Carrie (1976 film)
Original theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian De Palma|
|Produced by||Paul Monash|
|Screenplay by||Lawrence D. Cohen|
by Stephen King
|Music by||Pino Donaggio|
|Edited by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$33.8 million|
The film received two Academy Award nominations, one for Sissy Spacek in the title role and one for Piper Laurie as her abusive mother. The film featured numerous young actors – including Nancy Allen, William Katt, Amy Irving, and John Travolta – whose careers were launched, or escalated, by the film. It also relaunched the screen and television career of Laurie, who had not been active in show business since 1961.
Carrie was the first of more than 100 film and television productions adapted from, or based on, the published works of Stephen King.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (August 2015)|
Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), a shy and friendless 17-year-old girl, is the scapegoat and outcast of her school in North Carolina. At home, she is abused by her mentally unstable mother Margaret (Piper Laurie), who is a Christian fundamentalist.
While in the showers after gym class, Carrie unexpectedly experiences her abnormally delayed first period. Having no prior knowledge of menstruation, Carrie believes she is bleeding to death. The other girls, including Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen) and Sue Snell (Amy Irving), add to her shame and humiliation by pelting her with tampons and sanitary pads. The gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) intervenes and as Carrie becomes more frantic, a light bulb bursts in the showers.
Miss Collins brings Carrie to the principal's office to excuse her from gym class for the next week. After Carrie grows angry from the principal repeatedly mispronouncing her name "Cassie" instead of "Carrie", an ashtray on his desk suddenly flips onto the floor, startling Miss Collins. As Carrie walks home a boy on a bicycle taunts her, calling her "Creepy Carrie". When Carrie glares at him, the boy immediately crashes and hurts himself. At home, Margaret receives a call from Miss Collins about the shower incident. Margaret tells Carrie that the "curse of blood" is divine punishment for sin and forces her to confess before locking her into a dark and cramped prayer closet to pray for forgiveness. A vengeful Carrie stares at her bedroom mirror until it shatters.
The next day, the other students laugh at her when she says that classmate Tommy Ross' (William Katt) poem is "beautiful". Miss Collins subjects Carrie's P.E. class to a week-long boot-camp-style detention, threatening the students with suspension from school and the prom if they do not attend. Chris becomes defiant and is slapped by Miss Collins; Chris storms out, unremorseful of her prom ban, angrily swearing vengeance. Sue convinces Tommy to invite Carrie to the prom.
Carrie suspects she may have telekinesis. While researching in the library, Tommy invites her to the prom, but she declines, fearing another trick. Miss Collins asks Carrie what's wrong and says that Tommy asked her out, fearing another trick. Miss Collins then convinces Carrie that she's pretty and later reprimands Sue and Tommy as they try to convince her that they're trying to help Carrie. Tommy later visits Carrie's house and repeats his invitation, which she eventually accepts. Carrie tells her mother she is going to the prom, but Margaret declares the prom a sinful occasion. Carrie reveals her telekinesis by causing all the windows to slam shut, leading Margaret to believe she is a witch. Carrie insists on going to the prom and Margaret reluctantly accepts.
Chris tells her delinquent boyfriend Billy Nolan (John Travolta) that she wants revenge on Carrie. She goes with Billy and some of his friends to a local farm, where Billy and his friends bloodily slaughter pigs and store the pigs' blood in a bucket. Billy then sneaks into the school and places the bucket above the school's stage. As Carrie prepares for the evening, her mother tries to discourage her from going to the prom, claiming that "They're all gonna laugh at you!" Carrie's classmates are surprised to see her at the prom and several girls point and snicker. After Miss Collins comforts her with stories of her own prom, Carrie begins to enjoy herself and dances blissfully with Tommy, who gives her a first kiss. Sue, who was unable to attend due to lacking a date, sneaks into the prom to ensure everything goes well for Carrie.
