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    DVD Video - Reviews [Sisters]



    Release Date:

    Studio: Criterion/Voyager
    Year: 1973
    Run Time: 93 minutes
    Rating: R
    Starring: Barnard Hughes, Margot Kidder, Charles Durning, William Finley, Jennifer Salt, Dolph Sweet
    Directed by: Brian De Palma
      Movie Summary: [Horror]

        Margot Kidder is Danielle, a beautiful model separated from from her Siamese twin Dominique. When a hotshot reporter (Jennifer Salt) suspects Dominique of a brutal murder, she becomes dangerously ensnared in their insidious sibling bond. A scary and stylish paean to female destructiveness, Brian De Palma's (Carrie, Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, Body Double) first foray into horror voyeurism is a stunning amalgam of ingenious split-screen effects, bloody birthday cakes, and a chilling score by Bernard Herrmann.

    DVD Details
    • Widescreen: 1.85:1, Enhanced for 16X9 TVs, Color, Mono, Subtitles: English
    • Subtitled for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    See Full Disc Details...

    Reviewer: Rob Smentek


            B rian De Palma is actually two directors. On one hand, he is a remarkably gifted director of suspense films, using past influences to tell complex and thrilling stories. Sometimes, however, he is a hopeless hack who makes indecipherable films that feature plagiaristic homages to Hitchcock. At his best, he has been heralded as the modern master of suspense, at worst, a no talent rip-off. Sisters, one of De Palma’s earliest films, is a decent horror/thriller that shows the Philadelphia born director at his best.

    Sisters opens with a brilliant piece of film misdirection. A blind woman wanders into a men’s locker room at a health club. As she undresses, a man stares with intense interest. However, it is quickly revealed that this scenario is part of a Candid Camera-type television show. The actress in the scene is French-Canadian model Danielle Breton [played by Margot Kidder]. Sparks fly between Danielle and her co-star Phillip Woode [Lisle Wilson], and they go on a date. At dinner, the couple is disturbed by the appearance (or stalking, depending how you look at it) of Danielle’s strange ex-husband. The evening progresses and the couple make love at Danielle’s apartment. While the couple is intertwined, the model’s nightgown slides up to reveal an ugly, and seemingly recent, scar. As all film fans know: gross scars are always creepy.

    Woode wakes up the next morning, only to hear an argument between Danielle and her twin sister. Danielle is shaken and disturbed, and ignores her lovers comforting gestures. She reveals that it is their birthday, and Woode quickly darts off for a surprise cake. Upon his return, he is brutally and gruesomely murdered. Men of the world, take note, the murder scene guarantees you to squirm in your seat. The murder is witnessed by crusading reporter Grace Collier [Jennifer Salt] who lives in an apartment across the way. The question is raised: Is the killer Danielle or her recently separated conjoined twin Dominique?

    The set-up for Sisters is really nothing new, but the film is executed with style and subtlety. Kidder’s performance is first-rate, and will immediately make you forget her later role of plucky reporter Lois Lane (not to mention her news-making nervous breakdown a few years ago). Jennifer Salt, who DOES play a plucky reporter, is also very good, adding desperation and hysteria to the film. De Palma’s direction is also top-notch. He uses many subtle shots to provide suspense and exposition. Many directors rely on forced conversation to provide back-story, while De Palma never insults the viewer’s intelligence by telling us everything we need to know. The introduction of Danielle’s husband is excellent, and probably seen by sharp-eyed viewers. Those who catch it immediately realize that something is “off” with the man. De Palma also utilizes a split screen technique with a great deal of success. Thank God for letterbox.

    As expected, Sisters is loaded with tips of the hat to Hitchcock. But unlike De Palma’s later Dressed to Kill and Raising Cain, the homage is not shoved down your throat. There is a nice little sequence with an excellent character Charles Durning that recalls Rear Window. Hitchcock fans will also notice a nod to Rope…one of the director’s most overlooked classics. Unfortunately, like a lot of Hitch’s films, Sisters falls apart during the third act. Think about it: Why would Tippi Hedron walk into a room full of birds? The denouement is especially disappointing, utilizing the ultimate in bad movie endings… the talking bad guy. That said, the movie’s conclusion isn’t a total disaster, as there is a nice surprise with the Collier character.

    Sisters is a recent addition to the Criterion Collection. The film to disc transfer is stunning, So many 1970’s films, particularly B-movies, are victims of poor video transfers that are often grainy and discolored. Sisters was taken from the original negative and digitally transferred. The film is presented in 1.85:1 theatrical ratio and is enhanced for viewing on widescreen television. Bernard Hermann’s brilliant score is presented in Dolby Digital mono, a rare find in the world of DVD.

    As a Criterion Collection disc, Sisters is a bit of a let down. There are not many extras, which are usually synonymous with the studio. Included are behind-the-scenes and publicity stills, as well as a print interview with De Palma, and a Time magazine article that inspired the story. Curiously absent are an audio commentary and cut scenes. Since Durning’s character sort of disappears mid-way through, it is likely that there are at least a few other scenes with him.

    All in all, Sisters is a good film that will most likely make you forget De Palma’s later film atrocities like Bonfire of the Vanities and Mission to Mars (at least temporarily).


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    Individual Ratings
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    Ratings Based on Scale of 1 - 10 (10 being Best)

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