25 April 2014

Blu-ray Review - Sisters (1973)

Horror, Thriller
Arrow Video
Rating: 18
BD/DVD Release Date:
28th April 2014 (UK)
Brian De Palma
Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, William Finley, Charles Dunning
Buy:Sisters [Dual Format DVD & Blu-ray]

Sisters was the first film from Brian De Palma in which his characteristic aesthetics came though. De Palma came from a radical background, which is apparent in his previous films Greetings and Hi, Mom! The early films owed a debt to Jean-Luc Godard but also to Hitchcock more apparently in Hi, Mom! De Palma, however, always loved horror films and thrillers and from Sisters onwards it’s the genre he has worked in almost exclusively since.

Sisters starts with a classic piece of De Palma voyeurism with a game show called “Peeping Tom”. Danielle Breton and Philip Woode are the contestants. They hit it off and go for a something to eat and a drink when they are interrupted by Danielle’s sleazy ex-husband Emil Breton (William Finley, a De Palma regular) but Phil gets him thrown out and later on he spends the night at Danielle’s.

The next morning it’s revealed that it’s Danielle’s birthday and her twin sister who is visiting. Phil goes out to get some groceries and decides to buy a birthday cake. He returns home and is murdered by her twin sister; the murder is witnessed by a neighbour Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt) who happens to be a radical journalist and calls the cops. The cops arrive and are totally useless; they don’t find anything but Grace is still convinced somebody was murdered.

Hitchcock’s influence is very apparent from the opening credits due to Bernard Hermann’s score who is mostly closely associated with Hitchcock. De Palma always owed a lot to the master of suspense but he always added his own stylistic touches like his extensive use of split screen and fish eye lenses. However, the film also owes a fair bit to the classic French horror film Eyes Without a Face especially the scenes in the institution in the last act.

The performances from the cast are better than the average exploitation film of its time. William Finley is especially gloriously unhinged and gives one of the best performances of his career. The film is an important stepping stone for De Palma who is still developing his style, but it’s a solid unsubstantial thriller with enough style and twists to remain interesting.

Arrow, as usual with their releases of De Palma films, have pulled out the stops with the bonus features: they include numerous interviews, a visual essay on the film and another on Brian De Palma’s entire career. I hope this isn’t the last De Palma film to come from Arrow, a double bill of Greetings and Hi, Mom! and Dionysus which he cut entirely in his trademark split-screen would be very welcome.


Ian Schultz

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