To Carrie's surprise but according to Chris and Billy's plan, she and Tommy are named prom king and queen. As the two approach the stage, Sue discovers Chris holding a rope attached to the bucket. Before Sue can warn Carrie, Miss Collins forces her out, thinking Sue came to cause trouble. The crown is placed on Carrie's head, then Chris pulls the rope and Carrie is drenched in the pig's blood. Chris and Billy escape the gym laughing, as Tommy is knocked unconscious by the falling bucket. Carrie hallucinates that the whole room (including Miss Collins) is laughing at her in mass hysteria.
Carrie snaps into a cold rage and telekinetically seals the exits. She then manipulates a fire hose and it blasts several students to their deaths at a tremendous force. She also kills Miss Collins by separating her from the group. She pins her to the wall and makes the basketball court collapse and swing onto Miss Collins, dismembering her as the horrified and helpless Chris and Billy witness from a window. The water makes contact with the wiring, igniting a massive fire in the gym, killing all of the students and staff.
Carrie leaves the inferno in the gym and begins walking home, covered in blood. Chris and Billy attempt to run Carrie over with Billy's car, but Carrie telekinetically flips the car over and causes it to explode, killing them in revenge. Upon returning home and taking a bath to wash off the pig's blood, Carrie prepares for bed, but encounters Margaret and breaks down in her arms. Margaret confesses to Carrie that she and her husband Ralph believed that sex was a sin and abstained from it, until he got drunk one night and raped her, which she admits that she actually enjoyed. She embraces Carrie as the two recite the Lord's Prayer together, but halfway through the prayer, Margaret stabs Carrie in the back with a butcher's knife. Carrie falls down the stairs and is cornered in the kitchen by a crazed Margaret, who attempts to stab her more. Carrie's telekinesis is adrenalized, and all the knives and sharp objects in the kitchen are sent hurtling into her mother, crucifying her in the doorway. Carrie screams and unhooks her mother as the house starts to shake, which then collapses onto them.
Some time later, Sue, the sole survivor of the prom massacre, has a dream in which she visits the lot where Carrie's house once stood. As she places flowers on the ground, Carrie's bloody hand shoots out of the ground and grabs her elbow—then Sue wakes up screaming in her mother's arms, and presumably haunted forever by Carrie.
- Sissy Spacek as Carrie White
- Piper Laurie as Margaret White
- Amy Irving as Sue Snell
- William Katt as Tommy Ross
- Betty Buckley as Miss Collins
- Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen
- John Travolta as Billy Nolan
- P. J. Soles as Norma Watson
- Sydney Lassick as Mr. Fromm
- Stefan Gierasch as Mr. Morton
- Priscilla Pointer as Mrs. Snell
- Harry Gold as George Dawson
- Doug Cox as The Beak
- Noelle North as Frieda Jason
- Michael Talbott as Freddy DeLois
- Edie McClurg as Helen Shyres
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2013)|
Carrie was the first Stephen King novel to be published and the first to be adapted into a feature film. In an interview in Port Charlotte, Florida at a public appearance near his home on the Gulf coast on March 20, 2010, King said he was 26 years old at the time and was paid just $2,500 for the film rights, but added "I was fortunate to have that happen to my first book." De Palma told Cinefantastique magazine in an interview in 1977:
"I read the book. It was suggested to me by a writer friend of mine. A writer friend of his, Stephen King, had written it. I guess this was almost two years ago [circa 1975]. I liked it a lot and proceeded to call my agent to find out who owned it. I found out that nobody had bought it yet. A lot of studios were considering it, so I called around to some of the people I knew and said it was a terrific book and I'm very interested in doing it. Then nothing happened for, I guess, six months."
Lawrence D. Cohen was hired as the writer, and produced the first draft, which had closely followed the novel's intentions. However, later versions departed from King's vision rapidly, and certain scripted scenes were omitted from the final version, mainly due to financial limitations.
Many young actresses auditioned for the lead role, including Melanie Griffith. Sissy Spacek was persuaded by husband Jack Fisk to audition for the title role. Fisk then convinced De Palma to let her audition, and she read for all of the parts. De Palma's first choice for the role of Carrie was Betsy Slade, who received good notices for her role in the film Our Time (1974). Determined to land the leading role, Spacek backed out of a television commercial she was scheduled to film, rubbed Vaseline into her hair, didn't bother to wash her face, and arrived for her screen test clad in a sailor dress which her mother had made her in the seventh grade, with the hem cut off, and was given the part.
