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SISTERS ($30) is one of director Brian De Palma’s earliest films, it is also the first time that he ventured into the realm of Hitchcock influenced cinema. During the course of his career, De Palma would revisit Hitchcock territory with such films as OBSESSION, DRESSED TO KILL, BODY DOUBLE and RAISING CAIN, but SISTERS is probably his strongest film that borrowed from the master of suspense. SISTERS stars Margot Kidder as Danielle Breton, an actress/model, who does a stint on a voyeuristic television game show. After the show, when Danielle goes to dinner with one of the contestants, a man (Bill Finley) claiming to be her ex-husband accosts the two in a restaurant. Although the restaurant’s employees make short work of Danielle’s ex, the twosome find themselves with unwanted company, when they return to her apartment. Danielle and her "new friend" end up spend the night together, however the next morning Danielle’s recently separated Siamese twin Dominique shows up, and the two sisters squabble over Danielle’s romantic tryst. Murder soon ensues and Danielle is forced to turn to her ex-husband to help her clean up the evidence of Dominique’s crime. Despite their quick work, Danielle and her ex are unable to do anything about newspaper reporter Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt) who witnessed the crime from her apartment window. With the evidence neatly tucked away, the police are unable to do anything about the supposed crime, which forces Grace to play detective and prove that a murder actually took place. Although De Palma has lifted elements of SISTERS from films like ROPE, REAR WINDOW and PSYCHO, it is the director’s innovative use of split screen imagery that makes this film shine in the shadow of those classic films. In addition to Kidder and Salt, the cast of SISTERS includes Charles Durning, Lisle Wilson, Barnard Hughes, Mary Davenport, Dolph Sweet and an early, uncredited performance by Olympia Dukakis.

SISTERS has been released on DVD as part of The Criterion Collection in a brand new 16:9 enhanced transfer taken from the film’s original camera negative. One would assume that by utilizing the camera negative, Criterion be able to produce a presentation of remarkable beauty. This just isn’t the case. SISTERS was produced on a low budget and those origins are plainly visible in this presentation.  The 1.85:1 image on the DVD is fairly sharp and well defined; however, the negative displays minor imperfections, especially at reel changes. In addition, film grain is pretty apparent throughout the presentation. Color is a little pale by today’s standards, but for a low budget film from 1973, this is a fairly accurate representation of what the available film stocks could capture and reproduce. Blacks are respectable, however the level of shadow detail is somewhat limited by the production. Digital compression artifacts are rather well concealed and do not alter the picture in any perceivable way. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack has some frequency limitations, but otherwise sounds pretty good. Dialogue is crisp and intelligible, although the highlight of the track is Bernard Herrmann’s score. Herrmann used a Moog synthesizer as a key component in this highly effective score and the music will take a respectable amount amplification without becoming distorted. Subtitles are available on the DVD in English.

The interactive menus are mildly animated and contain sound effects. Through the menu system, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Included on the disc is a 1973 print interview hit Brian De Palma, in which the director talks about SISTERS. Also featured is the 1966 Life magazine article called Rare Study of Siamese Twins in Soviet, which inspired De Palma to write SISTERS. Other extras include excerpts from the original press book, as well as hundreds of stills. On the insert with the liner notes, one can find the 1973 essay from The Village Voice entitled Murder By Moog: Scoring The Big Chill in which De Palma talks about working with legendary composer Bernard Herrmann.

SISTERS is an early and important work in Brian De Palma’s career. Fans of the director will absolutely want to add this DVD to their collections.


Sisters - Criterion Collection



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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