Carrie was the film that kind of blew Brian de Palma’s career up after he had made a series of Godard-esque comedies, Greetings and Hi, Mom!, after which he did a strange comedy Get to Know Your Rabbit for WB, and the Hitchcockian thriller Sisters, the first pure “de Palma film” as we know it. That was followed by the magnificent Phantom of the Paradise, and finally his first big studio film, Obsession, his homage to Vertigo. Up until Carrie, his work had not been financially successful.
It also jump-started Steven King’s career. Carrie, his first published novel, had come out two years before, and the film version was therefore the first King adaptation. It was a great meeting of mind, even though it’s vastly different from the book, which has a very documentary feel, with police reports news reports and journal entries. King, who was completely broke at the time, had thrown the original manuscript for it in the bin. His then-wife retrieved it, and King turned the notes into what was essentially a long short story.
The screenwriter, Lawrence D. Cohen, decided to tell the story from Carrie’s point of view, because that’s what works in the cinema.
Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is an outcast in a All-American town, living with an oppressive fundamentalist mother (played by Piper Laurie). Soon she is developing telekinetic powers. There’s the famous prom scene, and it’s brilliantly shot by cinematographer Mario Tosi. You’ll also see some of the best use ever of split-screen, one of de Palma’s trademarks.
There’s also a great supporting cast. It’s John Travolta’s first film post-Welcome Back Kotter; and he is joined by Nancy Allen, who would go on to become Brian de Palma’s wife and to act in many of his films; and P.J. Soles, who would appear two years later in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. George Lucas and de Palma held a joint casting call, so many of the actors who appeared in Carrie had also auditioned for Star Wars. William Katt, Carrie’s bad prom date, was one of these, having also been considered for Luke Skywalker.
Out of all of the Steven King adaptations out there, I would say that Carrie still belongs in the top five. It’s one of the few horror films to ever attract an Oscar nomination, for both Spacek and Laurie. There’s a renewed interest in King currently due to his influence on Stranger Things and the remake of It which is far better than the original, which has been a big hit, making it a very timely release (besides, Donald Trump recently banned King from his Twitter feed, so he can’t be bad).
The disc features a 4K restoration, a new commentary track, and a visual essay comparing the original with the two later Carrie remakes. All of the old making-off features from the earlier Blu-Ray are here, as are interviews with Cohen, Tosi, film editor Paul Hirsch, casting director Harriet B. Helberg, and composer Pino Donaggio, who has since worked with de Palma many times, including on his most recent film, Passion. A thick booklet with new writing by Neil Mitchell, a reprint of a Carrie fanzine, and an archival interview with de Palma himself complete the set.