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Tale of Two Sisters (1989)

Troma // R // April 5, 2011
List Price: $9.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted April 23, 2011 | E-mail the Author
There's a fine line between greed and business savvy, and Lloyd Kaufman is a man who knows how to walk that line. In the grand tradition of DVDs starring recently deceased actors immediately materializing in Wal-Mart $5 bins and selling commemorative plates, Kaufman has unearthed an obscure 1989 drama by Adam Rifkin called Tale of Two Sisters with voice-over narration by the one and only Charlie Sheen. Designed to capitalize on his fifteen minutes of fame (in the truest sense, too -- has anyone risen and fallen from the top of pop culture faster?), the DVD cover art is nothing but Sheen's face, despite the fact that the movie really is a tale of two sisters reuniting for the first time in years.

Digging a little deeper, the boastful claim that the movie is "from the mind, poems, and DNA of Charlie Sheen" is actually slightly less dishonest than it sounds. Although Sheen never appears on screen in the movie, the only scripted part of the film is his mildly awful beat poetry, dropped in haphazardly whenever the on-screen action is boring. Said on-screen action centers around a lunch between Liz (Claudia Christian) and Phil (Valerie Brieman), reminsicing about their childhood, catching up, and almost (but not quite) bickering with each other the entire time.

The idea, I suppose, is that the entire conversation between Liz and Phil has been improvised by the two actors, but as a whole, the film is a random jumble of directorial technique and random ideas that feels more like an exorcism of everything and anything that popped into Rifkin's head. During mundane things like Liz talking about her pregnancy, Rifkin's camera leers over the table, practically diving into a bowl of goldfish crackers. At a funeral, a butler with no pants wanders down the beach, encounters a severed head that washed up in the surf, and sidesteps it. A few minutes are devoted to the hired help eating fruit in the kitchen. Why? Who knows. Meanwhile, Sheen's poetry seems completely disconnected, filled with obscure, baffling lines like "Flavor pie, with a twist of Gandhi."

Rifkin would go on to write and direct films like Detroit Rock City and The Dark Backward, and Tale of Two Sisters is much more the latter than the former. Much of the sisters' conversation centers around their plastic-surgery-happy mom (Dee Coppola), who shows up in creepy flashbacks, slathered in makeup, to hiss and chew the scenery. Ultimately, although the film fails to form any sort of cohesive whole (it's hard to thematically or dramatically assess an unexplained scene where Phil seduces a random stranger wearing a leotard in an alley while a bald man with comically oversized glasses and a clown outfit watches, or when two characters we've never met have have a fistfight that ends with one of them spewing mouthfuls blue acid), the project manages to become an interesting curiosity from Rifkin's filmography instead of Sheen's, hinting at the "Blumps Squeezable"-style dementia that would show up in his future films. Still, it fits quite perfectly within Troma's oddball catalog, and really, can anyone blame Lloyd for trying?

The DVD, Video and Audio
Troma sent over a screener in a paper sleeve, so I can't definitively assess the A/V or packaging for this release. However, the film appears to be sourced from video, so I doubt the final product will look any better than this screener, which looks about as good as one can expect from what essentially amounts to a late-'80s student film (although the sound is surprisingly crisp). Technical specifications are as follows: 1.33:1 full frame, Dolby Digital 2.0 English audio, and no subtitles or captions.

The Extras
Aside from the good old "Hermaphrodite PSA" (1:31), the classic "Radiation March" (0:54), and Tromatic Trailers for The Toxic Avenger, Tromeo and Juliet, and There's Nothing Out There, bonus features are MIA. No trailer for A Tale of Two Sisters has been included either.

Winners with Adonis DNA and tiger's blood can probably skip it; devotees of Rifkin's more obscure directorial efforts might find it worth a rental.

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