A sound engineer named Jack, working for a small time movie company stumbles upon a conspiracy after witnessing what at first looks to be a freak car accident whilst out recording sounds. However after rescuing a woman he finds in the crashed car, he reviews his recording and realises someone must have shot the vehicle’s tire, and it wasn’t simply a ‘blow out’.
John Travolta stars as Jack, in this thriller directed by Brian De Palma (The Untouchables, Dressed To Kill). This was an absorbing story, with a very good Travolta, aided by De Palma regular Nancy Allen. What grabbed me instantly was De Palma’s direction – he uses split screen, imaginative camera work and clever editing to their fullest to deliver a very unique look and feel. Alongside movies like Carrie this is probably up their with the director’s best. The murder-mystery plot is also a fascinating one, but does get a bit silly at times, with a slightly uneven tone. An extended chase towards the end, whilst creative and visually impressive, also stretches plausibility.
However this was above all else really entertaining, aided by solid performances (including a memorable John Lithgow) and pacey, stylish direction that makes for a firm recommendation from me.
The Blu-ray from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has a newly restored image that has plenty of detail. It’s a bit overly dark in night scenes and there’s a lot of grain, but for a movie released in 1981 it’s in great shape. The soundtrack in DTS HD Master Audio is very clear with only occasional echoing in certain dialogue scenes. The soundtrack, one of the movies highlights is very effective throughout. Extras consist of several interviews, consisting of new and archive material. There’s also a behind the scenes photo gallery and a detailed booklet with an essay by critic Michael Sragow. I’d have loved a commentary but sadly there isn’t one. Other that that this is a great package and a must for fans.
My self proposed challenge continues and is going fairly well. When going into this I didn’t intend it to be one of these movie marathons , generally taking a moderate pace to it whilst still intending to get it done well before my June 30th limit. I think I’ve done well so far and have reached letter F next, which is going to be one of three movies, depending on mood.
So for letter C I went with the underrated Al Pacino gangster thriller ‘Carlito’s Way’, a movie that offers up a rather romantic take on the crime thriller and boasts a solid turn from Pacino as well as Sean Penn. Director Brian De Palma is on fine form delivering his signature style, if somewhat toned down compared to other works, and a whimsical vibe aided by Pacino’s reflective narration. Next was D, and here I went for one of the less appreciated Die Hard sequels, namely ‘Die Hard 2’ which to be fair is a solid entry, with a similar tone to the first movie but on a bigger scale with Bruce Willis again on wise-cracking form. For E I went with the Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, a clever and particularly fun movie with a great central concept and good support from a badass Emily Blunt. Director Doug Liman takes the classic Groundhog Day premise and marries it perfectly with alien invasion battle sequences to deliver solid thrills.
So onto letter F which should be interesting. It’s been good rediscovering movies from my Blu-ray collection, but also see myself discovering some movies I happen to own but haven’t got around to watching. So there will be a few first-viewings during this challenge. I may write full reviews for those entries, we’ll see.
Another entry in my growing collection of Brian De Palma movie reviews, this time the director’s much admired thriller from 1980. This is probably the movie that borrows most from Italian Giallo, a genre of stalk and slash thrillers made famous by directors like Mario Bava and of course, Dario Argento. It also borrows heavily from Hitchcock (especially Psycho), another of De Palma’s regular influences.
A house wife (Angie Dickinson) trapped in a sexually unfulfilling marriage, finds herself yearning for an affair and confesses as much to her psychiatrist (Michael Caine). However following a chance encounter at an art gallery that leads to a one night stand, the housewife is brutally murdered. A hooker (Nancy Allen) turns out to be the only witness.
A very of-it’s-time experience initially, with some explicit nudity and rather awkwardly handled sex making early scenes resemble a porn film. However once the killer strikes things shift into gear dramatically and De Palma’s cinematic flair spreads it’s wings. This is another movie that is visually captivating and often ingenious … a stand out art gallery sequence and a tense subway scene both showcasing a director at the top of his game. Add to this a murder-mystery plot that twists and turns wonderfully and even when you discover who the killer is, re-watching certain scenes reveal clever little details and clues. The acting is mostly adequate with even Michael Cain proving limited and at times a bit wooden … although Nancy Allen proves much more enjoyable. However like the Giallo the movie tips it’s hat to; acting and performances aren’t the big draw, more so tension and style and well, the occasional bloody murder. The movie lacks the body-count of a fully fledged Italian thriller, and retains it’s own quirks, with the inclusion of a geeky science student (Keith Gordon) and a stereotypical Police chief (Dennis Franz). As a package though this delivers a gripping narrative with some genuinely impressive sequences, worthy of it’s legacy.
