Raising Cain is a film I loved first time I saw it, but since it’s been a long time since then, and with this new release featuring both versions, I delved straight into the director’s cut.
Carter (John Lithgow) is a a child psychologist who’s taken two years off work to raise his daughter, Amy, while the missus, doctor Jenny (Lolita Davidovich), continues to go out to work. How they can afford such a huge house on only one income isn’t viable, but that’s understandably not what director Brian De Palma chooses to address, here. He wisely focuses on the fact that Carter’s acting bizarre and disappearing at a moment’s notice, while for Jenny, she has a close association with Jack (Steven Bauer), a man in her past whose wife died from cancer, before she started playing away with him.
Raising Cain‘s release is very timely; the plot premise of split-personalities are the order of the day with James McAvoy’s Split currently showing in cinemas, although in Lithgow’s case, they get to converse with one another. In addition, Carter has 25 personalities while McAvoy’s character has 23-going-into-24, but this ain’t Top Trumps…
The plan for Carter – or one of his other personalities, is to use children as a psychological experiment in Norway, from where his Dad hails, but how to get willing volunteers?
The timeline neatly chops and changes about a bit, but the way it’s done makes it an incredibly stylish thriller and it’s a definite improvement on the original version’s more chronological structure. Plus, at just 92 minutes in length, this film moves along at a brisk pace and it features a career-best performance from Lithgow; and if you enjoyed this, also check him out at his maniacal best in season 4 of Dexter, although do watch the first three seasons before that, so you know what’s going on.
There’s also De Palma’s trademark directorial flourishes with the way he positions the camera – such as the split-screen scenes where someone’s in the background AND foreground, but they’re BOTH in focus; the long tracking shot in the police station which includes a walk down a flight of stairs with the camera’s viewpoint turning almost 45 degrees, and one showing when Jenny wakes up in one scene (when you see it, you’ll know, but I don’t want to spoil it)
For the record, the theatrical version runs 91 mins 36 seconds, while the Director’s Cut is 91 mins 58 seconds, so the new version is almost the same length at just 22 seconds longer. This release contains two Blu-ray discs (one for each version of the film, with associated extras listed below) and a DVD of the film.
The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, and
there’s a slight amount of grain and the occasional print fleck, but this will all be down to the original print and its filming process and nothing to worry about.
The audio is in DTS HD 2.0 (stereo), and is fine for a Dolby Surround soundtrack. There’s no split-surround moments given the format, but it does all the shock cues just fine.
In the extras, the first two I’ll list are on the director’s cut disc, with the rest on the first one, and there are some fantastic interviews to get stuck into:
- Changing Cain: Brian De Palma’s Cult Classic Restored (2:25): Dutch film director Peet Gelderblom gives an introduction to the film. I watching this afterwards, though, as I didn’t want any spoilers before seeing it. Peet was the one who cut the film back into the form as laid out from the original screenplay – something he did off his own back and then posted it online in 2012 to much acclaim including from De Palma, himself. Hence, that’s what we have here.
- Raising Cain Re-cut (13:02): Peet’s video essay about the differences, which he also posted online. As he goes into detail about why the re-cut version is better, I won’t divulge any of that here, as most people buying this release won’t have seen this new experience.
- Hickory Dickory Doc (15:45): The first in a series of interviews features main man John Lithgow, this one including previous films with which he’s worked with De Palma, and how they spent an entire day just rehearsing the one-take scene, and shot five good takes of it the next day, one of which went in the film… not sure which one, though. Sadly, there isn’t on with Ms Davidovich.
- The Man in My Life (24:00): Looking considerably different 25 years on, Steven Bauer talks about his love for the director, Lithgow’s talent, plus how it took his mind off going through a divorce at the same time, as well as De Palma’s storyboarding of the entire movie with stick figures, which others featured here also mention.
- Three Faces of Cain (15:47): Gregg Henry on how one line in Scarface opened up many doors for him, as well as the long take he was in. He’s also worth a watch in Payback, opposite Mel Gibson, and Super.
- The Cat’s in the Bag (8:00): His cop partner Sgt Cally, played by Tom Bower, who I remember mostly as janitor Marvin in Die Hard 2. He was hugely impressed with Frances Sternhagen who “never missed a beat” when filming the long, single take.
- A Little Too Late For That (8:43): Thirtysomething‘s Mel Harris, who played Jenny’s best friend Sarah, talks about the cinematography whether in all the scenes that were dark in light and/or tone, as well as her bright, outdoor park scenes.
- Have You Talked To The Others? (10:49): Editor Paul Hirsch on building suspense and tension, citing examples such as the first time Cain shows up in the in-car scene, and how to navigate the complexities of the plot, plus on working with Lithgow and De Palma.
- Raising Pino (35:46): with composer Pino Donaggio.
- Father’s Day (23:26): With the title taken from one draft of the script, Chris Dumas, author of Un-American Psycho: Brian De Palma and the Political Invisible, takes us through his ‘visual essay’ of the multiple versions of the film. This is similar to Peet Gelderblom’s essay, although it goes into more detail about the scenes in the original script which were never filmed.
- Gallery (2:00): 23 stills of posters, production images and on-set pictures.
- Theatrical trailer (2:05): Cropped to 4:3, but as it would’ve appeared back in the day, so I do like to see such things presented as they were originally.
My review disc was the film and extras on Blu-ray, but if you buy the finished release, there’s also a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh, plus a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson.
The main menu features a short piece of the music set to clips from the film, there’s a bog-standard 12 chapters and subtitles are in English.
Raising Cain Special Edition is out today on Blu-ray/DVD Dual-format, and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.
Running time: 92 mins (both versions)
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: January 30th 2017
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio
Widescreen: 1.85:1 (35mm)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Brian De Palma
Producer: Gale Anne Hurd
Screenplay: Brian De Palma
Music: Pino Donaggio
Carter: John Lithgow
Jenny: Lolita Davidovich
Jack: Steven Bauer
Dr. Waldheim: Frances Sternhagen
Lt. Terri: Gregg Henry
Sgt. Cally: Tom Bower
Sarah: Mel Harris
Karen: Teri Austin
Nan: Gabrielle Carteris
Mack: Barton Heyman
Amy: Amanda Pombo
Emma: Kathleen Callan
Coroner: Ed Hooks
Saleslady: Karen Kahn
Gardener: Noe Montoya
Gardener: Riq Boogie Espinoza
Newscaster: Carolyn Morrell
Peters: W Allen Taylor
Little Boy (Josh): Scott Townley
Receptionist: Mary Uhland
Weatherman: Steve Schill
Young Detective: James Van Harper
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.