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©1998–2019
Dustin Putman




Obsession  (1976)

Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: January 15, 2019) – Quixotic and languorous, twisted and captivating, "Obsession" often strikes as what, in essence, it is: an affectionate tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 classic of lost loves and doppelgängers, "Vertigo." For Brian De Palma, the masterful filmmaker whose love of ratcheting Hitchcockian levels of suspense would continue with 1980's "Dressed to Kill," 1981's "Blow Out," and 1992's "Raising Cain" (among many others), such comparisons are not unwarranted. "Obsession" is a slightly different beast; there are thriller aspects to it, but the bulk of the running time is less focused on quickening one's pulse than bewitching audiences and keeping them guessing as an unhurried romantic mystery plays out.

In 1959 New Orleans, the wedding anniversary of real estate developer Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson) and wife Elizabeth (Geneviève Bujold) is interrupted when she and their young daughter Amy (Wanda Blackman) are kidnapped for ransom. When Michael is pulled into a double-crossing scheme by the police, the plan backfires and his family lose their lives. Sixteen years later, while on a business trip in Florence, Italy, Michael visits the church where he met his late wife decades ago and shares a chance meeting with a woman, Sandra (also Bujold), who is an uncanny double for Elizabeth.

"Obsession" is less flashy than De Palma's most memorable and stylish efforts, pleased to take an unhurried, observant approach to a narrative with a few perverse twists up its sleeves. This does not mean it isn't enrapturing, with Bernard Herrmann's sleek, operatic music score accompanying a screenplay by Paul Schrader that confidently blends a love story with a dark morality play of abduction and familial loss and longing. Cliff Robertson has the right leading-man look to fit his role of Michael Courtland, but too frequently underplays the emotional quandaries his character faces. Better is Geneviève Bujold, a beguiling, dramatically complex chameleon in the dual roles of Elizabeth and Sandra. "Obsession" isn't well-known among Brian De Palma's wide-ranging filmography, but it is ripe for discovery, innately worthwhile while playing to its own unusual, elegant, haunting tempo.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound
 A-/A-

It is discussed in the special features of Scream Factory's Collector's Edition Blu-ray of "Obsession" that director Brian De Palma and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond utilized a great deal of diffused lighting within the lensing of their dreamlike, decades-spanning romantic mystery. At first glance, the 1080p transfer may strike as overly gauzy, even foggy, at times, almost as if the camera lens is in need of cleaning. Rest assured, this is a purposeful visual style, true to source. This is a largely impressive presentation—age-related speckling is occasional but minor—one with an attractively filmic and evenly distributed grain structure. HD details include an increase in facial and object detail, and a clarity in its colors, but it is also important to note a fairly consistent softness to the original photography. The 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD Master Audio is excellent, clean and clear for the duration. Its best attribute: composer Bernard Herrmann's superb music score, a layered orchestral tapestry which also effectively uses choral contributions. I can only imagine this audio track sounds as good as it ever has.

Blu-ray Features
  • NEW "Producing Obsession with George Litto" Featurette (26:19, HD)
  • NEW "Editing Obsession with Paul Hirsch" Featurette (20:30, HD)
  • "Obsession Revisited" Featurette (37:31, SD) - featuring interviews with director Brian De Palma, producer George Litto, actors Cliff Robertson and Genevieve Bujold, and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:35, HD)
  • Radio Spots (0:59, HD)
  • Image Gallery (6:17, HD)
Bottom Line
It may be a stretch to place "Obsession" in Shout! Factory's horror-focused Scream Factory family (it arguably would have fit better in the Shout Select line), but one suspects it was chosen as a Scream title to accompany the line's previous De Palma features "Phantom of the Paradise," "Carrie," and "Raising Cain." No matter, this is another gem within the filmmaker's oeuvre, a dreamy, genre-bending romantic mystery that dares to travel down some decidedly twisted avenues. An excellent high-definition transfer, solid audio, and a handful of insightful special features round out this Collector's Edition Blu-ray release. Highly recommended.

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© 2019 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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