Monday, March 7, 2011

Cliff Robertson, Genevieve Bujold & John Lithgow in Obsession (1976)

Obscurity factor: 6

Hitchcock was, reportedly, furious when this film was released. It does bear a striking resemblance to Vertigo, but there are unique twists and turns that make it quite different, and, ultimately a great deal more shocking. Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson) is a New Orleans businessman preparing for a big project. He and his wife Elizabeth (Genevieve Bujold) are hosting a party to celebrate it. After the party Elizabeth and their daughter are kidnapped and held for ransom. In a botched attempt to get them back they're lost in an automobile accident. Jump ahead 15 years and Michael hasn't gotten over the loss. He's built an enormous monument to his family on the highly prized plot of land he and his partner (John Lithgow) were planning to build a development on and still lives alone (save for a housekeeper that's been in the family for years) in the big house he shared with his wife and daughter. A business venture offers an opportunity to go to Rome, and his partner convinces him to go. While there he meets Sandra (also Bujold), who is the spitting image of his dead wife. He becomes completely obsessed with the young girl, but surprises await him when he brings her home to New Orleans.
This stylish thriller, directed by Brian De Palma, has all the twists and turns you'd expect in an homage to Hitchcock and is beautifully shot on location in New Orleans and Rome by Vilmos Zsigmond.

Obsession was released on DVD in 2001, but is currently out of print, so it's a bit pricey at Amazon. You can, however watch it as an On Demand title there. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by liuczek. The poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 6 (available on DVD, known to De Palma buffs)


  1. Back in the 1970s, Sisters and Obsessions felt like Hitchcock ripoffs. Now, with the hindsight of BdPs long career, they feel like youth movies, but quite individual. Sisters and Obsession "announce" later films like Snake Eyes, which are not Hitchcock-like.

    In the end, what keeps me from a 100% enjoyment of Obsession (or Carrie, The Fury, and Dressed to Kill), is the photography. Like so many 1975/1985 films, they have the fuzzy look. No matter what period, I never like that look. I believe it started around the time of Funny Face, as a reaction against the prevailing sharp coloring book look of the 50s. But by the mid-70s, whole movies - including Obsession - were shot like Doris Day close-ups.

    Still, Obsession sticks with you. Besides the thematic and stylistic references to Vertigo, I also detect some influence from Kurosawa's High and Low (another kidnapping tale).

  2. Interesting insight. I see what you mean about fuzzy. It was a trend...