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Raising Cain Blu-ray Review

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De Palma goes full tilt

by Casimir Harlow Jan 30, 2017 at 7:35 AM

  • Movies review


    Raising Cain Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £12.99

    Film Review

    Often regarded as one of De Palma's lesser efforts, Raising Cain is arguably - for good or for bad - something of a greatest hits package from the director.

    Done with knowing reference to not only Hitchcock but also Hitchcock's own influence on De Palma's preceding films, Raising Cain is a thoroughly over-the-top psycho-drama which has the stylish director wielding all of his mad, macabre tools in a suitable frenzy. There is an intriguing double- and triple-bluffing psychological thriller beneath, which subverts genre expectations and playfully messes with your mind, but it's often overwhelmed by the intentionally over-dramatic slant that pervades the piece, and by the presence of John Lithgow's overbearing lead. Lithgow is, curiously, both the best and worst thing about the film. He's absolutely tremendous in his very diverse role, but he's also absolutely emblematic of the over-the-top style De Palma wanted to adopt, with scenes which, in other works from the director, may have been played purely for tense suspense, now taking on a slightly comedic tone.
    In many technical respects, Raising Cain is actually a more restrained De Palma flick - at least visually - playing out in a far more straightforward fashion that doesn't quite crank up the crazy camera angles and elaborately-staged panning set-ups (but for the finale) as much as you'd expect. Indeed De Palma had problems with his theatrical cut, which was more chronologically arranged than he'd intended in his original shooting script, so much so that he reportedly prefers the new 'Director's Cut', which was re-edited by director Peet Gelderblom. This is more than just a curio, and arguably provides a more mind-bending, twisty romp than the more straightforward theatrical cut, and it actually almost feels more classically De Palma, at least in terms of its attempts to further play with your mind. Certainly it doesn't fix the film's flaws, but it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand; indeed many may find it the superior version.

    Picture Quality

    Raising Cain Picture Quality
    Raising Cain comes to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow, who deliver both the original theatrical cut and the 'director's cut' (more accurately, reportedly, the director's 'preferred' cut even though he didn't cut it) with largely very good - and likely identical, but for the editorial changes - 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentations, framed in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, on two separate discs.

    It's a solid representation of the movie, even if it's never going to be used for demo purposes

    As was perhaps the norm for De Palma movies of the era (or, perhaps, of all time), a slightly soft haze lightly skims the image throughout, giving it a suitably dreamlike quality that further blurs the line between illusion and reality. There's nothing wrong with the image - it's both perfectly suited to the material and also a very natural representation of it - but it doesn't immediately lend itself towards demo/reference labeling. Beyond this largely stylistic choice, the detail remains fairly impressive, particularly on the close-up sequences, and the more elaborately-staged slow-motion sequences don't highlight any particular problems, not even when the reflections in cheap, tiny old CRT TV sets appear to be the focal point of the shot. Grain is fairly pervasive, but again in a largely natural way that seldom deviates from the intended look of the material, only becoming more variable in some of the lower-lit, tricky shots. The colour scheme too reflects the era of production/stylistic choices of De Palma, and is steeped in bland pastels with a few dips into more vibrant, vivid territory, but again this is pretty reflective of the original source material. It's a solid, honest, representation of the movie, even if it's never going to be used for demo purposes.

    Sound Quality

    Raising Cain Sound Quality
    Arrow deliver both the theatrical cut and the 'director's cut' with Linear PCM 2.0 audio tracks, which, beyond the rearrangement of scenes, are largely identical. The film may not make for a demo release, particularly with its predisposition towards more dialogue-fuelled sequences, but at least the great, overbearing score by regular De Palma collaborator Pino Donaggio raises the stakes regularly throughout.

    The film may not make for a demo release but the great score raises the stakes throughout

    Dialogue remains clear and coherent throughout, picking up the change in tones and intonation, particularly from Lithgow, and noting the minutiae of the environment, insofar as De Palma wants you to pick up on them. A few loud screeches and thunder cracks don't quite have the resonance or depth you'd have wanted, but are still perfectly acceptable, and Donaggio's score absolutely dominates the understandably front-heavy track, dragging you through this melodramatic maelstrom of madness.


    Raising Cain Extras
    Arrow have delivered a stunning package for UK fans, not least because it boasts both the original theatrical cut and this new director-approved re-cut, but also because there's a whole wealth of extra features spread across both discs.

    The majority of the extra features pack out the first disc alongside the theatrical cut, with the UK-exclusive Hickory Dickory Doc providing a brand new interview with star John Lithgow who dips into his memories of the production and his varied contribution to it; The Man in My Life is a hefty new interview with actor Steven Bauer, reminiscing fondly over his work with De Palma and involvement in the movie; Have You Talked to the Others? is an interview with Editor Paul Hirsch, who discusses the changes made to the format of the original screenplay and the various editing choices he made; Three Faces of Henry is an interview with character actor Gregg Henry, who clearly had a lot of fun working with De Palma; The Cat's in the Bag has Henry's on-screen cop partner talk about his contribution; and A Little Too Late for That has actor Mel Harris talking about her more meaty role here. There's also a UK-exclusive interview with Composer Pino Donaggio, Raising Pino, and a UK-exclusive video essay on the various versions of Raising Cain, entitled Father's Day, as well as Trailers to round off the first disc.

    A whole wealth of extras - some UK exclusive - spread across two discs

    The second disc sports not only the arguably superior re-cut, but Changing Cain: Brian De Palma's Cult Classic Restored, which is an introduction by the new cut's director, as well as Raising Cain Re-Cut, a video essay by the same director, who takes you through the many differences between the two versions. The package itself is a typically impressive one from Arrow, with a collectible booklet and a great reversible cover with brand new artwork that deserves a special mention.

    Blu-ray Verdict

    Raising Cain Blu-ray Verdict
    Many may find the re-cut director's approved alternative version a better watch

    Although it appears to be sacrilegious, Raising Cain, even in its original theatrical cut, was always a flawed piece, and it would appear that this new version sticks closer to De Palma's original screenplay, and further comes with an endorsement from De Palma himself, who even suggests that this is his preferred version. Arrow's Region B-locked UK package is tremendous, a lavish 2 disc release (three if you include the DVD) that sports a plethora of new interviews from almost all the cast and crew members, as well as both cuts, themselves with solid video and audio. Fans of both the film and De Palma should consider this a lavish package to add to their collection.

    You can buy Raising Cain on Blu-ray here

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99

    The Rundown



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