February 25, 2019  (Web Review)

Sisters

Criterion, 92 min., R, DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray: $39.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

This 1973 thriller is not Brian De Palma’s first film, but it the first to reveal (and revel in) his affinity with Hitchcock. A pre-Superman Margot Kidder struggles over a French Canadian accent as an aspiring actress whose one night stand leads to a homicidal morning after. Jennifer Salt is a reporter with more moxie than tact or skill who witnesses the killing from her apartment window across the way. When the police fail to turn up any evidence of the crime, she investigates with a private eye (the hilariously relentless Charles Durning), uncovering the secret story of famous Siamese twins and a weasely doctor who continues to stalk her. Sisters is a mystery simmering in a stew of voyeurism, guilt, sex, and obsession, and De Palma borrows from Rear Window, Psycho, and Vertigo (as well as Roman Polanski’s Repulsion) while composer Bernard Herrmann quotes from his own Hitchcock scores (notably Psycho) for the unsettling music. Still, the result is more original than one might imagine: laced with dark humor, inventive technique, and impressive technical precision (the split screen sequences are breathtakingly effective), De Palma flexes his cinematic muscles here, right down to the mordantly wry conclusion. De Palma would quickly graduate to big budget thrillers, but this modest production still stands as one of his sharpest, slyest, and most suspenseful films. Making its Blu-ray debut, extras include new and archival interviews with De Palma, actors Salt and Durning, and other cast and crew members, as well as a photo gallery, and a booklet. Recommended. (S. Axmaker)