After meeting on a TV show called "Peeping Toms", pretty French-Canadian Danielle (Margot Kidder) invites Phillip (Lisle Wilson) into her apartment for a spot of afternoon delight.

Things appear to be going well � until Danielle excuses herself and Phillip overhears her arguing in French with her sister. When she returns, she behaves much more vampish than she had been a few moments earlier. They get it on, but then she pulls out a knife and stabs the poor fellow to death.

He manages to stagger to the window and smear the word "help" across it in his own blood. Across the way in a facing apartment, nosy journalist Grace (Jennifer Salt) spies him and immediately calls the police.

In the meantime, creepy-looking Emil (William Finley) arrives at Danielle�s place and promptly sets about helping the dazed and confused woman cover up any trace of bloodshed. By the time the sardonic cops arrive on the scene, led by Detective Kelly (Dolph Sweet), Grace has a tough time convincing them that she hadn�t imagined the whole thing. Worse still, she claims they�re not interesting in investigating further because Phillip happened to be a black man.

And so, Grace vows to become a detective herself and find proof of the killing. Even more, she�s determined to discover who killed Phillip: was it Danielle, or her twin sister Dominique?

Along the way, expect creepy characters and red herrings galore, including able support from Finley as the doctor who helped the Siamese twins through their separation operation, and Charles Durning as another nosy neighbour, Joseph.

In fact, voyeurism is a key theme of De Palma�s film. Reminding us that movies are a spectators� sport in which the audience becomes implicated through their enjoyment of what evolves on screen, he fills SISTERS with characters spying on other characters, or nicely composed scenes where performers are viewed through peepholes and so on.

Identity and duality are two more themes easy to pick out. To this end, look forward to intelligent suggestive use of mirrors and De Palma�s favoured split-screen gimmickry throughout. The latter technique is one that grates in some of his other films, but it works well here as it feels in keeping with the keep-�em-guessing plot.

Clearly indebted to Alfred Hitchcock�s films PSYCHO and REAR WINDOW, De Palma does however toss enough of his own identity into the film to avoid accusations of outright plagiarism. His script is taut and tense, allowing also for a couple of surprisingly intense scenes of violence. In-between, he�s clever enough to include some light relief here and there � the dismissive cops; Grace�s bickering relationship with her mother Peyson (Mary Davenport � Salt�s real-life mother).

Kidder is excellent, drawing on her Canadian origins for a highly credible accent. She�s sexy and sinister in equal amounts: along with Finley�s convincingly slimy turn, they help transform an enjoyable thriller into a great film.

There�s not much to berate, in fact. Some may argue that Bernard Herrmann�s score is a little too melodramatic and sign-posting, and that it brings the Hitchcock influences too far to the fore. But it�s a minor quibble, certainly.

The film remains an authentically thrilling proposition, which isn�t bad for a 41-year old movie. Especially when you consider that Douglas Buck�s terrible remake from a few years ago already looks dated in comparison.

Arrow Films Video continue their run of De Palma special editions with another superb blu-ray and DVD combo package.

The blu-ray was sent to us for review, and proffers a stunning 1080p transfer of the uncut film. Skin-tones are natural, detail is very impressive indeed and colours shine through like never before. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 televisions, the print is a clean one with minor grain providing a nice filmic texture throughout. Darker scenes hold up well with secure blacks and shadows; daylight scenes are bright without appearing blown out.

English audio is provided in lossless mono and is another clean, clear prospect. Optional English subtitles for the Hard-of-Hearing are well-written and easy to read.

The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, pop-up menus include a scene selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

A fine set of bonus features kick off with a 47-minute visual essay from author Justin Humphreys. This fuses clips and stills from SISTERS, along with other De Palma films, over which Humphreys narrates. At first, I thought this was going to be an endurance test, the author�s American drawl and sparseness of clips threatening to become cumbersome. But soon enough it flies along with genuinely fascinating details, such as the film�s influences in REPULSION, REAR WINDOW and PSYCHO; the fact that De Palma wrapped the script up as a Christmas gift to his then-lover Kidder; the way the film fits in, and compares with, other early De Palma works such as GREETINGS, HI MOM and HOME MOVIES.

Next up is a most welcome 10-minute interview with Salt. She�s very honest about the incredibly long days spent shooting the film � even confessing to taking amphetamines to keep her going � and speaks about acting alongside her real-life mother.

Co-writer Louisa Rose is allotted 10 minutes to talk us through her transition from acting to writing, getting divorced in the early stages of her career and how she likes to work.

Paul Hirsch is the subject of a substantial 17-minute featurette in which he discusses meeting De Palma via his brother Charles and ultimately editing SISTERS.

A 5-minute chat with an eyepatch-wearing unit manager Jeffrey Hughes is a jovial affair. He has fond memories of shooting on location at Staten Island, despite the terribly long days.

Next we get a 6-minute clip from an archive audio interview with Finley. This was conducted by the aforementioned Humphreys in 2009 and takes place over the telephone. It's a good chat, concerning how Finley got involved in the film and how it was to film it with De Palma, Kidder etc. It's set to a handsome gallery of poster art for SISTERS.

Critic Mike Sutton narrates the excellent "The De Palma Digest" which looks at his career film-by-film, charting an incredible five decades of controversial work. As with Humphreys' visual essay, this is complemented by plenty of attractive stills and clips.

SISTERS' original theatrical trailer plays on Herrmann's sensational music over the course of 57 seconds, doing its best to make the film look trashier than it actually is.

An international poster gallery looks suspiciously identical to the artwork that accompanies the Finley interview, but at least you can navigate your own way through via your remote control here.

Also included in this set is a DVD containing all of the above content in standard definition, a booklet and a reversible cover. None of these were made available for review purposes.

SISTERS holds up surprisingly well. It�s never looked or sounded better than on this blu-ray, and yet again Arrow Films Video have furnished a De Palma classic with some sterling extra features.


Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Arrow Video
Region B
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review