Sisters (1973 film)
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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)
|Box office||$1 million (US/ Canada rentals)|
Sisters (also known as Blood Sisters in the United Kingdom) is a 1973 American psychological 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.
Advertising salesman Philip Woode (Lisle Wilson) is the victim of a prank on a Candid Camera-style television show and wins a dinner for two at a New York restaurant. He takes with him Danielle Breton (Margot Kidder), a naive young French Canadian model and aspiring actress who was hired as part of the prank. At dinner, they are interrupted by Danielle's controlling ex-husband Emil (William Finley), but Philip has him thrown out by security. They arrive to Danielle's Staten Island apartment, but spot Emil waiting outside; Philip pretends to leave to lure him away, then returns through the back entrance and the two make love on the living room sofa.
The next morning, Danielle wakes and feels unwell. Philip overhears an argument between her and her sister in the bedroom, and accidentally knocks Danielle's pills down a drain. Danielle explains to Philip that her twin sister Dominique had arrived to visit because it is their birthday, and also asks him to go to the drug store to pick up some more pills. He does so, and also buys a birthday cake for the two. When he returns, he is suddenly stabbed to death by Dominique, who is crazed and delirious.
The murder is witnessed by Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt), a reporter who lives in an apartment across the way, who calls the police. Emil knocks on Danielle's door and finds the scene, then helps her clean up the blood and hide Philip's body in the retractable couch. Two detectives arrive but are unhelpful and resentful toward Grace because of an article she had previously written about police brutality. Grace accompanies them on a search through Danielle's apartment, who testifies that she had been alone all morning and the previous night; they find no evidence, while Grace finds the birthday cake with Danielle's and Dominique's names written on it, but trips and destroys the cake before she can show it to the detectives.
Grace is convinced that Danielle is hiding the murderer, and convinces her editor to let her investigate the story. He agrees, but forces her to take along Joseph Larch (Charles Durning), a private investigator. He searches Danielle's apartment under the guise of a window cleaner, and is convinced that the body is hidden inside the couch due to its unnatural weight, but is interrupted by moving men who are directed to remove the couch. Larch follows the moving truck, while Grace discovers that Danielle and Dominique Blanchion were Canada's first conjoined twins, who were separated only recently. She is also told that Dominique died during the operation. Grace then tails Emil and Danielle to a mental hospital and witnesses him subdue and sedate her, but is caught. Emil, a doctor at the hospital, convinces the staff that Grace is a new patient and has her locked in a room where he hypnotises her, telling her that the murder did not happen.
Grace wakes from a bizarre dream to find Emil confronting Danielle. It is revealed that after Dominique's death, Danielle began to suffer split personality disorder, with Dominique representing her murderous side whenever a man showed affection toward her. Danielle slashes him with a scalpel, and the two fall back on Grace, who awakens and screams as Emil dies of blood loss. The police arrest Danielle, who still denies that she has committed murder or that she has a sister.
Later, Grace is interviewed by a detective about the death of Philip Woode, but still under Emil's hypnosis, she completely denies her previous accusations. The final scene shows Larch, watching the sofa at a derelict train station in Canada while perched on a telephone pole.
- 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