Brian de Palma’s ‘Greatest Hits’ package of him, Hitchcock and others gets a valuable three-disc dual format DVD and Blu-ray release courtesy of Arrow Films.
Carter Nix (John Lithgow) is happily married to Jenny (Lolita Davidovich) and has a baby daughter, Amy. He also happens to be chloroforming and killing young mothers and abducting their children to deliver to his Norwegian mad scientist father (Lithgow again) who wants to use them in personality-splitting experiments. Dr Nix has already been at it for years, though, and Carter himself is a mixture of the violent Cain, young Josh, and psychopathic Margo (all Lithgow, who is kept extremely busy in this film).
We learn all this through a monologue from dying psychologist Dr Waldheim (the marvellous Frances Sternhagen from THE MIST & MISERY who makes the most of her awful wig) during one of de Palma’s trademark clever camera sequences (it’s very good - you’ll want to watch this bit at least twice).
Meanwhile Jenny is having an affair, the genesis of which is detailed in an awkward and clunky flashback that culminates in a ‘shock shot’ that made me wonder if de Palma wanted to homage sub-par Ulli Lommel as well as all the other directors who are referenced in this. Carter / Cain tries to kill her and abducts Amy for more mad personality splitting. Will Jenny save her daughter? Will the police get there in time? Will the film end on one of de Palma’s trademark ‘jump’ moments, albeit one possibly pinched this time from a better movie by Dario Argento?
And that’s the main problem with RAISING CAIN - everything here has pretty much been done before, either by de Palma himself (there’s a lot of his superior DRESSED TO KILL in here) or by directors he admires. The Michael Powell PEEPING TOM vibe is a new element, but it’s such an over the top plot for a director who has never been the most restrained when it comes to these kinds of thrillers, that it’s difficult to stay with it.
John Lithgow is excellent in all his roles. The same cannot be same of Lolita Davidovich in her one role, who just cannot evoke the levels of sympathy we felt for Angie Dickinson who sort of played the same character in DRESSED TO KILL. RAISING CAIN isn’t a bad film, but it is all rather daft, and while de Palma fans would have welcomed it back in the day it’s not difficult to see why general audiences didn’t go for it.
Arrow’s presentation of RAISING CAIN is excellent. Discs 1 & 2 are the film on Blu-ray and DVD, plus extras. There are a lot of extras, including a new fifteen minute interview with John Lithgow as well as interviews with actors Steven Bauer, Gregg Henry, Tom Bower and Mel Harris, editor Paul Hirsch, and an extensive one with composer Pino Donaggio. There’s also a video essay about the different versions of the film and a trailer.Disc 3 is only available as part of a limited edition, and I’d suggest snapping this one up if you can, as it’s the de Palma-endorsed re-edit of the film by Peet Belder Gelderblom, re-ordered according to de Palma’s original script. If you’ve not seen RAISING CAIN before I’d suggest you watch this first, as it does give you a very different viewing experience for the first half of the film. Well done Arrow for including this and all the other extras, which together make up an excellent package.
Brian de Palma's RAISING CAIN is out from Arrow in a limited edition 3 disc dual-format package on Monday 30th January 2017