Obsession: Collector's Edition - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Obsession: Collector's Edition


Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :4stars:
Final Score: :4stars:


Brian De Palma is a legendary director, and having one of his long lost films finally make it state side is always a treat. For region free fans we’ve been able to import the Arrow release since 2011, but for those fans who don’t import, Scream Factory has picked up the license and transferred the same great video and solid audio masters over, and added their own bit of flair to the cover art and even included some really in depth interviews and commentary tracks to fill out Collector’s Edition status (although they DID drop the thick booklet with the original script that was on the Arrow release).

The year is 1959. Successful entrepreneur Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson) is celebrating his tenth wedding anniversary with a lavish party when the unthinkable happens. His wife Elizabeth (Bujold) and his daughter are kidnapped and a ransom note for half a million dollars is left behind (which in 1959 was a small fortune). Michael is all ready to pay the money when the chief inspector for New Orleans butts in and decides to run the show. Unfortunately the inspector and his men botch the job and the whole ransom goes south, ending with Michael losing his wife and daughter.

16 years later, still mourning the loss of his wife and daughter, Michael and his business partner Bob (John Lithgow) decide to take a trip to Florence Italy where Michael runs across a painter who is restoring part of a chapel named Sandra (Bujold), who is the spitting image of his wife Elizabeth. Smitten with Sandra and what she represents to him, Michael begins seeing the young woman (against the advice of Bob) and soon the two are married (again, with reticence from Bob, who is told to shove off). First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes an exact replica of 16 years ago, as Sandra is kidnapped and a $500,000 ransom note is left for him.
Nobody is going to deny that Obsession is Brian De Palma’s take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. A man who has lost much in life, only to fall in love all over again with something that appears to be a mirror image of what he lost, and then subsequently have it all pulled all out from underneath him once again. However, as Tarantino once said, Brian De Palma can go to depths that Hitchcock seemingly couldn’t do, and the film STILL suckers you into believing that the film will end like Vertigo, only to pull the rug out from under the viewer and completely change directions without even blinking.

One of the main reasons that De Palma is able to give off such an authentic Hitchcock vibe to Obsession is his choice of musical director. He chose longtime Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrman into crafting the score, and the results are jaw dropping. It makes the film seem so much more modern, yet so very very familiar at the same time. The harsh reverberating music is mixed in very hotly, as if to mimic the crushing tones that are going on within Michael’s head as he panics and tries to find Sandra. It’s the perfect choice for a man who has been described as the modern Alfred Hitchcock, and De Palma makes sure Herrman doesn’t just mimic Hitchcock, but makes the score (and subsequently the film) his own.

While Cliff Robertson is the star of the film, the tow iconic characters that just stand out are John Lithgow and Genevieve Bujold. Lithgow is gloriously hammy, chewing up the scenery with a giant mustache and acting the whole southern businessman schtick. It’s hilariously fun and Lithgow just rolls with it. However, he’s only second best to Bujold, who really steals every scene that she’s in (and according to the special features Robertson was actually intimidated by her due to how fantastic she was at everything). She’s gorgeous, demure, shy, yet so approachably innocent that you fall in love with her as much as Michael does.

The only problem with the film is the middle act. It gets a bit dull and flat as De Palma explores a few too many sub plots that just don’t go anywhere fast. These could have been trimmed quite a bit and the main story would not have suffered at all in my opinion. It’s not a great problem, but it’s the only reason that I didn’t score this a 4/5 or even a 4.5/5. That middle act has always been a flaw in the film, and it still does to this day.


Rated PG By the MPAA

Video: :4.5stars:
From first glance (and from talking with a few other fellow reviewers who had access to the Arrow release from 2011) it appears that Scream Factory is using the same master that was used for the Arrow release back in 2011, which is a good thing since the Arrow master was nothing short of stunning. 8 years later (or almost 8), the transfer looks just as stunning, showcasing De Palma’s use of watercolor hues, and a “wet” feeling that really gives a dreamy and some what hazy (intentionally) look to the film. There’s a few flecks and specs of debris here and there, but other than that this is a premium look for the 1976 film. Blacks are deep and detailed, and the grainy look of the 1970s film stock is preserved perfectly. You can see every pore and fleck on miss Bujold’s face, as well as watch the really awesome dream sequence (which De Palma created a brand new effect to use for the film’s sequence) in awesome HD.

Audio: :4stars:
Scream Factory gives us the obligatory 5.1 remix track that was on the Arrow release, as well as the Mono track in both DTS-HD MA lossless. Personally I like the mono track for purity reasons alone, but the 5.1 remix is quite solid for trying to amp up a basic mono mix. Bernard Herrmann’s score is lovely in the 5.1 mix, and that is really where this track shines. The dialog is crisp and clean, and the ambient effects are fine, but this is still a mono mix remixed up to 5.1, and there’s not much immersion that you can get from that. HOWEVER, the score is amazing. The music reverberates from all around you (as it should, it’s supposed to reverberate in Michael’s head), and the soundscape just envelops the listener with the music. Sometimes it’s a bit too loud, but then again, we have to remember that much of the music and the noises are supposed to be within Michael’s head, and the increased volume level for the music makes more sense.

Extras: :4stars:
NEW audio commentary with Douglas Keesey, author of Brian De Palma's Split-Screen: A Life in Film
• NEW Producing Obsession – an interview with producer George Litto
• NEW Editing Obsession – an interview with editor Paul Hirsh
• Obsession Revised – vintage featurette featuring interviews with director Brian De Palma, Cliff Robertson and Genevieve Bujold
• Theatrical Trailer
• Radio Spots
• Still Gallery

Final Score: :4stars:

Obsession is one of the Brian De Palma’s middle of the road films, but even a middle of the road De Palma film is still definitely worth a watch. The film is tense, tightly woven, but has a bit of lull during the center act where De Palma could have truncated certain sections of the film to make a more even pace. The Scream Factory release is the first domestic release we’ve gotten of the film, although it was released by Arrow in England in 2011. The Scream Factory Collector’s Edition brings over the same video transfer as the Arrow release, but adds a new commentary and a few nice interviews to add to the special features categories. Definitely worth checking out.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Cliff Robertson, Genevieve Bujold, John Lithgow, Sylvia Kuumba Williams, Wanda Blackman, J. Patrick McNamara
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma, Paul Schrader
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA Mono
Subtitles: English SDH
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: PG
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 15th, 2019

Recommendation: Solid Watch



AV Enthusiast
Jul 13, 2017
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Thanks for the review. I can't remember seeing this so will check it out. :)
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