Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 17th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: USA, March 27th, 1973
Director: Brian De Palma
Writers: Brian De Palma, Louisa Rose
Cast: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning, William Finley, Lisle Wilson, Barnard Hughes, Mary Davenport, Dolph Sweet, Olympia Dukakis
BluRay released: April 28th, 2014
Approximate running times: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £24.99
What a shock is must have been to see Sisters upon its initial arrival, since up to that point Brian De Palma was primarily known as a director of comedy films. And to further throw off perspective viewers Sisters opens with a tongue and cheek sequence involving a peeping game show. From there is it still a few more scenes before Sisters finally morphs into a thriller / horror film. Also the events leading up to this abrupt change in genres is integral to the story at hand and makes the first act of violence at the more potent.
De Palma as a filmmaker has never been one to shy away from influences specific the films of Alfred Hitchcock. And in the case of Sisters he borrows heavily from Psycho and Rear Window. The way he kills off a main character in the opening act and a character with a multiple personality are clears nods to Psycho, while the neighbor that witnesses the murder and also happens to be a reporter is a tribute to Rear Window. Obviously there are many other Hitchcockian moments in this film; these are just the more prominent ones.
Influences aside to further heighten the tension De Palma takes full advantage of the split-screen technique. He even employs to great effect a long out of use camera effect Iris camera technique that was prevalent back in the days of silent cinema. This technique is used during the flashback sequences that reveal the back-story of this film’s protagonist.
Narrative wise what starts off as slow deliberate pacing quickly picks up once the first act of violence is unleashed. From there the films moves at brisk pace that becomes more frantic as the film’s final reveal is unveiled.
From a visual stand point Sisters features many of the techniques that have become synonymous with De Palma’s oeuvre. Besides De Palm’s solid direction, there is another area of this film production that deserves a lot credit for why this film is so terrifying. And that would Bernard Herrmann’s outstanding score which ranks among the best work of his storied career as a composer. And just like the aforementioned Psycho which was also composed by Herrmann, his score for Sisters greatly enhances the foreboding mood of what is occurring onscreen.
From a casting perspective one could not ask for from as the entire cast is all very good in their respective roles, especially Margot Kidder (Black Christmas, Superman) in the dual role of Siamese twin sisters Danielle and Dominique. She creates to utterly believable characters that have distinctively different personalities. Another performance of note is William Finley (Phantom of the Paradise) Emil Breton, the former doctor of Danielle and Dominique who went onto marry Danielle after their separation. Though he gives a low key performance, it perfectly counters Kidder’s manic performance. Ultimately Sisters is a film that continues to fascinate and remain shocking after all these years.
Sisters comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Colors have never look more vibrant, black and contrast levels look consistent great and details look crisp throughout. There are no issues with DNR or compression. This is a fantastic looking transfer that easily surpasses all previous home video releases for this film.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD Mono mix in English. The audios sound great throughout, dialog comes through with crystal clear clarity, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too, especially Bernard Herrmann’s score. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (57 seconds – 1080 Progressive 1.33:1 aspect ratio), a gallery of international promotional art for Sisters, interviews with actress Jennifer Salt (10 minutes 19 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), Editor Paul Hirsch (17 minutes 14 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), co-screenwriter Louisa Rose (10 minutes 27 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and actor William Finley (6 minutes 16 seconds – audio interview), ‘What the Devil Hath Joined Together: Brian De Palma’s Sisters’ a visual essay by author Justin Humphreys (47 minutes 3 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and ‘The De Palma Digest’ a film-by-film guide to the director’s career by film critic Mike Sutton (31 minutes 3 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen).
Topics discussed by Jennifer Salt include how she and Margot Kidder where Brian De Palma’s roommate, how he gave both of them the script for Sisters for a Christmas present one year, working with De Palma. Topics discussed by Paul Hirsch include how his brother Charles was an early champion of De Palma as a filmmaker, working with De Palma on Hi Mom, Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise, Obsession and Carrie and how Bernard Herrmann got involved in the film. Topics discussed by Louisa Rose include how she met De Palma and how she got involved in writing Sisters and her thoughts on the film. Topics discussed by William Finley include how he got involved in Sisters and working with De Palma. Content wise, ‘What the Devil Hath Joined Together: Brian De Palma’s Sisters’ is detailed account of the ‘making of’ Sisters and an insightful analysis of the film. And ‘The De Palma Digest’ is well rounded overview of De Palma’s filmography.
Rounding out the extras is reversible cover art and illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) as well as Brian De Palma’s original 1973 Village Voice essay on working with composer Bernard Herrmann and a contemporary interview with De Palma on making Sisters, and the 1966 Life magazine article that inspired the film. Also included with this release is a DVD counterpart that contents all the contents from the Blu-Ray. Overall Sisters gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.