De Palma began with director of photography Isidore Mankofsky, who was eventually replaced by Mario Tosi after conflict between Mankofsky and De Palma ensued. Gregory M. Auer served as the special effects supervisor for Carrie, with Jack Fisk, Spacek's husband, as art director.
The White house was filmed in Santa Paula, California and to give the home a Gothic theme, director and producers went to religious shops looking for artifacts to place in the home.
The site of one of the locations where Carrie was filmed, Palisades Charter High School ("Pali High"), was owned by Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher - parents of Carrie Fisher - years before the school was built. Some years after the couple had purchased the lot, the State acquired the land by eminent domain (compulsory purchase) to build the school.
A wraparound segment at the beginning and end of the film was scripted and filmed which featured the Whites' home being pummeled by stones that hailed from the sky. The opening scene was filmed as planned, though on celluloid, the tiny pebbles looked like rain water. A mechanical malfunction botched production the night when the model of the Whites' home was set to be destroyed, so they burned it down instead and dropped the scenes with the stones altogether. The original opening scene is presumed lost.
The final scene, in which Sue reaches toward Carrie's grave, was shot backwards to give it a dreamlike quality. This scene was inspired by the final scene in Deliverance (1972). Spacek had insisted on using her own hand in the given scene, so she was positioned under the rocks and gravel. De Palma stated, "Sissy, come on, I'll get a stunt person. What do you want? To be buried in the ground?!" However, Spacek declared, "Brian, I have to do this." De Palma explains that they "had to bury her. Bury her! We had to put her in a box and stick her underneath the ground. Well, I had her husband bury her because I certainly didn't want to bury her. I used to walk around and set up the shot and every once in a while we'd hear Sissy: 'Are we ready yet?' 'Yeah, Sissy, we're going to be ready real soon.'"
The score for Carrie was composed by Pino Donaggio. In addition, Donaggio scored two pop songs ("Born to Have It All" and "I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me") with lyrics by Merrit Malloy for the early portion of the prom sequence. These songs were performed by Katie Irving (no relation to star Amy Irving and her mother, Priscilla Pointer). Donaggio would work again with De Palma on Home Movies, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Body Double, Raising Cain, and Passion.
The other songs were uncredited in the film and omitted from all album releases due to different ownership. These songs are "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas, "Education Blues" by Vance or Towers, and a third song called "Lady Lay", which is also presumed to be by Vance or Towers (it was co-written by the band's Michael Towers)Additionally, two brief musical interludes during the prom ("Pre-Prom Disco" and "Ernest's Announcement") were also written by the same songwriting team who wrote "Lady Lay" and have never been issued.
The soundtrack album was originally released on vinyl in 1976 under the United Artists label. It was also released on cassette tape at some time during the 1970s or 1980s. A deluxe CD edition containing a few tracks of dialogue from the film was released by MGM/Rykodisc in 1997, and a 2005 CD re-release of the original soundtrack (minus dialogue) was available from Varèse Sarabande. Huge portions of the film's score were omitted from all of these releases. A bootleg version of the isolated score ripped from the Criterion laserdisc has also been in circulation on the internet.
In 2010, Kritzerland Records released all 35 cues of Donaggio's score for the film on a two-disc CD set which was boasted as the complete score. Also included in this edition were the versions of "Born to Have It All" and "I Never Dreamed..." which were heard in the film, as well as karaoke instrumentals of both songs, and hidden at the end of the final track, a version of the "Calisthenics" cue with Betty Buckley's studio-recorded voiceover from the detention scene. The second disc was a remastered copy of the original 13-track album. The Kritzerland release was a limited edition of 1200 copies. Kritzerland re-released the first disc as "The Encore Edition" in February 2013; this release was limited to 1,000 copies.
