SISTERS (1973) is an early horror film from director Brian De Palma, who would go on to direct films such as CARRIE, THE UNTOUCHABLES, and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. When Grace (Jennifer Salt), a pushy New York reporter, sees a murder committed in her neighbor Danielle's (Margot Kidder) apartment, she frantically calls the police. But when they finally arrive, there is no evidence of foul play -- the body is cleverly hidden and the apartment has been cleaned up. Determined that there is a prize-winning story at her fingertips, Grace sets out to solve the crime on her own. She soon learns that Danielle is a Siamese twin who was separated from her sister, Dominique. . . and it may have been her twin who is guilty of murder.
Although one of his earliest films, SISTERS is also one of Brian De Palma's best. I found that his numerous Hitchcock references/homages (PSYCHO, REAR WINDOW) were a little obvious, but De Palma's use of split-screens during certain sequences is actually quite effective. His camera tricks may be jarring at first, but they definitely serve to heighten the suspense of what would otherwise be fairly standard and cliché sequences. Overall, the mix of mystery, horror, suspense, and voyeurism in the film works very well. The performances are all wonderful -- especially Margot Kidder, who dons a surprisingly well-done French-Canadian accent for the role. Adding to the fun is the fantastic musical score by Bernard Herrmann, a score that is certainly not subtle, but is absolutely perfect for this movie.
The picture quality is good, although not as clean as I would have hoped. The entire film is grainy and there are occasional scratches, speckles, and other damage to the print. Even making allowances for the age and budget of the film, I expected a bit more from the folks at Criterion. It isn't a terrible or unwatchable transfer, but it won't amaze you either. I suspect that the film could have benefited from more restoration/digital cleanup. The good news is that the film is framed at the proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio and anamorphically-enhanced.
The mono sound is very well represented on this disc, with all dialog being easy to understand. Bernard Herrmann's score is crisp and really stands out.
Criterion has managed to include a few entertaining and informative supplements on this DVD. First, the booklet includes a reprinted 1973 Brian De Palma essay from The Village Voice where he describes his experiences working with the master film composer, Bernard Herrmann. This is a great read that all De Palma and Herrmann fans should appreciate. Additional (on-screen) essays include a 1973 interview with De Palma and the 1966 Life magazine article "Rare Study of Siamese Twins in Soviet" that inspired the film. There are also hundreds of still frame photos and excerpts from the original press advertising materials -- you're sure to be amused at some of the ways they attempted to market the film. English subtitles are also included.
I would have loved a commentary track or documentary, but I actually found the print interviews to be very entertaining and informative, so I'm glad they were included. This DVD isn't jam-packed with extras, but it's obvious that Criterion put some time and care into selecting extra material. I would love to see other "budget" Criterion titles get a few extras like this as well.
While it may not be a great or "classic" horror film, SISTERS is definitely worth watching for the wonderful performances, Herrmann's soundtrack, and a look at De Palma's early camera techniques. The DVD doesn't have the great picture quality or extensive extras that we find on some other Criterion Collection titles, but they did take the time to add some interesting bonus materials and priced the disc appropriately. This title is worth a rental at least, and many people may want to consider adding it to their collections.