Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Arrow Video: De Palma Love - BLOW OUT and DRESSED TO KILL on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Arrow Video: De Palma Love - BLOW OUT and DRESSED TO KILL on Blu-ray

Brian De Palma is one of those touchstone filmmakers for me. Like Leone or Scorsese, he is a guy who genuinely makes it hard for you to not think about who is the maker of the film that you are watching. These are gentlemen who really want to pretty much grab you by the eyeballs and say "Hey you there, look at this!". I know it's been said that filmmaking is supposed to be this seamless process and that a good filmmaker is sometimes seen as one who doesn't call too much attention to the filmmaking itself. I can see a case being made for this, but for me, some of my favorite filmmakers do just the opposite. Their love of cinema and what it can do when it is at its most potent is totally undeniable and can be felt in every frame of their greatest works. 
It's hard not to talk about De Palma without mentioning Hitchcock. It's a totally fair thing in that De Palma has certainly acknowledged the master's influence and has clearly borrowed liberally from his films over the years. That being said, I do hope that the more people delve into De Palma's movies, the more they see that he is truly his own unique concoction and one that is truly unforgettable. Like Hitchcock, he is a director who delights in exploring and experimenting with the cinematic language itself. In his best films, when he takes from other filmmakers it is done in such a way that's as if to say "yes...and?". And I don't feel it's done out of arrogance, but rather a sense of 'what else can we do to bring this story to the audience in a visually interesting way?'. BLOW OUT and DRESSED TO KILL are two of my very favorite De Palma films, and I am excited to see Arrow give them special edition treatment(and excited that they are doing a Brian De Palma collection in general).

BLOW OUT(1981)
BLOW OUT is often cited as one of De Palma's greatest achievements and when you watch it it's easy to see why. De Palma uses the camera to such great effect that the film itself basically becomes a master class in shot selection. It also features one of John Travolta's best performances ever(his best in my opinion). Quentin Tarantino has said that BLOW OUT is one of his all-time favorite films and cited the film directly as one of the big reasons he cast Travolta in PULP FICTION. Even amidst a career of many questionable choices, Tarantino remembered how capable Travolta could be and kept coming back to this film as evidence of that. In the film, Travolta plays Jack Terry, a sound guy for low-budget films(horror mostly) who stumbles on a labyrinthine conspiracy when he accidentally records an assassination on audio tape. Like Francis Coppola via THE CONVERSATION, De Palma is clearly drawing on Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film BLOW-UP for some inspiration here. Perhaps he was more inspired by THE CONVERSATION(which came out in 1974) than BLOW-UP itself, in that both BLOW OUT and THE CONVERSATION deal with conspiracies stumbled on through audio recordings. I love both films myself and have often put THE CONVERSATION in my own personal all-time top 5. Another great thing that BLOW OUT has going for it is an amazing villain in John Lithgow(who worked with De Palma a few times). Lithgow is an actor that had become somewhat forgotten(at least dramatically) in the 2000s until he appeared as a recurring character on the Showtime series Dexter. Lithgow then reminded all of us what he is able to do and played one of the most memorable villains in TV or movies in the last 10 years. His character in BLOW OUT is less subdued and more straight ahead evil than his Dexter character, but he's pretty terrifying. I've always said, a great movie needs a great villain and Lithgow pulls that off in spades. BLOW OUT is a great film indeed and Arrow has put together a nice package here.
Features include:
- New, restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Brian De Palma
- Original Dolby 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
- Black and White in Colour: An Interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond
- Rag Doll Memories: Nancy Allen on Blow Out
- Return to Philadelphia: An interview with Producer George Litto
- A gallery of on-set photos by photographer Louis Goldman
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Joe Wilson
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Atkinson, a conversation between Quentin Tarantino and Brian De Palma.

In January of 2011, Edgar Wright ran a film series called 'The Wright Stuff II' at L.A.'s New Beverly cinema. For one of his personally programmed double features he selected to screen Hitchcock's FRENZY and De Palma's DRESSED TO KILL. On his site, Edgar Wright Here,  he said this at the time:

"Late period Hitchcock and golden period De Palma, together at last. Both fantastic thrillers, breathtaking technical exercises and coal black comedies. Frenzy had a mixed reception when first released as some were disappointed that Hitch finally showed in graphic detail what he had only hinted at before. I say this ruthless atmosphere only strengthens this grimly funny tale of a man wrongly accused of being a serial killer. As a Brit myself, I personally love the early 70’s grubbiness of the tale, murder among the fruit stalls and potatoes. Lovely! Dressed To Kill opens with a dream sequence, but the nightmare never ends. De Palma conjures a dark cloud of doom over his ensemble and creates opera from terror. The technique in this film is absolutely incredible, one of those movies that is a mini film school in itself."

In DRESSED TO KILL, De Palma does his own take on the Italian Giallo film mixing it with PSYCHO and other Hitchcockian ideas and comes up with a true classic. As Mr. Wright indicated, it's also a sort of film class unto itself (just like BLOW OUT). I really do believe that if young filmmakers are looking for some sort of inspiration and guidance on how to develop their own style, they really need to sit down and watch both these films.  DRESSED TO KILL features a lengthy but wonderful, wordless opening sequence with the a lovely Angie Dickinson. I can't help but be reminded of my favorite wordless opening from a movie in Howard Hawks' RIO BRAVO when I see it as both films star Miss Dickinson. From there, the movie is many exercises in characters seeing one another and often spying on each other to try to figure out more about the identity of a killer who is on the loose. Said killer is the picture of a giallo horror in that she wears back gloves, dark glasses and kills with a razor blade. It's a striking image and one that has been used many times over the years to not only represent this film, but also De Palma himself in some cases. De Palma has a knack for finding ways to show us a scene from a unique point of view. He uses his signature split screen here, but also finds a few key reflective surfaces to bounce images off of that make things quite interesting throughout. This Arrow disc is also stacked with some great features including:
-High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature
-Optional original uncompressed Mono 2.0 Audio and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound
-Symphony of Fear: Producer George Litto discusses his working relationship with Brian De Palma
-Dressed in White: Star Angie Dickinson on her role in the film
-Dressed in Purple: Star Nancy Allen discusses her role in the film
-Lessons in Filmmaking: Actor Keith Gordon discusses Dressed to Kill
-The Making of a Thriller – A documentary on the making of Dressed to Kill featuring writer-director Brian De Palma, George Litto, stars Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz and more!
-Unrated, R-Rated, and TV-Rated Comparison Featurette
-Slashing Dressed to Kill – Brian De Palma and stars Nancy Allen and Keith Gordon discuss the changes that had to be made to avoid an X-rating
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanel Marsh
-Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic and author Maitland McDonagh, illustrated with original archive stills and promotional material

Both of these Blu-rays as well as a Blu De Palma's OBSESSION can be found at Arrow's website:

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