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|
|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 Herrman. 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 advertising salesman named Philip Woode (Lisle Wilson), and the two hit it off. He invites her to 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 then returns through the back door, opening the door with Danielle's keys. 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 would 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 twin birthday.
Philip returns to the apartment and unlocks the door with Danielle's key again. As they are about to share the birthday cake, 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 a red stain on the back of the sofa. Danielle justifies her double sets of clothes by explaining that her job as model requires them in case one becomes stained. 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. Emil appears, saying that he and Danielle are separated but not yet divorced.
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 - Emil's younger persona - talking about the delicate psychological mental equilibrium of one of the twins. As teenagers, Danielle was shy while Dominique 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 sight. 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. Emil hypnotizes her so that she will believe everything was a strange dream.
Grace appears in the dreams where episodes of Danielle and Dominique's lives are played out. 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.
Grace barely wakes, finding herself next to Danielle in the hospital. Danielle says that she wants Dominique back but is afraid of her sister's rage toward Emil. Emil claims that whenever he tried to make love to Danielle, Danielle assumed Dominique's persona, furious and enraged. Danielle, unable to escape her past, refuses to believe Emil, who shows her the knife used to kill Phillip Woode earlier. She cuts Emil with a scalpel and he bleeds to death trying to kill her. Grace, witness to the whole thing, screams in horror when she fully awakens and sees Danielle hugging the dead Emil.
Emil's body is taken. Danielle denies killing him or Phillip but also 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 in a derelict train with Joseph Larch keeping watch.
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 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.
Critical reception 
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.