Obsession (1976)

PG | 97 mins | Mystery | 1 August 1976

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HISTORY

The 20 Aug 1973 Box announced that talent agent George Litto was entering the field of film production. Among his first three projects was Deja Vu, an original story by Paul Schrader and Brian De Palma. On 31 Oct 1974, DV reported that principal photography for Deja Vu was scheduled to begin the first week of Jan 1975. Location filming would comprise thirty days in New Orleans, LA, and fifteen days in Florence, Italy, with a budget supplied entirely by Litto.
       According to the 10 Mar 1975 Box, filming began on Deja Vu one month later than planned on 3 Feb 1975 in Florence, and was scheduled to continue in New Orleans on 20 Mar 1975. New Orleans locations included a house in the city’s Garden District, New Orleans International Airport, and the Huey Long Bridge. The article described the plot as being similar to that of Vertigo (1958, see entry).
       News items in the 5 Mar 1975 and 30 Mar 1975 HR referred to the film under its new title, Double Ransom, which completed fifteen days of photography in Florence.
       The 19 Mar 1975 HR reported that the production marked the film debut Tony Award-winning actor John Lithgow. However, Lithgow had already appeared in Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1972, see entry). Although the 1 Apr 1975 HR stated that the film also marked the acting debut of jazz trombonist Oscar Law, his name does not appear in the onscreen credits, and his ... More Less

