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Sisters
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • What the Devil Hath Joined Together: Brian De Palma's Sisters - A visual essay by author Justin Humphreys
  • All new interviews with co-writer Louisa Rose, actress Jennifer Salt, editor Paul Hirsch and unit manager Jeffrey Hayes
  • The De Palma Digest - a film-by-film guide to the director's career by critic Mike Sutton
  • Archive audio interview with star William Finley (excerpt)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Gallery of Sisters promotional material from around the world

Sisters

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Brian De Palma
Starring: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning, Bill Finley, Lisle Wilson, Barnard Hughes, Mary Davenport, Dolph Sweet
1973 | 92 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £19.99 | Series: Arrow Video
Arrow Films

Release Date: April 28, 2014
Review Date: May 6, 2014

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amazon.co.uk

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SYNOPSIS

Before 1973, Brian De Palma was impossible to pigeonhole: he made comedies, political satires and openly experimental pieces. But with Sisters (originally released as Blood Sisters in the UK) he turned to the suspense thriller and discovered his natural home - and a style that would lead directly to later masterpieces like Carrie, Dressed to Kill and Blow Out.

When Danielle (Margot Kidder) meets potential boyfriend Philip (Lisle Wilson) after appearing on the TV show Peeping Toms (a nod to the Michael Powell shocker), she invites him home, only to attract the ire of her twin sister Dominique. From across the courtyard, Rear Window style, reporter Grace (Jennifer Salt) witnesses Philip being murdered by one of the twins - but the police find no body or any physical evidence. Naturally, Grace takes things into her own hands, and discovers more about the sisters' relationship than she bargained for.

Strongly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski, and with a score by the great Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, Psycho), Sisters was the first true "Brian De Palma" film.


PICTURE

Brian De Palma’s early thriller Sisters receives a lovely Blu-ray release from Arrow Video in the aspect ratio of about 1.78:1 on a dual-layer disc. The high-definition transfer is delivered in 1080p/24hz.

The film looked surprisingly good on Criterion’s DVD, despite what is now a somewhat dated encode, but Arrow’s presentation offers a staggering and remarkable improvement. In fact, this is not only the best presentation of the film I’ve yet seen but this also may be the most filmic and natural looking transfer I’ve seen yet from Arrow. It looks spectacular yet keeps its grainy, 70’s slasher-flick look. I still find the colours fine on the Criterion DVD but they offer far better saturation levels here, with some fantastic looking reds and oranges (the red paint used for blood looks exceptional.) Black levels are also much better, deep and inky without crushing out detail. The image is sharp and crisp with fine object details coming through especially well, and film grain looks absolutely natural and clean, without being overly prominent except for one sequence in the film where 16mm was used. During this sequence grain gets especially heavy, but this look was intentional on De Palma’s part, and the grain itself is rendered fine, with no unnatural pixilation or compression.

The transfer itself doesn’t deliver any unnatural artifacts, and is about as clean as one can hope. The print source is in incredible condition, and only a few minor blemishes and a couple of stray hairs seem to remain. In all this is a remarkable presentation, cleaning up the film nicely without looking overly polished or processed. Wonderful stuff, indeed.

(I was under the initial impression this was a Region B release though this doesn’t seem to be the case. Though I only received a check disc it actually played fine on my Region A players, including my PS3.)

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film’s lossless PCM monaural track is a bit dated but generally clean. Bernard Herrmann’s score screeches a bit when it reaches the higher notes, but I guess that’s rather suiting for the film. Dialogue is clear and intelligible, as are sound effects, and I didn’t detect any other instances of distortion or noise. In all it is clean and serviceable for the film.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Another improvement over the Criterion DVD is the special features, which were only text based in the former edition. Arrow has actually put together some great new material here, starting with a rather lengthy visual essay by Justin Humpheys entitled What the Devil Has Joined Together. This 47-minute piece covers the film’s production history in rather extensive detail while also going over the various influences that made their way into the film. He also covers the development of De Palma’s visual language, as displayed throughout the film, focusing on the editing and various visual tricks, including the use of the split screen. He examines some of De Palma’s work from around that time, including Greetings and Hi, Mom!, and talks at length about the performers he worked with during this period. He also of course examines the film’s music, and then even points out the many technical mistakes (most of which are related to the film’s low budget.) Taking the place of a commentary I found it a rather thorough and illuminating examination of the film and De Palma’s early career.

Arrow then includes a number of new interviews The first couple are decent but sort of ho-hum, starting with a 10-minute one with star Jennifer Salt. Here Salt (who admits to not caring for horror films all that much) talks about how she came to be involved (her and Kidder got the script as a Christmas present from De Palma) and recalls some anecdotes from the set, including how the split screen scenes were done. She talks about working with Durning and also working with her mother.

Co-writer Louisa Rose next talks about how she met De Palma and got involved in the writing of the film, and amusingly it sounds as though she somewhat dismisses the script, primarily because of its psychological mumbo-jumbo.

A little better are the next two interviews, first a 17-minute one with editor Paul Hirsch, who gets into really heavy detail about working on a couple of De Palma’s early films, and how he watched Psycho a number of times to learn the rhythms in the editing. It’s actually here where the idea to hire Herrmann was born, as they used the track from Psycho as a temp track while editing Sisters. He also gives some decent technical details about the split screen use in the film.

The interviews then conclude with a quick 5-minute interview with unit manager Jeffrey Hayes, who talks about trying to accommodate the film’s “big ambitions” despite the low budget. This one is short but fairly amusing and informative.

There is then a third interview, a 6-minute audio excerpt from an interview with William Finley done years ago. He also briefly covers the film’s production but gets into more detail about the film’s shooting schedule and the development of his character. This plays over a gallery of international posters for Sisters.

Of them all I actually found the last three more engaging and informative, but all five together add some nice value to the release.

The De Palma Digest is a rather quick overview of De Palma’s work, presented by Mike Sutton. He goes through each of De Palma’s films, right from the beginning up through Passion, and offers an examination of the director’s developing style, and even manages to offer a few surprises (I actually didn’t know De Palma was to direct Prince of the City and Sidney Lumet was to do Scarface, only for the two to switch projects.) He offers quick insights into the films, which at times is unfortunate, such as when he goes over Bonfire of the Vanities, essentially just telling us, the viewers, to simply read the book The Devil’s Candy to get an idea as to what went wrong (lots!) He also shows some love for The Black Dahlia, though admits that just about everyone was miscast, save for Finley and Aaron Eckhardt. Running 31-minutes it’s a decent primer, though I actually wouldn’t have minded it being longer.

The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer and a small gallery of International Posters, which are the same ones displayed over the Finley interview. A booklet is also included, though I did not receive a copy with my check disc.

In all it’s a much more satisfying collection of material in comparison to the Criterion, with some nice coverage of the film’s production and thoughts on De Palma’s work.

8/10

CLOSING

Rather beautiful edition of the film, it sports one hell of a transfer and a great collection of supplementary material. It comes with a very high recommendation.




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