June 13: Carrie—De Palma’s 1976 version of Steven King’s novel, the first movie adaptation of King’s work, was a smash, and probably started the process of turning King into American horror’s household name. For this sad, scary fairy tale of a picked-on, outcast high school girl (Sissy Spacek) with telekinetic powers who raises hell at her senior prom, De Palma uses his characteristic tricks—spilt screens, slow motion, long sinuous tracking shots—to cast a dreamlike spell. Both Spacek and Piper Laurie as Carrie’s religious fanatic mother got Oscar nominations, and the young John Travolta, Nancy Allen and Amy Irving are also in the cast. The final jolt is a classic; I can remember the screams in the theater (including my own) when I saw it the first time.
The June 15 offering was a “Viewer’s Choice,” between Dressed to Kill and Carlito’s Way. The online voting is completed, and though I like 1993’s Carlito’s Way, another gangster melodrama with Al Pacino, I’m glad the choice is:
Dressed to Kill—De Palma’s 1980 homage to Hitchcock, this gruesome psychological thriller with Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen seems, in some ways, like the quintessential expression of De Palma’s twisted psyche, for better and worse. The sensibility of the movie, which De Palma also scripted, has aged poorly—both the horrifying brutality of the central murder sequence and the implications of the story’s twist ending are unsavory. But as an exercise in technique, it packs at least as much of a punch as it ever did.
Finally, on June 16, the series will conclude with the special screening of Baumbach and Paltrow’s documentary De Palma, which gives the man in question a chance to explain himself.