Brian De Palma’s 1976 movie, with Sissy Spacek in the starring role in a screenplay adaptation by Lawrence D. Cohen (Ghost Story, It), necessarily jettisoned the novel’s specifically literary conceits and worked miracles with the emotional effectiveness of the ending that, at least in my eyes, eluded King. Carrie’s destructive charge is restricted to the havoc wreaked inside that fiery gymnasium—and the hell she raises for chief tormentor Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen) and her slobbering boyfriend Billy Nolan (John Travolta)—setting the stage for the real apocalypse, played out on the battlefield between freshly destroyed daughter and a mother who seeks to finish the job with a butcher knife in the name of Jesus. (In the book, Carrie uses her powers to stop Margaret’s heart; De Palma and Cohen cook up something altogether more outrageous, satisfying and, ultimately, devastating.)
The movie is nearly 37 years old, yet its shadow remains long and formidable. In 1988, with no actual movie sequel likely to carry on its filmed legacy (Carrie and her mom were dead at the end after all), Cohen adapted his own script into a notoriously short-lived Broadway musical. But even that disaster couldn’t snuff out interest in Carrie. De Palma’s movie finally got its official sequel in 1999-- The Rage: Carrie 2, which recycled Carrie’s basic revenge motifs (and a lot of footage from the original movie) into a generic story of date rape, harassment and revenge which was quickly, mercifully forgotten. The footsteps of the original movie were recycled into a 2002 TV-movie remake/series pilot which, fortunately, never caught on. And last year, there was even an off-Broadway revival of the ill-fated 1988 musical, which was granted a five-week run, considerably longer than the original’s infamous three-day collapse, before closing in the face of considerable cultural indifference.
But enough about all that. In honor of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the release of the book, and to capitalize on the renewed interest generated by the tepid new version, the Horror Dads—TCM’s Richard Harland Smith, along with writer-director Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) and writers Paul Gaita, Jeff Allard, Greg Ferrara and myself-- have reconvened after a long absence (since last Halloween?) in order to throw some light and love on the 1976 version of Carrie. The conversation-- "We Were Kids-- The Horror Dads revisit Carrie (1976)"-- was so much fun and went to so many interesting and illuminating places that Richard, our esteemed editor, has split it into tantalizing halves. Part One posted today and will do lots to whet your appetite vis-à-vis revisiting the Brian De Palma movie, and Part Two will drop on November 1, All Saints’ Day, the perfect reading material for shaking off spooks and dealing with an intense session of high fructose corn syrup recovery.