Dead Ringers (film)
American Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Cronenberg|
|Produced by||Marc Boyman
|Written by||David Cronenberg
by Bari Wood
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Editing by||Ronald Sanders|
|Studio||Morgan Creek Productions
Mantle Clinic II
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||116 minutes|
Dead Ringers is a 1988 psychological drama and thriller starring Jeremy Irons in a dual role as identical twin gynecologists. Director David Cronenberg co-wrote the screenplay with Norman Snider; their script was based on the novel Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland. The film is very loosely based on the lives of Stewart and Cyril Marcus.
Elliot and Beverly Mantle are identical twins and gynecologists who jointly operate a highly successful clinical practice in Toronto that specializes in the treatment of female fertility problems. Elliot, the more aggressive and confident of the two, seduces women who come to the Mantle Clinic. When he tires of them, the women are passed on to the shy and passive Beverly, while the women remain unaware of the substitution.
A troubled actress, Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold), comes to the clinic for her infertility. It turns out that Claire has a "trifurcated cervix", which means she probably will not be able to have children. Elliot seduces Claire and then urges Beverly to sleep with her.
However, Beverly becomes emotionally attached to Claire, and this upsets the equilibrium between the twins. Beverly also begins sharing Claire's abuse of prescription drugs, which he abets through his doctor's authority. When Claire learns that Elliot has been taking sexual advantage of her by impersonating Beverly, she is angry and confronts them both in a bar, but later decides to continue a relationship with Beverly exclusively.
Eventually, Claire leaves town to work on another film. This sends Beverly into clinical depression, more prescription drug abuse, and paranoid delusions about "mutant women" with abnormal genitalia. Beverly seeks out metallurgical artist Anders Wolleck and commissions a set of bizarre gynecological instruments for operating on these mutant women. After Beverly assaults a patient during surgery with one of his new tools, both brothers are immediately suspended from practice and put on administrative leave by the hospital board.
With their medical career now ruined, Elliot locks Beverly into the clinic and tries to clean him up, taking pills himself to "synchronize". When Claire returns, Beverly leaves the clinic to be with her. After recovering his sobriety, he is concerned about his brother, and goes back to the clinic. There he finds the clinic in a shambles and Elliot despondent and intoxicated. Their positions are reversed as Beverly cares for Elliot. Drugged and despairing, they celebrate their mock birthday and Elliot volunteers to be killed, "to separate the Siamese twins". Beverly disembowels Elliot on an examination couch.
Beverly pulls himself together, leaves the clinic and calls Claire on a payphone. When she asks, "Who is this?", Beverly leaves the payphone, walks back into the clinic and dies in Elliot's dead arms.
- Jeremy Irons — Beverly Mantle / Elliot Mantle
- Geneviève Bujold — Claire Niveau
- Heidi von Palleske — Cary
- Barbara Gordon — Danuta
- Shirley Douglas — Laura
- Stephen Lack — Anders Wolleck
- Nick Nichols — Leo
- Lynne Cormack — Arlene
- Damir Andrei — Birchall
- Miriam Newhouse — Mrs. Bookman
- Jill Hennessy — Mimsy
- Jacqueline Hennessy — Coral
- (Jill and Jacqueline Hennessy, themselves identical twins, made their film debut in this movie as twin escorts)
- Jonathan and Nicholas Haley - young Beverly Mantle / Elliot Mantle
In his commentary on the DVD, Jeremy Irons mentions that Robert De Niro passed on the role because he was not comfortable with the idea of playing gynecologists and William Hurt turned it down because “it is hard enough to play one role” and the script eventually landed on his desk.
Initially, Irons had two separate dressing rooms and two separate wardrobes which he would use depending on which character he was playing at the time. Soon he realized that “the whole point of the story is you should sometimes be confused as to which is which,” after which he moved to a single dressing room and mixed the wardrobes together, and found an “internal way” to play each character differently, using the Alexander technique to give them “different energy points,” which gave them slightly different appearances.
Dead Ringers won the Genie Award for Best Canadian Film of 1988.
Jeremy Irons' performance was highly acclaimed and won Best Actor awards from the Chicago Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle. When Irons won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1991 for Reversal of Fortune, he thanked Cronenberg in his acceptance speech. The film was nominated for the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics.
It is the favorite Cronenberg film of Korean director Chan-wook Park and was voted for in the 2002 Sight and Sound Poll by Lalitha Gopalan. In 1999, Rolling Stone listed Dead Ringers as 95th on their list of 100 Maverick Movies. Total Film placed Dead Ringers 35th on their list of the "50 Greatest Horror Movies Of All Time" while Entertainment Weekly placed it 20th on their list of The 25 scariest movies of all time. In 2004, the Toronto International Film Festival Group named Dead Ringers the 6th best Canadian Film ever made. It was named one of "The Top 10 'True-Story' Horror Movies of All-time!" by Bloody Disgusting.
The film has a positive rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.
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- Dead Ringers at the Internet Movie Database
- Dead Ringers at AllMovie
- Dead Ringers at Rotten Tomatoes
- Dead Ringers at Metacritic
- Criterion Collection essay by Chris Rodley