1973 – Directed by Brian De Palma
One thing I miss from 70s film is the everyday activism present in so many mainstream works. After the regressive 80s, most characters acting in a strong, anti-authoritarian manner would be ridiculed or martyred. You get what is coming to you if you don’t trust the cops. Here, Jennifer Salt’s grumpy, fiercely single and decidedly left-wing reporter, Grace Collier, has no excuses, and no excuses are made for her. These character traits are a given, presented as “here I am, deal with it.” By the same token, the game show that opens the film, Peeping Tom (referencing the cult horror film by the same name) acts as sly commentary on the creepy lasciviousness of the entertainment industry’s response to the sexual revolution: to package it up as a crude joke on the war between the sexes. (The show, honestly, while outrageous for the time, looks like a concept that could legitimately fly as a contemporary reality show). The show introduces what we think will be the central characters of the film, Danielle (Margot Kidder) and Phillip (Lisle Wilson), then takes a turn.
De Palma manages this in a way that seems both naturalistic and stylized, as well as both disturbing and hilarious. (He developed this dichotomy further with 1976’s Carrie.)
The idea of splitting or dichotomies is achieved on multiple levels (thematically, plot wise, visually and psychologically) in this imperfect yet effective work. Obviously borrowing from Hitchcock, De Palma puts his own (typically) nihilist spin on it.
Oh, and William Finley (as Emil, Danielle’s stalker-ish ex-husband) was an entirely underrated actor. It is weird that the only director who ever really utilized him was De Palma. RIP.