Brian De Palma has been compared to Alfred Hitchcock throughout his career. However, he has never been more Hitchcockian than he was with Sisters. It plays like a greatest hits package of the Master of Suspense’s finest moments as De Palma takes pieces of Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo and North By Northwest and stitches them all together to create an intriguing thriller. It even has a score by Hitchcock’s favourite Bernard Herrmann.
To go into the plot of Sisters would likely give too much away, thus ruining many of the film’s surprises. De Palma’s thriller is built around the concept of Siamese twins having radically different personalities, but the rest of the film features enough twists and turns and tense moments to satisfy fans of genre. Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt lead the cast – the former playing a French-Canadian model and the latter as a tough, loose cannon reporter. They’re both solid in their performances, but this is really De Palma’s film and if anything helps illustrate the director’s cinematic interests and influences then it’s this. You only need to watch Sisters to see the auteur theory in full effect. This is full-on Brian De Palma with split-screen shoots, camera tracking and a focus on character duality.
The plot and character motivations behind Sisters doesn’t really hold-up under scrutiny. Everything that happens in the film is incredibly far-fetched, but that doesn’t stop it being a great piece of cinema. It was the film that saw De Palma hit his stride, cementing his reputation as one of the ‘70s ‘Movie Brats’ and launching his career as a mainstream filmmaker. It may not be his best film, but it synthesises many of the elements that would become familiar De Palma’s trademarks.
Sisters works as a deconstruction of Alfred Hitchcock’s career and as the marker where Brian De Palma made his mark as a director – it’s also a pretty damn fine thriller.
Arrow Film and DVD is quickly becoming one of my favourite DVD labels. The company impresses once again with Sisters. The blu-ray comes with a great (if a little dry) hour long video essay, interviews with the film’s cast and crew (sadly no Brian De Palma or Margot Kidder) and a wonderful 30 minute piece on De Palma. Every classic film release should come along in a package like this.