Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

SISTERS (1972)

William Finlay, Margo Kidder, and Jennifer Salt (in back)
SISTERS (1972). Director. Brian De Palma.

"There are interesting things going on right here in Staten Island."

After appearing on a game show Dominique Breton (Margot Kidder of Black Christmas) and Phillip Woode (Lisle Wilson) go to the former's apartment on Staten Island. A neighbor across the street, reporter Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt), sees a brutal stabbing taking place in Dominique's apartment. When the police investigate, the body is gone and even as Dominique's ex-husband, Emil (William Finley), covers up the crime, she puts the blame on her dangerous twin sister, Danielle. Grace hires private detective Joseph Larch (Charles Durning) to follow the truck carrying the heavy couch that Dominique has had removed from her apartment hoping to find the corpse. Grace's investigation brings her to a certain sanitarium where Emil has brought Dominique, and she learns all about these strange separated Siamese twins ... Heavily influenced by Hitchcock, especially Psycho and Rear Window (although Sisters is not in the league of either of those films), Sisters, while not De Palma's first film, put him on the map. Slick and entertaining, it boasts some fine performances and has one great asset, the score by Bernard Herrmann, whose jangling, dynamic theme music immediately pulls the audience into the movie and fills the theater with tension. Occasionally the pacing of the film is a little slack, and the ending is definitely a bit flat and disappointing. Of the supporting cast, there are notable turns by Bernard Hughes as a reporter; Justine Johnson and Olympia Dukakis as clerks in a bakery; and especially Catherine Gaffigan as Crazy Arlene, a resident in the sanitarium who is convinced that germs can come through a telephone line. Whatever the film's flaws (we never learn much about the victim, or even if anyone is missing him) it is head and shoulders above the slasher films that would proliferate in just in few years, and it is no surprise that De Palma emerged as a definite contender in the psycho-thriller sweepstakes.

Sisters was remade in 2006. Almost excruciatingly dull, slow-paced, and indifferently acted, the film made some minor changes but had not one bit of invention. Cast as a kind of (temporary) romantic lead, Dallas Roberts would have been better off sticking to the creepy sociopaths he plays on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit -- in any case, he's just as creepy in this.

Verdict: (1972)  Despite the Hitchcock influence, on its own terms this is an original. ***
              (2006). Atrocious. *1/2. .


angelman66 said...

Bill, I was not aware that this was remade in 2006...will stay away from it. LOVE the original Margot Kidder version though, and so wonderful to see the great actress Jennifer Salt--I remember her stealing the show on the TV series Soap in the late 1970s. I think she is now a producer and director.
Love this de Palma so much that I bought the blu ray edition. It is awesome...need to pop it in and watch again very soon!

William said...

"Sisters" got a lot of attention when it first came out. Yes, one could say it's derivative and clearly influenced by Hitchcock, but it has those special touches that only a talented director could bring to it. Most of the slasher film directors that came later would have trouble, as they say, directing traffic!