year: 1980
cast: Angie Dickinson, Keith Gordon, Michael Caine, Nancy Allen
writer/director: Brian DePalma
rating: ****

The best part of a symphony, often unheard on a record or CD, is the orchestra tuning: that strange, hypnotic sound that exists for a short time - which then becomes something wonderful. This film builds to a wonderful symphony but without losing the eerie embryonic "tuning-up" that formed it. The plot and direction owes a great deal to Hitchcock's PSYHCO. The main character ... so it seems... is a troubled middle-aged woman (Angie Dickinson) who, right as we're getting into her dilemma/story-line, is suddenly butchered by a "female-like-person" (Michael Caine), actualy a man who acts normal but - it turns out - is a murderous cross-dresser. Nancy Allen (as a hooker/witness) and Keith Gordon (the brainy son of Dickinsen) are the Vera Miles and John Gavin who carry the film the rest of the way. We even get a psychiatrist's explanation liken to the one delivered by Simon Oakland; not one but TWO shower scenes; and what's missing with Martin Balsam's pesty investigator we get in grumpy police sergeant Dennis Franz (who doesn't fall backwards down a stairway). This is proof that remakes can be done-away-with entirely by taking the basic storyline of a classic film and morphing it into something completely original. I guess that's not an easy feat - which is why they'll probably remake this one day.

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