Brian De Palma probably thought he’d be entering the ’90s as a king. He was going to director the best selling novel that summed up life in the ’80s. It was can’t miss blockbuster with Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis facing off and Melanie Griffith between them. The film was a failure on so many levels that it doesn’t even have a cult following declaring it misunderstood masterpiece like Heaven’s Gate. De Palma could have had his entire career crushed under the weight of the failure and ended up getting a full time gig at a film school discussing Alfred Hitchcock. But he was able to get back in the director’s chair for Raising Cain, a smaller film with a rather complicated lead role. The film about a man with a multiple personalities comes with multiple cuts. There’s the original theatrical cut and a director’s cut that wasn’t actually the work of De Palma’s splicer.
Dr. Carter Nix (Lithgow) is a second generation child psychologist who seems to have it all including a charming wife (Cobb‘s Lolita Davidovich) that’s a medical doctor and a sweet daughter. Under the surface, all is messed up. His wife is having an affair with Jack Dante (Stephen Bauer of Scarface) and about to leave him. Nix is losing it emotionally as he displays quite a few personalities including his father, who is dead. Although his father seems to have inspired his rupture since the old man did horrible experiments on his young son in the name of science. His more streetwise personality has been kidnapping children for a grand experiment that the father had dreamed up. The husband and wife are losing it a bit as they both wait to spring their major plot. Nix has the advantage of using the cops to cover his tracks. There’s a lot of twists and turns in the thriller where nobody is quite what they seem to each other.
The Director’s Cut of Raising Cain isn’t quite a director’s cut in the traditional way. The story goes that before the film was released, De Palma shuffled the scenes in attempt to alter the timing of the film. He needed to grab the audience faster which is always a good thing if you’re advertising the film as a thriller. Nearly 20 years after its release, Peet Gelderblom used an early draft of the script to create the version De Palma wanted to present. Unlike other Director’s Cuts, there’s no new scenes or alternate footage. The original film is all here, but in different spots. Sadly thee’s no commentary from De Palma about what he thinks of the new cut. Although by having him sign off to have it provided with the theatrical cut, he must enjoy it. Ultimately the film was a hit and allowed De Palma’s career to rebound with Carlito’s Way and Mission: Impossible.
Raising Cain is a fine piece of De Palma with all of his Hitchcock references in the right places. It is a movie deserving of a second viewing to truly understand it. Although with two different cuts, you’ll get four times to hit play.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfers look fine for both version of the film. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lets you clearly hear Lithgow swapping accents and attitudes when Nix changes personality. There’s also the original mix in the 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio version. The movie is subtitled.
Not One to Hold a Grudge (30:00) allows John Lithgow to reflect on all three films he made with De Palma over his glorious career. He talks about playing so many characters on a single set. He thanks Gregg Hardy for playing his other personalities for line readings on camera when Nix was talking to himself.
The Man in My Life (24:00) reminds us that Steven Bauer and De Palma worked so well together. He had previously played Tony Montana’s buddy in Scarface.
Have You Talked to the Others? (10:49) lets the editor Paul Hirsch talk about the film changing up in post-production.
Three Faces of Henry (15:47) allows Gregg Henry, the investigating detective, to give his notes. Henry had also appeared in Scarface and Body Double.
The Cat’s in the Bag (8:00) allows Tom Bower to descibe being the other investigating police detective.
A Little Too Late for That (8:43) allows Mel Harris to discuss changing her career after thirtysomething.
Theatrical Trailer (2:05) sells us Lithgow being so many characters.
Still Gallery (2:09) montage of production and promotional pictures.
Changing Cain: Brian De Palma’s Cult Classic Restored (2:25) gives background on Peet Gelderblom, the man who dared to make his own director’s version.
Raising Cain Re-cut: A Video Essay (13:02) is Gelderblom comparing the two versions.
Scream Factory presents Raising Cane: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Brian De Palma. Screenplay by: Brian De Palma. Starring: John Lithgow, Lolita Davidovich, Steven Bauer & Frances Sternhagen. Running Time: 91 minutes. Rated: R. Released: September 13, 2016.
Joe Corey is the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.