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  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
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    English, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Booklet

Carrie

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 94 mins . R . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Ah, Carrie. I can relate to this film. I remember only too well being picked on by bullies until I was in tears in Year 7 at high school. Fortunately, perhaps, I didn't have telekinesis on my side.

Stephen King's first published novel, Carrie is also one of the more artistically successful film translations of his stories. Sissy Spacek is wonderful as the school geek, teased mercilessly at day by her schoolmates, then mentally abused by her fanatically-religious mother (Piper Laurie) at night. When she belatedly gets her first period (which her mother later tells her is due to sinful thoughts), she finds that she's not only become a woman; a new power has blossomed in her, that of telekinesis.

When Carrie's asked to the school prom by Tommy (William Katt), doing a favour for his guilt-ridden girlfriend Sue (Amy Irving), a cruel prank is played on her by Robocop's Nancy Allen, and dancin' boy John Travolta, unleashing a veritable orgy of violence from our young prodigy.

While a very enjoyable movie, Carrie fails as a horror, because it fails to elicit any fear from the audience. Quite the contrary; Spacek is so marvelous as Carrie, so convincing in her portrayal of her character's misery and self-loathing, that you end up empathising with her and are firmly on her side by the end of the film. Director Brian DePalma elevates proceedings into the realm of Shakespearian tragedy, and the result is one of the very few horror films in history to garner Best Actor nominations for the Academy Awards.

  Video
Contract

The DVD is not anamorphically-enhanced, despite what the enclosed booklet might claim, but like all the French-sourced MGM titles I've had to review so far, has been encoded with a very high bitrate. It seems that the encoding house is using a very inefficient encoder, or simply whacking everything on 'minimum compression' and walking away, because the film shouldn't be needing as much as it's using. It almost goes without saying that I saw no MPEG artifacting.

The source print appears to be the same one used for the NTSC laserdisc of a year or so ago, and suffers the same problems, namely poor shadow detail and only average sharpness. Colour is good and there are no annoying film artifacts present, but at no point did I get lost in the film, as I generally do with a good transfer.

Daylight scenes are acceptable, but you often feel as though you're watching through a veil, which detracted from the presentation for me. It's disappointing that MGM didn't find it worthwhile to find a better print than this one, which leaves the video looking worse than other films a decade or more older.

DePalma used some interesting film techniques in Carrie, the most obvious being the use of a split screen technique during the prom scene, but the effect I liked the most was the use of what I believe is called a dioptic filter, which is capable of showing a nearby object and a distant object together in the same frame, with both in focus. If you pay attention you can 'see the joins' when objects accidentally cross the centre of the frame, like Tommy's hair in the classroom scene early in the film. You'll notice it's in focus on the left of the frame, then out of focus on the right.

  Audio
Contract

This is a decent example of why I criticise people who insist on old films being remixed into 5.1 channels. The fact is, you can't wave a magic wand over old sound elements and have them sound like a recent production - the equipment simply wasn't capable of the same kind of fidelity we take for granted these days, and separating them into different channels emphasises their flaws.

The soundtrack for Carrie sounds remarkably good, with deep bass and a good spread across the front soundstage, but much of the dialogue and spot effects have background hiss and hum which would otherwise have been masked by other sounds.

Despite the problems with the sound stems, this is a good example of remixing a film sympathetically. One particularly effective use of the surrounds comes during the prom scene, with Carrie's mother shouting, "They're all going to laugh at you!" panning around the room. I can't imagine the soundtrack having quite the same impact in the original mono.

  Extras
Contract

As I'm becoming used to with MGM titles, a basic booklet and the theatrical trailer are your lot.

  Overall  
Contract

A good film, with a transfer that might have been acceptable in the late 80s or early 90s (and in fact, most old laserdiscs have a similar mediocre quality), but should we really be content with lackluster transfers anymore?

As I see it, companies now have an obligation to make high quality video transfers for DVD, because they're the way that many will see a film in the future. Making a good high-definition transfer ensures future generations can study a film once the negative is beyond repair.

Still, this disc represents a seminal horror-yet-not film, and I must recommend it on that basis.


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      And I quote...
    ""
    - Paul Dossett
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 103(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          RealMagic Hollywood Plus
    • TV:
          Mitsubishi Diva 33
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha DSP-A1
    • Speakers:
          Richter Excalibur
    • Centre Speaker:
          Richter Unicorn
    • Surrounds:
          Richter Hydras
    • Audio Cables:
          Monster RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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