The Blu-ray from Arrow Video boasts a rather soft-focus but otherwise clean image. Colours are rather muted and overall it’s simply acceptable with no real ‘wow’ factor. More note-worthy is the sound, with a dramatic, perfectly implemented orchestral score and crisp dialogue, both in stereo and a punchy 5.1 HD Master Audio. I should add that the movie is uncut for the first time in the UK. Extras are plentiful with several featurettes, including a detailed making of as well as a photo gallery. There’s also a detailed booklet included that covers the director’s influences and an analysis of the movie by critic Maitland McDonagh. Again no commentary from De Palma which would have been great but as it stands this is decent treatment for a somewhat forgotten classic.
A struggling actor (Craig Wasson – A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) finds himself looking for somewhere to crash following the discovery of his girlfriend’s affair, but soon descends into an underworld of voyeurism, sex and a who-dunnit murder mystery.
I’ve always admired the movies of prolific film-maker Brian De Palma and consider some of his output all time classics (Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables). He has a distinctive visual eye and can put his skills to a number of genres. However it’s when his movies attract comparisons to the movies of Alfred Hitchcock and also Italian shock maestro Dario Argento that I become the most interested. Body Double bares a strong resemblance to both film-maker’s works but also has a perfectly sleazy tone that references a different time and is very much a celebration of 80s excess and exploitation. The story for what it is isn’t that well done and is fairly obvious and easy to predict especially if you’re at all familiar with any of the cast. However what is fun is De Palma’s cinematic eye that can make even mundane sounding sequences, like a journey through a shopping mall or a beach front terrace, enthralling due to some clever camera work and genuine tension. Craig Wasson is likeable if a rather unsympathetic character, and I’d forgotten just how much fun Melanie Griffith used to be and is adept here at delivering some great lines which are probably too explicit to repeat. Yet the movie is on a whole, especially considering De Palma’s impressive catalogue; a bit of an oddity and takes some alarming shifts in tone and style leaving me wondering what was the grand plan here…it really does feel a little thrown together. For a piece of 80s genre sleaze however, I’d still say give this a chance.
The Blu-ray suffers from a few smudgy scenes, especially towards the end of the movie for some reason … but this 4k restoration is otherwise decent looking with strong colours and some nice detail both in close-up and in De Palma’s grand wide shots. Dialogue is also crisp and free of lip-sync that I could see, and is delivered in the original stereo as well as a 5.1 soundtrack, which although not really making much use of surrounds is effective, especially in the lengthy ‘Relax’ sequence (spot the cameo by Holly Johnson). This collector’s edition from Indicator boasts a 40 page booklet that has an in-depth interview taken from 1984 as well as a ‘Brian De Palma’s Guilty Pleasures’ segment exploring the director’s influences. The Blu-ray itself comes with a series of featurettes with interviews with cast and crew, some archive, others more recent and proves invaluable for those interested in film-making and that of the movie itself and it’s legacy. Surprisingly no commentary which would have rounded this release off superbly but as it stands this is above average treatment for probably one of De Palma’s lesser efforts that still makes for a worthy purchase.
With Rogue Nation fresh in my head, I thought it might be fun to revisit the original 1996 blockbuster. Now sitting down to this, my memory was fairly cloudy and I realised I hadn’t actually seen it since it’s cinema release, yet recalled finding it overly confusing with a couple of stand out sequences.
Cruise, looking very young is Ethan Hunt, not quite the super-spy we know him to be today but simply a special agent for a CIA division known as IMF. Headed by John Voight, Hunt and his crew consisting of smouldering French beauty Emmanuelle Béart as well as former brat-packer Emillio Estefez must locate some stolen files that could leak the identities of a number of special agents into the wrong hands. However during the mission, Cruise finds himself double-crossed and his team all but killed. He’s then on the run and out to unmask the real culprit as his own innocence comes into question.
Directed by one of my favourites, Brian De Palma (Carrie, Carlitio’s Way) and with a twisting, complex narrative … this stylish and very well filmed ‘espionage thriller’ seems at first worlds away from the action extravaganza the series is known for. Yes, we hardly get any chases, fights or stunts for pretty much the entire run time. This was therefore more closely based on the TV show, with a more ‘pure’ mission: impossible storyline and with a strong if somewhat arrogant turn from Cruise and good work from series stalwart Ving Rhames. It is too complicated (but not that clever) and at times confusing, which marred my enjoyment, but with a very tense CIA headquarters break-in that has been parodied to death (but is still cool) and a stunning climax on the roof of a speeding train heading into the channel tunnel – this remains a good start to a franchise that has developed and (mostly) improved with every entry. Oh and ‘that’ theme has never been better implemented.
The Blu-ray is a mixed bag. The image quality at first appears impressive until I noticed some harsh edge enhancement and wider shots seriously lacked detail. The bog-standard Dolby Digital 5.1 is serviceable but lacks some punch. Thankfully then we do get some decent extras on this box-set re-issue such as a M.I. retrospective documentary, various featurettes, a documentary on Tom Cruise and photo galleries. A lack of a commentary is a let-down but not surprising considering the fairly underwhelming treatment of the movie itself.
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