Horror Scenes That I Love: The Hypnosis Scene From Sisters

In this seriously creepy scene from the 1972 film Sisters, a reporter (Jennifer Salt) is hypnotized and made to believe that she was once a conjoined twin, attached to a psychotic model (played by Margot Kidder).  The scene was directed by Brian De Palma.



4 Shots from 4 Brian De Palma Films: The Phantom of Paradise, Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, we honor the one and only Brian De Palma!

4 Shots From 4 Brian De Palma Films

Phantom of Paradise (1974, dir by Brian De Palma)

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian De Palma)

Dressed To Kill (1980, dir by Brian De Palma)

Blow Out (1981, dir by Brian De Palma)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Brian De Palma Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, we wish a happy 80th birthday to director Brian De Palma with….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian De Palma)

Scarface (1983, dir by Brian De Palma)

Body Double (1984, dir by Brian De Palma)

The Untouchables (1987, dir by Brian De Palma)

An Offer You Can Do Whatever You Want With #21: Carlito’s Way (dir by Brian De Palma)

It’s been a week so I guess it’s time for me to get back to reviewing mob movies, right?  Usually, I do my best not to take such a long break in-between reviewing films — especially when it’s a themed-series of reviews — but I just got busy this week.  It happens.  Luckily, even when we get busy, the movie’s remain ready to be watched and reviewed.

Last week, I reviewed Scarface and The Untouchables, two gangster films from Brian De Palma.  It only seems right to return to my look at the gangster genre by considering another Brian De Palma film.  Released in 1993, Carlito’s Way reunites De Palma with Scarface’s Al Pacino.  In Scarface, Pacino played a Cuban named Tony who was determined to get into the drug trade.  In Carlito’s Way, Pacino plays a Puerto Rican named Carlito who is desperate to escape the drug trade.

Carlito’s Way opens with Carlito getting released from prison in 1975.  He’s spent the past five years serving time on a drug conviction.  Originally, Carlito was sentenced to 30 years but his friend and attorney, David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn), managed to get the conviction thrown out on a technicality.  Now a free man, Carlito finds himself torn between two options.  He can either get involved, once again, in the drug trade or he can go straight.  Returning to his life of crime will mean once again doing something that he’s good at but it will also require him to deal with people who he can’t stand, like the sleazy Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo).  Going straight will mean escaping from New York with his girlfriend, a dancer named Gail (Penelope Ann Miller).  The problem is that it takes money to start a new life and there are people in New York who have no intention of allowing Carlito to leave.

Of the three De Palma-directed gangster films that I’ve recently watched, Carlito’s Way is probably the weakest.  De Palma has always been a frustratingly uneven director and Carlito’s Way contains some of his worst work and some of his best.  For instance, there’s a brilliant sequence where Carlito goes to a hospital to get revenge on someone who betrayed him and it is perhaps one of DePalma’s best set pieces.  But then there’s other scenes where DePalma’s trademark style feels rather empty and counterproductive.  Just when you’re starting to sympathize with Carlito’s predicament, DePalma will suddenly toss in a fancy camera trick and remind you that you’re just watching a film and that Carlito Brigante is just a character in that film.  That technique worked well in the satiric Scarface and the mythological Untouchables but it often feels unnecessary in Carlito’s Way.  

Al Pacino plays Carlito and, like DePalma’s direction, the end result is a bit uneven.  On the one hand, Pacino and Penelope Ann Miller have a likable chemistry, even if Carlito and Gail don’t really make sense as a couple.  On the other hand, this is one of those films where Pacino does a lot of yelling.  Sometimes it works and sometimes, it’s just too theatrical to be effective.  It’s hard not to compare Pacino’s performance here with his slyly humorous work in Scarface.  Tony Montana yelled because he genuinely enjoyed getting on people’s nerves.  The way that Tony expressed himself told us everything that we needed to know about the character.  Carlito yells because that was Al Pacino’s trademark at the time the film was made.

The best thing about the film is Sean Penn’s performance as David Kleinfeld.  Kleinfeld is one of the sleaziest character to ever appear in a movie and Penn seems to be having a good time playing him.  (Watching the film, I found myself wishing that Penn was willing to have that much fun with all of his roles.)  Penn doesn’t make Kleinfeld into a straight-out villain.  Instead, he portrays Kleinfeld as being a somewhat nerdy guy who thought it would be fun to pretend to be a gangster and who has snorted too much cocaine to understand the amount of trouble that he’s brought upon himself.  Just check out Penn in the scene where he’s dancing at a disco.  There’s a joy to Penn’s performance in Carlito’s Way that you typically don’t see from him as an actor.  He’s actually fun to watch in Carlito’s Way.

It’s a flawed film but fortunately, the movie’s good moments are strong enough to help carry the audience over the weaker moments.  The movie often threatens to collapse under the weight of its own style but it seems like whenever you’re on the verge of giving up on the film, De Palma’s kinetic camerawork will calm down enough to allow you to get at least mildly invested in Carlito’s predicament or Sean Penn’s amoral dorkiness will create an amusing moment and you’ll think to yourself, “Okay, let’s keep giving this a chance.”  Carlito’s Way may not be an offer that you can’t refuse but it’s still fairly diverting.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface (1932)
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House
  11. Race Street
  12. Racket Girls
  13. Hoffa
  14. Contraband
  15. Bugsy Malone
  16. Love Me or Leave Me
  17. Murder, Inc.
  18. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
  19. Scarface (1983)
  20. The Untouchables

4 Shots From 4 Films: Carrie, God Told Me To, The House With Laughing Windows, The Omen

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1976 Horror Films

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian De Palma)

God Told Me To (1976, dir by Larry Cohen)

The House With Laughing Windows (1976, directed by Pupi Avati)

The Omen (1976, dir by Richard Donner)

A Scene That I Love: The Opening of Scarface

Produced by Martin Bregman, directed by Brian De Palma, written by Oliver Stone, and starring Al Pacino, the 1983 remake of Scarface is one of the best-known, most iconic gangster films ever made.  It opened to mixed reviews but it’s gone on to be recognized as a classic.  Everyone can quote the script:  “Say hello to my little friend!” “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.”  “Say goodnight to the bad guy!”

Scarface starts with one of my favorite opening scenes of all time.  Powered by Giorgio Moroder’s score, the opening credits of Scarface play out over footage of the real-life Mariel boatlift.  Combined with footage of Fidel Castro ranting that Cuba does not need the Marielitos, this opening gives real-world credibility to everything that follows.  We then segue from the actual boatlift to Al Pacino as Tony Montana, answering questions with that shit-eating grin on his face.

Listen to the interrogation scene carefully and you’ll hear both Charles Durning and Dennis Franz, dubbing the lines of the actors who played the immigration agents.

4 Shots From 4 Films: In Memory of Martin Bregman

Long-time producer Martin Bregman died yesterday at the age of 92.  Bregman, who started out as a talent agent, was well-known for producing several of Al Pacino’s best films.  This edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films is dedicated to his memory.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Serpico (1973, directed by Sideny Lumet)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975, directed by Sidney Lumet)

Scarface (1983, directed by Brian De Palma)

Carlito’s Way (1993, directed by Brian De Palma)



4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Brian De Palma Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

This October, I am going to be using our 4 Shots From 4 Films feature to pay tribute to some of my favorite horror directors, in alphabetical order!  That’s right, we’re going from Argento to Zombie in one month!

Today’s director: Brian De Palma!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Phantom of Paradise (1974, dir by Brian De Palma)

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian De Palma)

The Fury (1979, dir by Brian De Palma)

Dressed To Kill (1980, dir by Brian De Palma)



Music Video of the Day: Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen (1984, dir. Brian De Palma)

I love and hate when I end up with a music video like this one. I love it because there isn’t a whole lot to talk about, but that’s also why I don’t like it. At least Cyndi Lauper’s She Bop let me off the hook with a simple joke. That music video really does speak for itself.

Brian De Palma shot this video over two nights in Saint Paul, Minnesota on the 28th and 29th of June 1984. The first was purely shot for the music video. The other was shot on the opening night of the Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Springsteen and the E Street Band performed it twice during the show to make sure De Palma got enough footage. De Palma shot it because he was a big fan of Springsteen. As far as I know, there isn’t anything more to that.

The other major thing is that this is the music video with Courteney Cox getting pulled up onstage to dance with Springsteen. I love how she just launches up onstage with him. It looks like they had some steps or something so that Springsteen wouldn’t be yanking her up there.

As for the music video as a whole, it’s clean, simple, and De Palma obviously knew how to capture the energy of the group. You’d think that Springsteen hadn’t quite picked up acting because he seems starstruck and having the time of his life, but I don’t think so. I have never seen him live, but you can roll back to 1981 and watch the music video for The River to see that simply isn’t true. You can even go back further to 1977’s Thunder Road and see again that it isn’t true. I think the reason Springsteen looks like that is that it was probably the first time he was doing this kind of stage performance music video. I can imagine De Palma telling Springsteen to just let all the energy out regardless of what time they were shooting, and that he would make it look good.

Of course I type of all of that, and then stumble upon something really interesting. This was not the original way the music video was going to be done. It was originally going to be directed by Jeff Stein and shot by veteran cinematographer Daniel Pearl. There was a little falling out between Pearl and Springsteen during shooting that ended up coming around full circle on the shooting of Springsteen’s Human Touch. I would link to the site that explains the whole thing, but it looks like it might have been destroyed since it was posted in 2011, and is in limbo thanks to the Google Cache. Assuming that’s the case, I have repeated it below with a link to their site that may or may not work.

Here is an example of how the music video could have looked. Hopefully the two videos are still up when you read this post.

From the site called Golden Age of Music Video

At the end of July, a video surfaced online of the music video of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”, but not the iconic version directed by Brian DePalma where Courtney Cox makes her famous appearance at the end dancing with the Boss. This one is a somewhat blurry, copy-of-a-copy duplicated-tape version with Springsteen and Clarence Clemons on a soundstage, literally dancing in the dark.

So what IS this footage, where was it shot, and why has it never been seen before? Legend told of a first version of the song shot before the DePalma version, but no consensus has ever been reached on what happened.

Now, THE GOLDEN AGE OF MUSIC VIDEO has uncovered the true story of this first attempt to shoot the “Dancing in the Dark” video, straight from the two GAMV luminaries who helmed the original shoot: director of photography Daniel Pearl and video director Jeff Stein.

An award-winning cinematographer whose career spans nearly forty years, Daniel Pearl should be heralded as the MVP of the Golden Age of Music Video. Having acted as director of photography on a multitude of legendary music videos – everything from Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” to the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” to Guns N’ Roses “November Rain” – Pearl has always given music videos and commercials their cinematic due by treating each shot with feature film-level attention. Serving as cinematographer on the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, Pearl has made all his music video projects, big budget or small, sparkle and shine in ways only the most gifted eye could.

“What happened was this,” Pearl explained about the first “Dancing” shoot. “I’d never worked with Jeff before, but Jeff is a New Yorker, and a producer named John Diaz put us together. Jeff’s idea was that ‘Dancing in the Dark’ was Bruce Springsteen in a completely dark space — black floor, black walls, black ceiling, stage as well. We’re at Kaufman Astoria Studios. Bruce Springsteen in a room in the dark. And I went, ‘Well, that isn’t really much of a concept,’ but he goes, “Oh no, it will be cool. Don’t worry about it, it’d be cool.’”

“Now for Bruce, this was the first single he’s releasing after Nebraska, which was not that big of a hit for him, so, Bruce is very nervous,” Pearl continued. “We’re all on set now and Bruce is really pumped. I mean, he’s been working out, and he has a little bit of stubble. Now, I would take a look at people when they first show up. I’ll say hello, and I take a quick look at their face to see, if I know them, if anything is changed – I’m seeing how to light them. I’m take a look at their face and where they part their hair — I mean, those all things that matter to me when I do the lighting. So anyhow, he’s got serious sideburns. Big sideburns, he’s pumped, rippling muscles in his arms, good muscle definition, he’s wearing a wife beater sleeveless shirt, sharkskin pants, and black pointy-toe shoes and basically, that’s the New Jersey, sort-of early ‘60s thing going on, right? But very manly, right? So I lit him very hard – hard edge lights for his rippling muscles, and just really chiseled him with light. He comes out and he stands there and he goes, ‘I don’t know. I think you should get like a big silk [lighting filter] out here and just put a big light through the silk, and silk over the camera, the big silk, you put a big light through it and I go, ‘That’s how we light Stevie Nicks.’ I said, ‘You’re not a p*ssy, you’re quite the opposite. You’re super manly here. I can’t light you like I would light a woman.’ And he said, ‘But that’s what I want.’ And Jeff Stein is there, and said, ‘Just try it once doing it Daniel’s way, and if you don’t like it, we’ll change it.’”

“So we shoot [a few takes], right? Then Bruce goes to the green room, and never returns. Bruce leaves. He just disappears. Doesn’t say a word to anybody, and he’s just out the door, gone. I’m like, ‘Oh, f*ck.’ I’m thinking to myself ‘Oh, my God. Am I, like, responsible for this falling apart?’ John Diaz says to me, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not on you, blah blah blah.’” But Pearl blamed himself and his comments for Springsteen’s quick departure.

Director Jeff Stein, a friend of Springsteen’s to this day, said he was brought in to direct this video, but immediately had misgivings about shooting Bruce in anything other than a concert setting. Then, when the concept of Springsteen and Clarence Clemons in an all-black background setting was established, Stein wanted to try shooting the video all in one take. Reluctant to further discuss the details of the shoot on the record with me, but acknowledging that Pearl was to blame for the walkout, Stein would only agree to be quoted as saying, “I love Bruce, and I had nothing to do with it [the video]. I usually take the blame, but not for that (laugh).”

The whole experience left Pearl somewhat scarred, resulting in him deflecting any opportunity to work with the Boss again. Pearl then started shooting various projects for commercial and music video director Meiert Avis, and soon, a Springsteen video was the next gig scheduled. Pearl said no. Three or four Springsteen videos came to Avis, and Pearl could not bring himself to say yes to any of them, still feeling guilt from the “Dancing in the Dark” experience.

“So Meiert goes to me, ‘So what am I going to do? I got a Bruce Springsteen job,’” Pearl recalls. “So I said, ‘I’m not going to shoot Springsteen. No, no, no. I told you, I don’t shoot Springsteen. No.’”

Little did Pearl realize that he was destined to cross paths with Springsteen again.

“So then a few years pass, and Meiert hired me to shoot a band called the Rituals and we’re shooting all the view on materials, it’s always like rituals like ancient African rituals, and we’re shooting in this cave and we got this moving camera. There’s lightning-strikes machine, and we’re shooting weddings and all first strange ritualistic behavior. And then when shoot material with this girl in like a ‘30s or ‘40s apartment. Well, we’re shooting the girl and there’s lightning flashing, and they told me we’re going to New Orleans, and there’s going to a street car and a spark when it goes over the joint. And so I’m playing with that in this shoot as well, and there are interior lights coming through the windows.”

“In between takes, I look, and Springsteen comes walking into the studio. So I go, ‘Oh, f*ck. What the f*ck is he doing here?’ I’m thinkin he’s probably coming out to a meeting with Meiert to talk about either what’s he going to be doing in the future, or look at some video Meiert made for him. So I just keep my eye here on the camera, thinking I’ll just stay with the camera and he’ll leave eventually. I won’t to have to deal with this guy. I’m not going to talk to him. So we’re shooting another take and as we finished the take, I get tapped on the shoulder by Springsteen, and he goes, ‘Daniel, the circle becomes complete.’ He says, ‘You were right on how you wanted to light me. I was wrong. This is my song. We’re shooting here now, and this is the only way we could get you to do it. I want to apologize because you were right.’ And that turned out to be the video for ‘Human Touch’, which I think, is a great video in a lot of ways.”