows. It'll cost us a fortune to fix it." The wife tees up and shanks it right through the window of the biggest house on the course. The husband cringes and says, "I told you to watch out for the houses! All right, let's go up there, apologize, and see how much this is going to cost." They knock on the door and a voice says, "Come on in." They open the door and see glass all over the floor, and a broken bottle lying on its side. A man on the couch says, "Are you the people who broke my window?" Husband says, "Yeah, sorry about that." Man says "No, actually, I want to thank you. I'm a genie that was trapped for a thousand years in that bottle. You've released me. I'm allowed to grant three wishes -- I'll give you each one wish, and I'll keep the last one for myself." Husband says, "Great! I want a million dollars a year for the rest of my life." Genie says, "No problem -- it's the least I could do. And you, what do you want?" The wife says, "I want a house in every country of the world." Genie says, "Consider it done." The husband says, "And what's your wish, genie?" Genie says, "Well, since I've been trapped in that bottle, I haven't had sex with a woman in a thousand years. My wish is to sleep with your wife." Husband looks at the wife and says, "Well, we did get a lot of money and all those houses, honey. I guess I don't mind." Wife doesn't mind either, so the genie takes her upstairs and ravishes her for two hours. After it's over, the genie rolls over, looks at the wife, and says, "How old is your husband, anyway?" Wife says, "Thirty-five." Genie says, "And he still believes in genies?"

Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that the drive-in will never die.

[fading] Guy goes to a doctor's office with a pickle up his nose, pizza shoved in his right ear, and a straw sticking out of his left ear, and says, "Doc, I'm not feeling well." Doctor says, "That's because you're not eating right.

Man walks into a psychiatrist's office wearing only underwear made of Saran Wrap. Psychiatrist says, "Well, I can clearly see you're nuts."

MonsterVision host segments for Carrie: The Nair Witch Project

Back to Monstervision

Carrie is available on video (both 1979 and 1950s versions)

What do you call a brunette in a room full of blondes? Invisible.
What's a brunette's mating call? "Has the blonde left yet?"
Fun fact:
The big finale in which Carrie burns down the gym with everyone in it inspired a similar ending for the original movie version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The studio decided it would be too expensive and never filmed it, but the screenwriter's Buffy spinoff TV-series made several references to it anyway

"Not flinching. That was the hardest part. I had to stand there looking so happy when I knew any minute the bucket was going to fall." Sissy Spacek (Photoplay, 1977)

Click here to hear Delta Dawn again (midi) by Helen Reddy
Or here for Angie Baby (the headlines read that a boy disappeared, and everyone thinks he died)

5 Signs It Might Be That Time Of The Month
Everyone around you has an attitude problem
You're adding pickles and chocolate chips to your cheese omelet
The dryer has shrunk every last pair of your jeans
The ibuprofen bottle is empty and you bought it yesterday

Host segment transcript from 12/18/99 broadcast 1999 Turner Network Television. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved