Margot Kidder (with a perfectly fine French accent) is Danielle, a sweet, if flighty French-Canadian model in NYC who brings home a man she met on a “Candid Camera”-style TV show they were both on. They make love, and the next morning Danielle wakes up to find the dude is dead. She blames it on her twin sister (until recently, conjoined) Dominique, who is apparently evil and murderous. From this point, the film shifts its focus to nosy journo Jennifer Salt, who witnesses the murder from her apartment across the street, and is convinced Danielle did it, not Dominique. She sets about proving it, with help from portly PI Charles Durning. Meanwhile, Danielle’s creepy-looking ex-husband (William Finley) has turned up and helps her dispose of the body inside her couch-bed combo, and clean the apartment up before Salt and the cops (led by Dolph Sweet) turn up. They’re already predisposed not to believe her because she’s annoying and has written unflattering things about cops in the past. So who did it? Sweet Danielle, deranged Dominique? Or someone else entirely? A youngish Olympia Dukakis plays a cake shop owner, while Barnard Hughes turns up as a journalist who once did a story on conjoined twins.
Aside from “The Untouchables” and “Carrie”, I’m not really a fan of Brian De Palma (the appalling “Body Double”, the equally terrible “Raising Cain”, the sexy but ridiculous “Femme Fatale”, etc.), who has a tendency to be aggressively flashy and is also prone to ripping of Hitchcock. This 1973 psycho-thriller of sorts was his first Hitchcockian film (containing elements of “Vertigo”, “Psycho”, and “Rear Window”), and for me, one of his better ones. It certainly doesn’t go so far as to actually rip-off Hitch the way “Body Double” (a sleazy and pathetic “Rear Window” rip-off) did, for instance. He also gets away with having a very Hitchcockian music score, because at least this time, it’s actually Bernard Herrmann (“Psycho”, “Vertigo”, “North By Northwest”) himself doing the gig. It’s a terrific score, if unsubtle and a tad indulgent on the oboe.
The film is frankly a bit too slow, the ending is a a disastrous non-event, and it’s all a bit silly at times. However, De Palma seems to be winking and having fun here, and this was a rare occasion where I was mostly having fun with it too. Especially when De Palma quits with the annoying (and now long-outdated) split-screen which isn’t nearly as clever as De Palma thinks it is. The ‘Peeping Toms’ opening certainly gives an indication that De Palma isn’t taking things too seriously.
The biggest flaw, really, is that while Kidder is excellent (if somewhat bizarrely cast, looking at things retroactively. We all remember her oddball antics in the 90s caused by manic depression), Salt is merely OK and a little irritating at times. Her mullet, in particular, is appalling. And I say that as someone who had a terrible mullet for way, way too long myself. I’m kind of an expert on the subject. Thus, the film loses something when we change protagonists, partly because Kidder has really won us over.
It’s not a great film, but it’s quite enjoyable, with nice small roles for Charles Durning, Barnard Hughes, and the Donald Sutherland-esque William Finley, who steals the show. Oh, and if you want to see Lois Lane’s tits (no, not Teri Hatcher. See “Heaven’s Prisoners” for that. Or don’t. They’re actually not spectacular at all), this is your movie.
Scripted by Brian De Palma and Louisa Rose, from a story by De Palma, this movie isn’t subtle, but aside from a few flaws discussed above, it’s pretty effective. Even the split-screen helps add some tension at times, much as I hate it being used at all.