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Review: Sisters

One is almost tempted to entertain De Palma detractors’ arguments that his exploitation of Hitchcock tropes is nothing but a dead end.

Eric Henderson



Photo: American International Pictures

Though Sisters is an undeniably tight homage to Hitchcock from an obviously indebted De Palma, I am still inclined to place it at least a tier below the likes of Dressed to Kill and Body Double. It might just be that, when held up against the spectacles of Angie Dickenson’s showering body double soaping up the velvety lining of her cootch or De Palma restaging the death-by-power-drill-phallus box cover of Slumber Party Massacre, the discreetness of Sisters’ first hour (with its fairly obvious variations on doubling and mirroring psyches) can’t help but seem a tad academic and recherché in comparison. If it weren’t for the post-murder clean-up split-screen (with a cunning frame within said split featuring Margot Kidder’s mentally fried Danielle looking at her bifurcated image in the bathroom mirror) and Bernard Herrmann’s knowing B-rate knock-off of his own musical clichés, one is almost tempted to entertain De Palma detractors’ arguments that his exploitation of Hitchcock tropes is nothing but a dead end. Lucky for the film that Jennifer Salt’s one parsable character trait—a habitual need to place “very important” telephone calls (I think she tallies at least 27 in the space of a half-hour)—leads her into the lair of a Lysol-wielding C-rate faux-Faye Dunaway, who stops Salt’s Nancy Drew momentum dead in its tracks, leisurely hissing “Better spray yourself, hon…I think you have a cold.” Her feline devotion to keeping germs off of the receiver makes quiet mockery of Salt’s huffy addiction to moving her reporter’s notion of “plot” forward, culminating in a primal scream that sends Salt, Kidder, and even De Palma himself reeling into the film’s free-form, experimental, destructive final act. As the symbolic gatekeeper to the very ennoblement of De Palma’s reputation as “Master of Suspense Jr.,” you’d think the nut would at least get a screen credit.

Cast: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning, William Finley, Lisle Wilson, Barnard Hughes, Mary Davenport, Dolph Sweet, Olympia Dukakis Director: Brian De Palma Screenwriter: Brian De Palma, Louisa Rose Distributor: American International Pictures Running Time: 92 min Rating: R Year: 1973 Buy: Video

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