Brian De Palma was born in New Jersey, and he's lived in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area. But his movies have taken in the sights all across the country, the world, and even Mars. (Or at least Mars-via-Vancouver.) De Palma is a peculiar brand of tourist, though—he sees cities through the eyes of stalkers and/or murderers. Look, over that victim's shoulder, it's the Superdome! In celebration of De Palma's latest, The Black Dahlia, we invite you to see the world the De Palma way—split-screen optional.
As seen in: Carrie (1976), Body Double (1984), The Black Dahlia (2006)
The hot spots: Most of L.A. gets explored in Body Double, which swerves from Tail Of The Pup hot-dog stands to Beverly Hills shopping malls (complete with glass elevators, perfect for voyeurs). You'll see B-movie sets and adult bookstores, beachfront motels and Los Angeles River aqueducts. Or if you're in the mood for suburban ennui—served with a bucket of pig's blood—swing by Carrie for a tour of tract homes, high-school locker rooms, and slaughterhouses. (All the same thing, really.)
Don't miss: John Lautner's "Chemosphere," that crazy house on a pole where claustrophobic actor Craig Wasson crashes for a few days in Body Double. It's got a great view of the Valley. And of Melanie Griffith masturbating.
The Bay Area!
As seen in: Casualties Of War (1989), Raising Cain (1992)
The hot spots: The nutzoid serial-killer thriller
Raising Cain visits a low-rent motel and an arid police station with a ridiculously fancy lobby—De Palma is big on filming police stations—but mostly, it takes place in the pleasantly sunny side of Palo Alto. It's full of playgrounds, shops, resort hotels, and three-story stairwells where kidnapped children are dangled and dropped.
Don't miss: The lush, green San Francisco park where Casualties Of War's Michael J. Fox gets forgiven by a young Asian woman for all the things he did wrong in Vietnam. Pack a lunch and bring your own sins.
Vietnam! (as played by Thailand)
As seen in: Casualties Of War (1989)
The hot spots: De Palma hits the standard Pacific Rim high points: mountains, jungles, rice paddies, thatched villages, and the like. But he also finds a bridge, high above a river, on which he stages one of the movie's most dramatic scenes. If you're a bridge-lover (or a train-station devotee, for that matter), hang around De Palma. He'll show you where to go.
Don't miss: The Viet Cong tunnels running under the jungle like an ant farm. Arrive at the right time and you'll see Michael J. Fox's legs, dangling like ant bait.
As seen in: Obsession (1976), Mission: Impossible (1996), Femme Fatale (2002)
The hot spots: In Mission: Impossible, Tom Cruise and his IMF cronies did the most globe-hopping of any De Palma characters, though most of their time in Europe is spent in hotel rooms, ballrooms, and (of course) the Liverpool train station. One notable exception: the cobblestone streets of Prague, where a mission goes awry, and where Cruise later flees after blowing up a tank of water at the Akvarium Restaurant. (Note: If you visit the Akvarium, you will get wet.) A better bet is to spend time in France with Femme Fatale sociopath Rebecca Romijn, who'll take you from the Cannes red carpet to Parisian sex shops. You'll also see some De Palma stand-bys: a grand cathedral, a noir-ready French police station, and, of course, a bridge right by the Eiffel Tower, where the twisty plot reaches its head.
Don't miss: The lovely cathedral in Florence, where Obsession's Cliff Robertson meets his wife, Geneviève Bujold—and, after she's kidnapped and murdered, another woman who looks just like Geneviève Bujold. Unfortunately, the church is currently out of its supply of Geneviève Bujolds. Blame Robertson for being a Bujold-hog.
As seen in: The Fury (1978), The Untouchables (1987)
The hot spots: The big bridge in De Palma's period gangland adventure The Untouchables is actually in Montana, but the train station—the one where a big shootout takes place while a baby buggy bounces down the steps, Eisenstein-style—is Chicago's Union Station. The movie also features several scenes set in apartment buildings right next to the el, and they're the same kind of apartments that appear in The Fury, set decades later. Mostly though, The Fury shows a more tourist-friendly side of the city: North Avenue Beach, Lincoln Park, a multi-story glassed-in shopping mall (again, perfect for voyeurs), and an indoor amusement park. (Note: If you ride the Paratrooper at the indoor amusement park, you will have your car detached and flung across the park by a young man in a telekinetic rage.)
Don't miss: The Fury's fancy Northside private school, where kids with latent psychic ability are nurtured, loved, fed ice-cream sundaes, and given over to the government for nefarious experiments.
As seen in: Obsession (1976)
The hot spots: De Palma's lone movie in the true South—Miami doesn't count, nor does Mission To Mars' Vancouver version of Texas—plays up the Dixie, with a lot of wrought-iron fences and antebellum-style mansions populated by unctuous John Lithgow types. There's even a riverboat! A ransom-transporting riverboat!
Don't miss: Pontchartrain Park, and its mammoth gravestone designed to look like the cathedral in Florence where Cliff Robertson met Geneviève Bujold. Twice.
As seen in: Scarface (1983)
The hot spots: Al Pacino's muy ambitious cocaine dealer makes a grand journey from working in a Little Havana fast-food stand—right across the street from a mirrored nightclub where rail-thin models dance soullessly—to conducting business in beachfront hotels and glass-walled banks. He ends up in one of those mansions with enormous marbled rooms that De Palma likes so much, though only Pacino's has a neon globe in the foyer that reads, "The World Is Yours." That's called taste.
Don't miss: Pacino's humble beginnings: a tent village for Cuban refugees, set up in the kind of just-below-the-city urban underpass where De Palma characters often murder each other.
As seen in: Blow Out (1981)
The hot spots: The quintessential De Palma movie hits all his favorite locations: a screening room, a seedy motel, a smoky bar, a police station, an underpass, a bridge, a train station, and a multi-story shopping mall with clearly visible escalators. Philadelphia should be re-named De Palma-delphia. And for a pinch of regional flavor, all these locations come supplied with a Liberty Bell Killer, who'll gladly sexually assault you and then jab the shape of a bell into your abdomen with an ice-pick.
Don't miss: The Philadelphia Museum Of Art, seen not in Blow Out but in 1980's Dressed To Kill, where it substitutes for a New York art museum, complete with some STD-ridden New York hunk that New York neurotic Angie Dickinson trails and beds.
As seen in: Wise Guys (1986), Snake Eyes (1998)
The hot spots: Aside from a few stops at row houses and mob bars in Wise Guys, New Jersey in De Palma movies is all about Atlantic City, baby! From the kitschy resort hotel of Wise Guys to the higher-toned (but still kind of kitschy) resort hotel of Snake Eyes, De Palma shows what life is like when it's scored to the jingle of slot machines and the punch-and-roar of boxing matches.
Don't miss: The overhead shots of hotel rooms in Snake Eyes, which make the mundane seem exotic—or at least creepy.
New York City!
As seen in: Murder À La Mod (1968), Greetings (1968), The Wedding Party (1969), Hi, Mom! (1970), Get To Know Your Rabbit (1972), Sisters (1973), Phantom Of The Paradise (1974), Home Movies (1980), Dressed To Kill (1980), Scarface (1983), The Bonfire Of The Vanities (1990), Carlito's Way (1993)
The hot spots: De Palma's adopted hometown has gotten a lot of play in his movies, and he's shown a fair chunk of the city and its environs, from Long Island to Riker's Island (both in Carlito's Way). Visit the brokerages, opera house, and courtrooms of The Bonfire Of The Vanities one day, or dine at the now-defunct Windows On The World with the cast of Dressed To Kill the next. See what Sarah Lawrence College has to offer in Home Movies, or shop the hip salons in Murder A La Mod. And for culture, you can't beat the discos of Carlito's Way, the grand rock club of Phantom Of The Paradise (though it's played by a theater in Dallas), and the grindhouse cinemas, adult bookstores, and guerilla theater spaces of Hi, Mom! But you should probably hold on tight to your wallet, and try not to be so defensive about your racial identity.
Don't miss: Grand Central Station, which in Carlito's Way takes De Palma's obsession with train platforms and escalators to its apex, in a brilliantly staged scene that's all about who sees whom when, and whom they don't see coming. Because no matter where you are in De Palma's world, you're either watching, or being watched.