Tag Archives: Brian De Palma

The Set of 400: #77 – My Favorite Face Plunger

Today! Because I was not myself last night/Couldn’t set things right with apologies or flowers –

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Directed by Brian De Palma (x3)

Starring William Finley, Paul Williams (x2), Jessica Harper (x2), Gerrit Graham, George Memmoli, Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, Peter Elbling

Despite being a lifelong Paul Williams fan – who lands fully three musicals in my top 100, er, 77 films – Phantom of the Paradise didn’t get onto my radar for a very long time. In fact, and in fairness, it probably shouldn’t have even been eligible for this list, as I only first saw it a few years ago, almost certainly since the release cut-off date I used for new movies. But I’m exploiting the loophole wherein that rule only applies to new movies, not when I first saw them, plus it’s my list, and who gives a shit? So welcome to the countdown, Winslow!

I have no good sense of what Phantom of the Paradise‘s place is in the world. I don’t remember ever hearing of it before I saw it – I’m pretty dismissive of De Palma films, even if this is his third appearance on this list – but the fact that this is a full blown Williams musical is more surprising it didn’t come up at some point. And I mean, it is pretty bizarro stuff. This Phantom of the Opera/Faust mash-up, updated for the ’70s, is part parody to be sure, but also part horror movie, as a lot of the goings on are played very seriously, after a point. Plus again, there are like ten songs, which don’t always perfectly fit with the plot or the film in general, as they vary from total Broadway to surf rock, and it’s kind of a low budget affair. So I get the feeling this movie is way off in the cult realm, if anywhere.

The aforementioned face plunger

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The Set of 400: #354 – My Favorite Matchbook Clue

Today! Because a man becomes preeminent, he’s expected to have enthusiasms. What are mine? Baseball!

The Untouchables (1987)

Directed by Brian De Palma (x2)

Starring Kevin Costner (x2), Sean Connery (x2), Robert De Niro (x2), Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith, Jack Kehoe, Billy Drago, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Bradford, Brad Sullivan, Chelcie Ross, Clifton James, Del Close, Don Harvey

Brian De Palma’s second TV show adaptation to make the list, The Untouchables is in many ways the quintessential Chicago film. I mean, for all the basic improvement made here over the last hundred years, the two things you still hear most when the town comes up are the Great Fire and Al Capone. And while In Old Chicago is an okay bit of old Hollywood hokum about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, it’s not in common cinematic parlance. Al Capone, however, has a new biopic or pops up in some TV show every year or two, right? When we were in London last year, and some waiter asked where we were from, the first thing he mentioned in response? Al Capone. Who has been dead for 70 years.

Chicago icon!

And not to continue too far down this path, but Chicago doesn’t even actively try to embrace the gangster past here. Sure, there’s a cheesy Untouchables Gangster Bus Tour, but no museums, no Al Capone key chains at any of the more official city gift shops. And yet, it hangs on. People like gangster movies, that’s the only explanation. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #392 – My Favorite Drake Hotel, Chicago Plot Device

Today! Because you’ve never seen me very upset –

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Ving Rhames, Jean Reno, Emilio Estevez, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Henry Czerny, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, John McLaughlin, Garrick Hagon

Ah, the glorious summer of 1996! While it was expected to be the big draw that season, and would only end up third behind ID4 and Twister, it proved to have the longest legs, cranking out sequels straight to the present day. And even though I think it’s fair to say the first one is no one’s choice for best film in the series, the De Palma outing does have a lot going for it. Because all the follow-ups would get helmed by action directors (I don’t care what else you might think of J.J. Abrams), this one stands out for the underlying suspense De Palma (at the end of his effectiveness as a director) brought to it, the first of many fake masks and double-crosses, and for that sequence where they break into Langley to steal the list. The effects may get bigger and wilder as the series goes on, but nothing will ever quite compare to panicky Cruise quietly dangling from a rope as Jean Reno kills that rat. Holy wow. Sure, the plot is convoluted nonsense, and some of the motivations are a bit fuzzy to say the least, but it’s still a pretty exciting running/jumping/punching flick. Continue reading

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