Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

CARRIE (1976)

William Katt and Sissy Spacek
CARRIE (1976). Director: Brian De Palma.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a shy, tormented high school student in a small town who has a child-abusing, religious fanatic mother (Piper Laurie). Her telekinetic abilities start to reveal themselves along with her awakening womanhood. As penance for her role in making fun of Carrie in a cruel fashion, Sue Snell (Amy Irving of Hide and Seek) importunes her boyfriend, Tommy (William Katt) to take Carrie to the prom in her place. Unfortunately Sue's bitchy friend Chris (Nancy Allen) -- the ultimate "mean girl" --  and her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) have diabolical plans for Carrie, who responds in a powerful fashion of her own ... Lawrence D. Cohen's screenplay improves upon Stephen King's potboiler novel, and the film is extremely well-directed by De Palma [The Black Dahlia], one of the very few directors who can make effective use of slow-motion and split screens. Adding to the strength of the movie are the performances, especially by Spacek, who creates deep sympathy for her character without ever becoming cloying. It could be argued that Laurie [Trauma] is a little over-the-top. but she's effective and interesting (which is more than you can say for the actresses who tackled the role in the two remakes). Katt, Irving, Allen and Travolta are all perfect, as is Betty Buckley as the compassionate gym teacher, Miss Collins. The contribution played by Pino Donaggio's excellent score can not be underestimated (he employs Psycho strings on occasion but can he forgiven for that). The songs at the prom are memorable and evocative as well.

Verdict: A classic and by far the best version of this compelling story. ***1/2.

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