Release and reception
Carrie received largely positive reviews and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1976. The film currently holds a 92% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "Carrie is a horrifying look at supernatural powers, high school cruelty, and teen angst -- and it brings us one of the most memorable and disturbing prom scenes in history."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated the film was an "absolutely spellbinding horror movie", as well as an "observant human portrait", giving three and a half stars out of four. Pauline Kael of The New Yorker stated that Carrie was "the best scary-funny movie since Jaws – a teasing, terrifying, lyrical shocker". Take One Magazine critic Susan Schenker said she was "angry at the way Carrie manipulated me to the point where my heart was thudding, and embarrassed because the film really works." A 1998 edition of The Movie Guide stated Carrie was a "landmark horror film", while Stephen Farber prophetically stated in a 1978 issue of New West Magazine, "it's a horror classic, and years from now it will still be written and argued about, and it will still be scaring the daylights out of new generations of moviegoers." Quentin Tarantino placed Carrie at number 8 in a list of his favorite films ever.
Nevertheless, the film was not without its detractors. Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice commented, "There are so few incidents that two extended sequences are rendered in slow-motion as if to pad out the running time..."
In addition to being a box office success - earning $14.5 million in theater rentals by January 1978 - Carrie is notable for being one of the few horror films to be nominated for multiple Academy Awards. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie received nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards, respectively. The film also won the grand prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, while Sissy Spacek was given the Best Actress award by the National Society of Film Critics. In 2008, Carrie was ranked number 86 on Empire Magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. This movie also ranked number 15 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies, and No. 46 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Greatest Cinema Thrills, and was also ranked eighth for its famous ending sequence on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004).
In a 2010 interview, King replied that he thought, although dated now, Carrie was a "good movie."
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 46
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
- Carrie White – Nominated Villain
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
Carrie, along with the novel, has been reproduced and adapted several times.
The Rage: Carrie 2 was released in 1999. It featured another teenager with telekinetic powers who is revealed to have shared a father with Carrie White. The film received universally negative reviews and was a box office failure. Amy Irving reprises her role of Sue Snell from the previous film.
2002 television film
In 2002, a television film based on King's novel and starring Angela Bettis in the titular role was released. The film updated the events of the story to modern-day settings and technology while simultaneously attempting to be more faithful to the book's original structure, storyline, and specific events. However, the ending was drastically changed: instead of killing her mother and then herself, the film has Carrie killing her mother, being revived via CPR by Sue Snell and being driven to Florida to hide. This new ending marked a complete divergence from the novel and was a signal that the film served as a pilot for a Carrie television series, which never materialized. In the new ending, the rescued Carrie vows to help others with similar gifts to her own. Although Bettis' portrayal of Carrie was highly praised, the film was cited by most critics as inferior to the original.
Early in the 21st century, playwright Erik Jackson attempted to secure the rights to stage another production of Carrie the musical, but his request was rejected. Jackson eventually earned the consent of King to mount a new, officially-sanctioned, non-musical production of Carrie, which debuted Off-Broadway in 2006 with female impersonator Sherry Vine in the lead role. Similarly, many other unofficial spoofs have been staged over the years, usually with a gym teacher named "Miss Collins" (as opposed to the novel's "Miss Desjardin" and the musical's "Miss Gardner"), most notably the "parodage" Scarrie the Musical, which hit the Illinois stage in 1998 and was revived in 2005; Dad's Garage Theatre's 2002 production of Carrie White the Musical; and the 2007 New Orleans production of Carrie's Facts of Life, which was a hybrid of Carrie and the classic American sitcom The Facts of Life.
In May 2011, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Screen Gems announced that Carrie would be adapted to film once more. Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the script as "a more faithful adaptation" of King's novel. Aguirre-Sacasa had previously adapted King's epic novel The Stand into comic-book form in 2008.
The role of Carrie was played by 16-year-old actress Chloë Grace Moretz. Julianne Moore starred as Carrie's mother Margaret White, and Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell. Alex Russell and Broadway actor Ansel Elgort played Billy Nolan and Tommy Ross respectively. Portia Doubleday was given the role of Chris Hargensen and Judy Greer was cast as Miss Desjardin.
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