This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dead Ringers (1988)

"You haven't had any experience until I've had it, too!"
-Dr. Elliot Mantle to his twin brother, Dr. Beverly Mantle.

In his review of Music of the Heart (1999), Roger Ebert wrote this about the film's director, Wes Craven:

"(Craven is) known for his horror films, and he may seem like a strange choice for this material. Not at all. He is in fact a cultured man who broke into movies doing horror and got stuck in the genre; he's been trying to fight his way free from studio typecasting for 20 years, and this movie shows that he can get Meryl Streep to Carnegie Hall just as easily as a phantom to the opera."

This quote illustrates that directors can be as susceptible to typecasting as actors. Another director who was basically stuck in people's minds as a 'horror' director was David Cronenberg.

He first gained notice with the cult films Scanners (1980) and Videodrome (1983), but it was The Dead Zone (1983) which brought him to the attention of mainstream Hollywood.

The success of that film led to him being hired for the remake of The Fly (1986), which is one of the few remakes to actually improve on its predecessor. This is because Cronenberg set out to make a tragedy which just happened to have horror/science fiction elements in it, whereas the 1958 original film, while memorable, is campy.

The great success of The Fly became, in some ways, a double-edged sword for Cronenberg. This remains arguably his most famous work and, for a time anyway, everyone seemed to be expecting him to make another horror film.

This may explain why Cronenberg's follow-up to The Fly, Dead Ringers, didn't make a similar impact with audiences. Indeed, watch the trailer and you'll hear Howard Shore's dramatic musical score for The Fly in the background, although the finished film is not what you would call a horror film.

Jeremy Irons plays twin brothers Elliot and Beverly Mantle, who are successful gynecologists (the film was inspired by the case of Stewart and Cyril Marcus, also twin brothers working in that field). The two are basically a yin-yang pair, with Elliot the confident one and Beverly the sensitive one.

Their practice often involves the brothers romancing the same woman, even though the woman in question is unaware that she is not with the same man.

This behavior is foreshadowed in the film's beginning in which the twins, as young boys (played by Jonathan and Nicholas Haley) express their interest in female anatomy.

However, the brothers' interdependency is disrupted when a new patient, actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold), enters their clinic.

This eventually leads to Beverly tearfully admitting that he's in love with her. Claire returns the affection after her initial anger at the revelation that he and Elliot have both romanced her.

When Claire leaves to work on a new film, Beverly becomes despondent, so much so that his drug use forces him to take administrative leave. This, in turn, leads to Elliot caring for him and becoming a drug addict himself so he can operate on the same level as his brother.

This leads to Elliot agreeing to be 'separated' from his brother in a climatic scene that eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

While the film was not as successful as The Fly, everyone praised Irons for his fabulous dual performance. When he won his Oscar three years later for Reversal of Fortune (1990), Irons thanked Cronenberg in his acceptance speech. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this film and his superlative voice work as Scar in The Lion King (1994) represent Irons at his best.

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