The 20 Aug 1973 Box announced that talent agent George Litto was entering the field of film production. Among his first three projects was Deja Vu, an original story by Paul Schrader and Brian De Palma. On 31 Oct 1974, DV reported that principal photography for Deja Vu was scheduled to begin the first week of Jan 1975. Location filming would comprise thirty days in New Orleans, LA, and fifteen days in Florence, Italy, with a budget supplied entirely by Litto.
       According to the 10 Mar 1975 Box, filming began on Deja Vu one month later than planned on 3 Feb 1975 in Florence, and was scheduled to continue in New Orleans on 20 Mar 1975. New Orleans locations included a house in the city’s Garden District, New Orleans International Airport, and the Huey Long Bridge. The article described the plot as being similar to that of Vertigo (1958, see entry).
       News items in the 5 Mar 1975 and 30 Mar 1975 HR referred to the film under its new title, Double Ransom, which completed fifteen days of photography in Florence.
       The 19 Mar 1975 HR reported that the production marked the film debut Tony Award-winning actor John Lithgow. However, Lithgow had already appeared in Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1972, see entry). Although the 1 Apr 1975 HR stated that the film also marked the acting debut of jazz trombonist Oscar Law, his name does not appear in the onscreen credits, and his participation has not been determined.
       An article in the 6 May 1975 DV reported the recent completion of forty-four days of location photography for Double Ransom, which concluded on a bridge in San Pedro, CA. Several interior scenes were shot in Los Angeles, CA, locations, including Los Angeles International Airport. An answer print was expected in Aug 1975, after which producer George Litto would seek a distributor. The 8 May 1975 DV announced that interior sequences would be filmed in Litto’s West Hollywood, CA, office the following day.
       On 10 Feb 1976, DV reported that the picture, now titled Obsession, was to make its world premiere at the Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Filmex). However, following a distribution agreement with Columbia Pictures, announced in the 17 Mar 1976 Var, the tentative plans for the screening were never confirmed. Columbia intended to release the film later in the year, and considered the Filmex premiere “premature.” Columbia also requested the picture’s withdrawal from the Cannes Film Festival, according to the 11 May 1976 HR, believing that publicity from the festival “might detract” from its scheduled Oct 1976 release. A news item in the 22 Dec 1975 HR stated that the city of Florence would host the European premiere of Obsession, as a “special bonus for civic cooperation” during production. Proceeds would benefit the art restoration project at the San Miniato al Monte basilica, where several scenes were photographed. The film was invited to enter the Edinburgh Film Festival in Scotland, as reported in the 27 Jul 1976 LAT. The Los Angeles opening was scheduled for 26 Aug 1976 at the Cameo Theater, as part of a retrospective of films by director Brian De Palma.
       Reviews were mixed. While the 7 Jul 1976 Var praised both the film and the score, one of the last composed by Bernard Herrmann, the 2 Aug 1976 NYT suggested that audiences will “probably have figured out the mystery very early.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Aug 1973.
---
Box Office
10 Mar 1975.
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Box Office
31 Mar 1975.
---
Box Office
19 Jul 1976.
---
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1974.
---
Daily Variety
20 Jan 1975.
---
Daily Variety
17 Mar 1975.
---
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1975.
---
Daily Variety
6 May 1975.
---
Daily Variety
8 May 1975.
---
Daily Variety
9 Jun 1975.
---
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1976
p. 1, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 1976
p. 2, 6.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1976
p. 1.
New York Times
2 Aug 1976
p. 29.
Newsweek
9 Aug 1976.
---
Time
16 Aug 1976.
---
Variety
6 Nov 1974.
---
Variety
17 Mar 1976.
---
Variety
19 May 1976.
---
Variety
7 Jul 1976
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A George Litto Production
A Brian De Palma Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
Gaffer
Stillman
Key grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Portraits
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost supv
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Special Effects Unlimited
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Visual consultant
Scr supv
Prod asst
Asst to prod
Auditor
Prod secy
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Deja Vu
Double Ransom
Silent Memory
Release Date:
1 August 1976
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 26 August 1976
New York opening: 1 August 1976
Production Date:
began 3 February 1975
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 August 1976
Copyright Number:
LP49674
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
97
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1959 New Orleans, Louisiana, Mike and Elizabeth Courtland host a party to celebrate their ten-year wedding anniversary. After proposing a toast to the couple, Mike’s business partner, Bob La Salle, announces their latest real estate venture, Pontchartrain Estates. Later that night, as the couple prepares for bed, their young daughter, Amy, calls Elizabeth to her room, where the child is surrounded by three armed men. Moments later, Mike enters Amy’s room and finds a note taped to a bedpost demanding $500,000 in exchange for the lives of his wife and daughter. A second note arrives the next day, with instructions for Mike to place the money in a briefcase, take the eleven o’clock Cotton Blossom riverboat, and deliver the briefcase on Old Bermuda Wharf. Mike contacts Police Inspector Brie, who advises to fill the briefcase with blank paper and a radio transmitter instead of money. Though Mike is willing to pay the ransom, Brie assures that the fake ransom plan will result in the safe return of Elizabeth and Amy and the apprehension of the kidnappers. The next day, after Mike delivers the briefcase, he and the police track the kidnappers to their hideout. However, the criminals react to Mike’s betrayal by trying to escape with their hostages. The police pursue the getaway car onto the Huey Long Bridge, where it collides with an oil truck, resulting in a fiery wreck. Mike watches helplessly as the burning car sinks into the Mississippi River. Although the bodies are never recovered, Mike builds a tomb for Elizabeth and Amy on the land intended for Pontchartrain Estates. The tomb ... +


In 1959 New Orleans, Louisiana, Mike and Elizabeth Courtland host a party to celebrate their ten-year wedding anniversary. After proposing a toast to the couple, Mike’s business partner, Bob La Salle, announces their latest real estate venture, Pontchartrain Estates. Later that night, as the couple prepares for bed, their young daughter, Amy, calls Elizabeth to her room, where the child is surrounded by three armed men. Moments later, Mike enters Amy’s room and finds a note taped to a bedpost demanding $500,000 in exchange for the lives of his wife and daughter. A second note arrives the next day, with instructions for Mike to place the money in a briefcase, take the eleven o’clock Cotton Blossom riverboat, and deliver the briefcase on Old Bermuda Wharf. Mike contacts Police Inspector Brie, who advises to fill the briefcase with blank paper and a radio transmitter instead of money. Though Mike is willing to pay the ransom, Brie assures that the fake ransom plan will result in the safe return of Elizabeth and Amy and the apprehension of the kidnappers. The next day, after Mike delivers the briefcase, he and the police track the kidnappers to their hideout. However, the criminals react to Mike’s betrayal by trying to escape with their hostages. The police pursue the getaway car onto the Huey Long Bridge, where it collides with an oil truck, resulting in a fiery wreck. Mike watches helplessly as the burning car sinks into the Mississippi River. Although the bodies are never recovered, Mike builds a tomb for Elizabeth and Amy on the land intended for Pontchartrain Estates. The tomb resembles the façade of the San Miniato al Monte basilica in Florence, Italy, where Mike and Elizabeth met in 1948. In 1975, Mike and Bob embark on a business trip to Florence to meet with an investor named D’Annunzio. The day after the meeting, Mike visits the basilica and sees a young woman, who is almost identical to Elizabeth, restoring one of the church’s paintings. Mike becomes obsessed with the woman and is compelled to spend more time in Florence, while Bob returns to New Orleans alone. Visiting to the basilica again, Mike introduces himself to the young woman, whose name is Sandra Portinari, and after a brief conversation, she accepts his invitations to both lunch and dinner. On their next date, Sandra gives Mike a tour of the basilica, when she learns that Mike has never recovered from his wife’s death, for which he blames himself. Sometime later, Mike accompanies Sandra to the hospital where her mother, Maria, is terminally ill. Maria’s dying wish is for Sandra and Mike to marry, and the new lovers become engaged. Following the couple’s arrival in New Orleans, Bob happily informs Mike of an upcoming project involving D’Annunzio, which Mike wants to postpone until after the wedding. Bob questions his partner’s judgement, but Mike refuses to discuss the matter. Meanwhile, Sandra explores the Courtland home and enters the master bedroom, which has been locked since Elizabeth’s death. She reads Elizabeth’s diary and learns that Mike was a neglectful husband who seemed to care more about his business than his family. Sandra then finds a page from a newspaper and tears away a portion of it. Sometime later, Mike is visited in his office by his psychiatrist, Dr. Ellman, who is there at Bob’s behest. Ellman believes Mike’s romance with Sandra is built upon a “sense of guilt or morbid preoccupation” with his late wife. Mike appeases Ellman, saying they will continue the discussion after lunch, but instead leaves the office and arranges to have his share of the company converted to a trust fund. Mike then decides to cancel the church wedding he planned and marry Sandra at home the following day. Early the next morning, Mike discovers that Sandra is missing from her room, and a newspaper clipping, depicting the kidnappers’ two ransom notes, hangs from a bedpost. Mike takes Bob to the bank, where they collateralize several properties to raise the $500,000 ransom, which is packed into a briefcase. The same as sixteen years earlier, Mike takes the Cotton Blossom riverboat and deposits the briefcase on Old Bermuda Wharf. Within minutes, Sandra appears and opens the briefcase to find it filled with blank paper. She is joined by Bob, who declares that her father has let her down again. Sandra, whose real name is Amy Courtland, recalls being detained by one of the kidnappers while her mother was taken away by the other two. She also relives the painful memory of Bob paying her ransom and sending her to live with Maria in Italy, explaining that Mike no longer wanted her. Later that day, Mike returns to the wharf, and upon seeing the briefcase full of blank paper, screams in anguish, believing Sandra is dead. On a plane bound for Italy, Sandra writes a letter of apology to her father, then enters a restroom, where she cuts her wrists with a small pair of scissors. When Mike confronts his partner about the missing ransom money, Bob reveals his plan to seize Mike’s assets, for which he paid Sandra $50,000. A fight ensues, and Mike kills Bob in self-defense, with a pair of scissors. Taking the pistol from Bob’s desk and the briefcase full of ransom money, Mike goes to the airport with the intention of pursuing Sandra to Italy. However, when he learns that her plane has returned to the airport, he heads for the terminal, gun in hand. Sandra is in a wheelchair, accompanied by two flight attendants, as Mike approaches her. When the briefcase pops open, causing the money to spill out, she runs toward Mike and embraces him, saying, “Daddy, you came for me!” Mike registers confusion, then joy at having his daughter back. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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