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?'.
Sometimes you watch a film and you cannot believe that it was made produced by a major studio. Not in a bad way, but every so often a movie gets made that is so kind of out there in terms of thwarting audience expectations that you can either applaud it or get annoyed. My choice is to applaud and jump on board for the ride - especially when you're talking about a filmmaker like De Palma who is a master craftsman when it comes to the thriller genre. In RAISING CAIN De Palma doles out information via dreams, fantasies and flashbacks so much so that it becomes a real challenge to figure out what's real and what's not in the context of the movie's narrative. I'm sure a lot of folks respond to this kind of thing with frustration and the seem to glom onto the idea that they've been "tricked" by the filmmaker. They are coming at movies from the point of view that all the information they are being given is reliable so that they can use it to some how logically figure out what's going to happen. When viewers feel like they are being presented with fair clues and events that can lead them to deduce what's going on - they feel like they are being given a fair shake at "solving" the mysteries a movie is presenting to them. The last thing I want as a movie watcher is something like "the butler did it" as the resolution. I personally much prefer a challenging and often confusing movie like RAISING CAIN every so often to keep me on my toes and paying attention in hopes that I can keep track of everything. The other thing that RAISING CAIN may have going against it (or for it depending on your point of view) is the size of John Lithgow's scenery-chewing performance. I believe Lithgow is actually one of our greatest and most talented actors. Watch that "Trinity Killer" season of DEXTER and you'll have not doubt in your mind how great he is. But he's been great for a long long time and RAISING CAIN is a film that gives him a whole lot to play. Not to give anything away, but lest's just say that Lithgow takes on more than one character in the movie so it is kind of this odd showcase for him. There are few movies that give so much or require so much of a single actor as RAISING CAIN does. You'll either go with De Palma's wild methods and let Lithgow do what he does or you won't. Me - I like the ride - like I said and I miss the days when we used to get a new Brian De Palma studio film every couple years. He's one of my favorites and he always will be. Even his movies that a lot of people think of as misfires are ten times more interesting than a lot of what's out in theaters right now.
-Theatrical Version Of The Film
-NEW Interviews With Actors John Lithgow, Steven Bauer, Gregg Henry, Tom Bower, Mel Harris And Editor Paul Hirsch
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Director's Cut Of The Film Featuring Scenes Reordered As Originally Intended
-NEW Changing Cain: Brian De Palma's Cult Classic Restored Featurette
-NEW Raising Cain Re-Cut – A Video Essay By Peet Gelderblom
RAISING CAIN can be purchased on Blu-ray here:
Bonus: De Palma interviewed about RAISING CAIN on Charlie Rose back in 1992: