Sisters (1973 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian De Palma|
|Produced by||Edward R. Pressman|
|Written by||Brian De Palma
|Story by||Brian De Palma|
|Music by||Bernard Herrmann|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures
(Orion Pictures Corporation)
|Running time||92 min.|
|Box office||$1 million (US/ Canada rentals)|
Sisters (also known as Blood Sisters in the United Kingdom) is a 1973 American horror film directed by Brian De Palma and starring Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt and Charles Durning. The plot focuses on a French Canadian model whose separated Siamese twin is suspected of a brutal murder witnessed by a newspaper reporter in Staten Island.
Largely influenced by the films of Alfred Hitchcock, the script for the film was written by De Palma and Louisa Rose, and the score composed by Bernard Herrmann. Sisters was the first thriller for De Palma, who followed this film with other shocking, graphic thrillers.
Danielle Breton (Margot Kidder) is a model and would-be actress hired to play a blind-woman on a TV show. She meets a contestant on the show, an African-American advertising salesman named Philip Woode (Lisle Wilson), and the two hit it off. She coyly asks to join him for dinner. At the restaurant, they are interrupted by Danielle's ex-husband Emil Breton (William Finley), but Philip has him thrown out. Later, Danielle and Philip go to her apartment and are followed by her ex-husband. To avoid Emil, Philip pretends that he is leaving for good and drives round the block, then returns after Emil drives away. Philip and Danielle have sex on the sofa. The next morning Danielle wakes up, feeling unwell. She takes two of four red pills left in her medicine cabinet, leaving the other two on the corner of the sink. When Philip uses the bathroom, he accidentally sweeps the two pills down the drain. Philip overhears Danielle and her sister Dominique fighting and arguing in French about him. Danielle says she isn't feeling well, and asks Philip to go for her pills at the pharmacy. Philip complies and on the way buys a cake for Danielle and her twin sister Dominique, who is visiting for their birthday.
Philip returns to the apartment and as they are about to share the birthday cake, Dominique (whom he mistook for Danielle) stabs him to death. Philip tries to get the attention of the neighbor across the causeway, trying to write HELP with his own blood in the window. The neighbor, Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt), a journalist who often criticizes law enforcement in her columns, contacts the police. Detective Kelly (Dolph Sweet) arrives, and does not believe her story, treating her dismissively. Meanwhile, Danielle wakes up confused and dazed. She has tried to talk to her doctor, who promises to bring her more of the red pills. When Emil arrives at the apartment he discovers the corpse. It is also revealed that he is her doctor. Danielle tells him that Dominique was there and Emil helps her clean the apartment, putting the corpse inside the sofa-bed. Emil leaves and takes the bloodied knife away. When Detective Kelly and Grace appear, the apartment is in order except for an unseen red blood stain on the back of the sofa. While searching the apartment, Grace suspects Danielle has a twin because she has clothes in pairs. Danielle explains that her job as model requires her to have a spare in case one becomes stained with make up. Emil appears and the police ask him about his and Danielle's relationship. Emil replies saying that he and Danielle are separated but not yet divorced. While they are talking Grace finds the cake in the fridge which provides her the opportunity to prove that there are twins living in the apartment. She falls, however, smashing the cake at Detective Kelly's feet.
Detective Kelly tells Grace not to disturb him or Danielle again with this situation. The only clue Grace has is the name of the bakery where Philip bought the cake. Grace learns from her mother, Mrs Collier (Mary Davenport), there is a new open-door psychiatric hospital in town. But Grace is not listening to her, too focused on the bakery clue. When they arrive at the bakery, Grace jumps asks the shop assistants, (Olympia Dukakis and Justine Johnston), and is told a black man bought the cake for Danielle and Dominique. Grace hires a private detective, Joseph Larch (Charles Durning), telling him that the women in the apartment are twins. But the detective finds no twins - only what he believes may be a hiding place for the body: the sofa-bed. Casing the apartment, they watch the sofa being loaded into a moving van. Grace gets in touch with a Time magazine reporter, Arthur McLennen (Barnard Hughes) who studied the case of the Blanchion twins, the first set of Canadian conjoined twins. In a news item, Grace sees Dr. Pierre Milius talking about the delicate psychological mental equilibrium of one of the twins. As teenagers, Dominique was shy while Danielle was talkative and outgoing. McLennen, having bribed one of the nurses, learns that the Blanchion twins were separated in a surgical procedure but Dominique did not survive.
Meanwhile, Larch follows the moving-van with the sofa-bed as Grace follows Danielle to the hospital site. There, she overhears a discussion between Emil and Danielle who says she is fed-up with the doctor's control. Grace observes the doctor attempting to subdue Danielle forcibly and tries to call for help but is prevented by a hospital staffer. An insane patient, Arlene (Cathy Berry), appears and delays Grace, saying that viruses and bacteria going through the telephone made her ill. Emil tells Jansen, a hospital attendant (Burt Richards), that Grace is a new patient and should be put in a room. Grace tries to explain her dilemma but no one believes her and put her to sleep. Emil hypnotizes her to believe that it was all a ridiculous mistake, that there was no body or murder. And when she wakes up that is all that she will remember. Grace then appears in dreams of Danielle and Dominique and how their lives were played out. She is placed as Dominique in the dream sequences and learns that Danielle's desire to be surgically separated from Dominique began to increase when she fell in love in Emil. Dominique grew jealous and resentful, fueled by her literal separation anxiety. Then Danielle lost hers and Emil's baby when she tried to give birth to it. The surgeon informed Danielle that she was hemorrhaging badly and that the only way he could save her was to separate her from Dominique. Grace (Who is still placed as Dominique) learns that Emil was the surgeon and that it was he who separated the twins by using a meat cleaver.
After witnessing it Grace wakes up next to Danielle on a hospital bed and screams hysterically, but Emil hypnotizes her back to sleep. Danielle says that she wants Dominique back, Emil reminds her that Dominique is DEAD. But Danielle refuses to believe it and is afraid Dominique will kill him. Emil hypnotizes her to relax and tells her that whenever he tried to make love to her, she assumed Dominique's persona, furious and enraged. To keep her sedated he gave her the pills until Dominique went away. Emil tells Danielle that he loves her and they both kiss. Dominique takes control of Danielle once again, and after a struggle Emil holds her against the wall and shows her the knife she used to kill Phillip. He attempts to interrogate her about the murder but she cuts him with a scalpel and he bleeds to death over her. Danielle reawakens with Emil dead on top of her and embraces his body. Grace awakens too, when she sees Danielle hugging the dead Emil she screams in horror. Emil's body is taken away, Detective Kelly arrives and questions Danielle about the murder, Danielle denies killing him or Phillip. Detective Kelly then asks if her sister did it but Danielle states that her sister died last Spring. Grace Collier is taken away, dazed and confused. Later, Kelly tries to talk to the recovering Grace. Danielle has confessed to killing Emil, but he admits that they have problems figuring out the identity of the mysterious black man. However, Grace is still under the influence of Emil's hypnosis and denies having seen a murder or a corpse. The shrouded sofa appears at a derelict train station with Joseph Larch keeping watch.
- Margot Kidder as Danielle Breton/Dominique Blanchion
- Jennifer Salt as Grace Collier
- William Finley as Emil Breton
- Charles Durning as Joseph Larch
- Lisle Wilson as Phillip Woode
- Barnard Hughes as Arthur McLennen
- Mary Davenport as Mrs. Peyson Collier
- Dolph Sweet as Detective Kelly
- Olympia Dukakis as Louise Wilanski
- Catherine Gaffigan as Arlene
- Justine Johnston as Elaine D'Anna
- James Mapes as Guard
- Burt Richards as Hospital Attendant
- Bill Durks as a Sanitorium resident
De Palma was inspired by reading an article about the Soviet Siamese twins Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova. The film is heavily influenced by the films of Alfred Hitchcock (i.e. Psycho, Rear Window, etc.), and De Palma even persuaded Hitchcock's semi-retired composer, Bernard Herrmann, to write the score. The film also uses unusual point of view shots and split screen effects to show two events happening simultaneously.
The film was released theatrically in the United States by American International Pictures (a subsidiary of Orion Pictures Corporation) on March 27th, 1973, and received theatrical releases in Europe as well. It was also selected for the 1975 Venice Film Festival. Sisters was released on VHS by Warner Home Video in the 1980s, and again in 2000 by Homevision. The film was released in a special edition DVD by The Criterion Collection on October 3, 2000 in a new widescreen digital transfer.
The film was met with critical praise; Roger Ebert noted that the film was "made more or less consciously as an homage to Alfred Hitchcock", but said it "has a life of its own" and praised the performances of both Kidder and Salt. Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it " a good, substantial horror film" and stated "De Palma reveals himself here to be a first-rate director of more or less conventional material", also noting the film's references to Repulsion (1965) and Psycho (1960). Meanwhile, Variety, while stating it was "a good psychological murder melo-drama", said that "Brian De Palma's direction emphasizes exploitation values which do not fully mask script weakness."
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 60
- Semley, John (2012-08-13). "Un-American Psycho: Brian De Palma And The Political Invisible". The AV Club. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
- Interview with Brian de Palma, 1973, reprinted on the Criterion Collection DVD.
- "Company Credits for Sisters". imdb.com. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
- "Sisters". criterion.com. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
- Ebert, Roger (1973-03-27). "Reviews: Sisters". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
- Canby, Vincent (1973-09-27). "Sisters' Goes Soft on Horror". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
- "Sisters". Variety. 1972-12-31. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
- Sisters at the Internet Movie Database
- Sisters at AllMovie
- Criterion Collection essay by Bruce Kawin