Brian de Palma is a director who wears his influences on his sleeve. Many of his later movies were influenced by the work of Alfred Hitchcock, but Sisters was the first of his films to obviously embody this imitation. Drawing heavily on Hitchcock’s Psycho and Rear Window, Sisters is by no means a mere copy, but a stylish thriller which showcases De Palma’s sense of style and vision.
When a journalist (Grace – Jennifer Salt) glimpses a dying man (Lisle Wilson) out of her apartment window, she wastes no time contacting the police. They discover a French Canadian model called Danielle (Margot Kidder) but not a hint of any crime. Grace is not satisfied and takes it upon herself to solve the mystery. Whilst Danielle is adamant that she doesn’t have a sister, Grace keeps finding clues that lead her towards a disturbing finale with the mysterious Emil (William Finley).
De Palma casts his friends in the main roles, giving the two leads (Salt and Kidder) the script as Christmas presents. Inspired by an image of a dying man writing ‘help’ in his own blood on a window and a documentary on conjoined twins. Sisters main themes are voyeurism and the psychological effect of being part of a pair.
Whilst Sisters draws inspiration from many Hitchcock films, it also pays homage to the work of Roman Polanski. There are nods to Rosemary’s Baby, but the tone and theme of the film remind me a lot of Repulsion. Mixing mystery, horror and thriller, De Palma utilises split screen wonderfully as the events unfold simultaneously. There are a couple of fantastically strange and macabre black and white hallucination sequences, which not only add to the backstory, but also instil an air of otherworldliness. Indeed, the slightly overdone acting adds a sense of wrongness, whilst the creative use of cameras, and an eye for the experimental, push it towards an art house film; reminding me in many ways of Dario Argento’s Suspiria.
Sisters is a magnificent thriller, and whilst of its time, still stands up as a superb piece of film-making.
Amongst an impressive array of extra contained on the disc, the visual essay from Justin Humphreys is a superb accompaniment to the film.
• Brand new High Definition digital transfer
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
• Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• What the Devil Hath Joined Together: Brian De Palma’s Sisters – A visual essay by author Justin Humphreys
• All new interviews with co-writer Louisa Rose, actress Jennifer Salt, editor Paul Hirsch and unit manager Jeffrey Hayes
• The De Palma Digest – a film-by-film guide to the director’s career by critic Mike Sutton
• Archive audio interview with star William Finley (excerpt)
• Theatrical Trailer
• Gallery of Sisters promotional material from around the world
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• 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.
Sisters is out on Dual Format on 28 April from Arrow Films.