Sisters (1973 film)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Sisters (released in the UK as Blood Sisters) is a 1973 independent psychological thriller directed by Brian De Palma and starring Margot Kidder. This was the first thriller for DePalma, who followed this film up with other shocking, graphic thrillers. The film would earn praise as a good suspense film.
Danielle Breton (Margot Kidder) is a model and would-be-actress hired to pretend that she is a blind woman so that an inssurance seller Philip Woode (Lisle Wilson) would have to decide if he is going to look her undressing or not as part of "The Peeping Toms", a hidden camera programme. He doesn't look to her at the changing rooms of his gym, so both win a prize on the program. Philip wins a dinner-for-two at the African Room restaurant, and Danielle wins a cutlery set. After the program, Danielle and Philip seem to hit it off, so Philip invites her to the dinner.
At the restaurant, they are interrupted by Danielle's ex-husband Emil Breton (William "Bill" Finlay), but Philip makes him be thrown out of the restaurant. Later, Danielle and Philip go to the former's apartment in Staten Island. The ex-husband follows them, so that Philip has to leave the apartment, make believe that he's leaving for good and then coming back through the back door. When he comes back, Philip opens the door with Danielle's keys, and at the same time he gives the cutlery gift - which Danielle had left in his car - to her. Philip and Danielle make love in the couch of the living room.
The next morning Danielle wakes up and she isn't feeling well. She goes to the medicine box in the bathroom and checks that there are only three red pills left. She takes one immediately and leaves the other two in a corner of the washbasin. However, when Philip also wakes up and dresses himself he accidentally sweeps the other two pills down the sink. Philip overhears Danielle and her sister Dominique fighting and arguing about him. Danielle says she isn't feeling that well, and would please Philip go for more red pills at the pharmacy? Philip complies and loses more time because he wants to buy a present for Danielle and her twin sister Dominique, who is supposedly visiting Danielle for their birthday.
Philip returns to the apartment and unlocks the door with Danielle's key again. He takes the big knife from the cutlery set and offers it to Danielle to cut up the birthday cake. However, she uses the knife to viciously kill him. Philip crawls trying to call her neighbor's attention - her window is a bit higher but close enough for both tenants to see each other. Philip even tries to write HELP with his own blood in the window.
The neighbor is Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt) a journalist who usually writes about the state of things in Staten Island, sometimes to criticize the police officers and their use of violence. Detective Kelly (Dolph Sweet) is not very kind towards Grace's agitation. Meanwhile, Danielle wakes up confused and dazed. She has tried to talk to her doctor, who promises to bring her more of the red pills.
Emil comes up to the apartment. Danielle opens the door, still feeling sleepy. When Emil points to the corpse behind her, Danielle says that Dominique was there. Emil, who is at the same time Danielle's doctor and the provider of pills, cleans the apartment up while Danielle dresses.They put the corpse inside the bed-sofa. Emil laves and takes the bloodied knife away. When Detective Kelly and Grace appear, there is not a stain in sight. Danielle is kind, and the only remains of the corpse is a red stain on the back of the sofa-bed where Grace is sitting. Danielle justifies the double sets of matching clothes due to her job as model, because if one of them gets stained, they would have a completely equal outfit available. Grace finds the cake in the fridge. Also, Danielle had said that she lives on her own and has no twin, and that's the opportunity for Grace to prove that she is lying. However, Grace falls down and smashes the cake against detective Kelly's leg. Emil appears, saying that they are separated but that they are not yet divorced.
Detective Kelly tells Grace not to disturb him or Danielle again with that matter. The only clue Grace has got at this moment is that she has read the name of the bakery where Philip bought the cake. She had a date with her mother, annoying Mrs Collier (Mary Davenport), who mentions a new open-door psychiatric hospital which has been opened in Staten Island. But Grace is not listening to her. When they arrive to the bakery, she jumps to ask the shop assistants (Olympia Dukakis and Justine Johnston), but the only thing that she learns is that there was a black man who had bought that particular cake dedicated to Danielle and Dominique on their birthday.
Grace hires a private detective called Joseph Larch (Charles Durning), who says that the only possibility of hiding a body is within the sofa. Grace tells him that he has found the Blanchion Siamese twins, but the detective says that he didn't see any twins, he has only found a place in which a human body could be hidden without the police finding it. They watch the sofa being loaded into a moving van.
Grace talks to a Time magazine reporter, Arthur McLennen (Barnard Hughes) who studied the case of the Blanchion Siamese twins, the first set of twins of Canadian origin. Dr Pierre Milius - Emil's younger persona - appears on a news report talking about the delicate psychological mental equilibrium of one of them. As teenagers, Danielle is shy, but Dominique is more talkative and shows off more. McLennen says that, because of the official silence, he had bribed one of the nurses who helped during the surgery, and that nurse told him that there complications had arisen during the process, resulting in Dominique's death.
Larch keeps following the moving-van with the sofa-bed inside. Grace follows Danielle to the hospital sight. There, she overhears a discussion of Emil and Danielle having a row, because she's fed-up of being controlled. She sees how she puts an injection to her, forcibly. Grace tries to use the phone, but one of the interns doesn't let her. Arlene (Cathy Berry), the crazy patient, says that viruses and bacteria go through the telephone line, and that she got sick because of answering the phone. A hospital attendant (Burt Richards) asks his boss to see to the problem. Emil tells Jansen, the hospital attendant, that she's the new patient, Margaret, and that she should be put in a room. Grace tries to explain, but it's useless, she's not believed. Emil hypnotizes her so that she will believe that everything was a strange dream of hers.
Grace appears now in the dreams /reminiscences about Danielle's life while attached to Dominique. Danielle suffered because when she started to be in love with her doctor, she realized that her twin sister will not accept the risk of surgery, and that she will not accept her being in love with somebody else either.
Grace wakes up and screams. Danielle also wakes up, dazed. She wants Dominique back, but she is also afraid of her attacking Emil. Emil says that, every time he tried to make love to Danielle, Danielle became Dominique, furious and enraged. Danielle tries to run away from Danielle, He shows her the knife, still bloodstained. Danielle - possibly thinking she's Dominique - picks up a scalpel and cuts Emil's skin. Emil tries to kill Danielle but he bleeds to death instead. All of this happens in the presence of a dizzy Grace who wakes up in time to see Danielle hugging to a dead Emil, still bleeding. Grace screams in horror.
Emil is taken away in an ambulance, dead. Danielle denies that she has killed anyone in her life, and she also states that her sister died last Spring. Grace Collier is taken away, dazed and confused.
Some time afterwards, Kelly tries to talk to recovering Grace. Danielle has confessed to killing Emil, but he admits that they have problems to detect who the black man could be. However, Grace repeats what Emil has taught her through hypnotism: that she couldn't have possibly seen such a corpse because there was no murder to begin with, and her mother supports her.
The shrouded sofa appears in a semi-abandoned semi-dereclict countryside train stating, with a cow chewing peacefully nearby. Joseph Larch watches the sofa, thinking that some day the culprit will arrive to get rid of the sofa and the body for good.
- Margot Kidder as Danielle Breton / Dominique Blanchion
- Jennifer Salt as Grace Collier
- Charles Durning as Joseph Larch
- William Finley as Emil Breton
- Lisle Wilson as Phillip Woode
- Barnard Hughes as Arthur McLennen
- Mary Davenport as Mrs Collier
- Dolph Sweet as Detective Kelly
De Palma was inspired by reading an article about the Soviet Siamese twins Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova. The film is heavily influenced by the films Alfred Hitchcock (i.e. Psycho, Rear Window, etc.), and de Palma even persuaded Hitchcock's semi-retired composer, Bernard Herrmann, to write the score. The film also uses unusual point of view shots and split screen effects to show two events happening simultaneously.