[box cover]

Obsession

Brian De Palma has a thing about Hitchcock. Namely, he always wanted to be Hitchcock. And in a bizarre sort of symbiotic co-dependence, critics reinforced his delusion by calling films like Dressed to Kill and Blow Out "Hitchcockian" — when in fact they were second-rate replicas. But there was a time, pre-1980, long before De Palma spiraled even further downward to the bottom-scraping flotsam of Raising Cain, Mission Impossible, Snake Eyes and (shudder) Mission to Mars that he made some very good movies. A period in which he made Sisters, then Phantom of the Paradise, then — right before his break-out film, Carrie — a truly Hitchcockian thriller called Obsession. The surprisingly elegant homage to Vertigo begins in 1959, at a party celebrating the tenth anniversary of real estate developer Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson) and his wife Elizabeth (Genevieve Bujold). After the party, the couple hear their daughter screaming and Elizabeth goes to investigate, but never returns. Michael finds a ransom note demanding $500,000, and a warning not to contact the police. Instead of paying the ransom, Michael instead takes a detective's advice and plans an elaborate scheme to trap the kidnapper — but the attempt goes horribly wrong. The film then jumps forward to 1975, with Michael on a trip to Italy with his business partner, Robert LaSalle (John Lithgow). Visiting the church where he had first met his wife 27 years earlier, Michael meets a woman who looks exactly like Elizabeth and, as the title of the film suggests, becomes obsessed with her. The twists and turns that follow aren't as subtle or surprising as Hitch would have given us, but they are compelling nonetheless. And Obsession is a gorgeous film, photographed by the great Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance, The Deer Hunter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) — a fine example of the art of visual storytelling, playing with the themes of doubles amid the creepy Gothic beauty of New Orleans and Florence. The haunting score is by Bernard Herrmann, who knew a thing or two about making Hitchcock films: He reportedly read the original script by De Palma and Paul Schrader and told De Palma to lose its over-elaborate resolution, which would have taken Michael yet another ten years into the future. When De Palma took his advice, Schrader walked away from the project, leaving De Palma to write a new ending by himself. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of Obsession offers a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Also on board is the featurette "Obsession Revisited," theatrical trailers, and cast-and-crew notes. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor



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