Sister, Sister (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|This is a poor movie. In fact, it
may be the worst and most obscure movie to come with
deleted scenes and a full-length commentary by the
director. Luckily for us, the director is the modest Bill
Condon, and the commentary is interesting, because his
candor gives us a lot of insight in what makes a movie
like this so bad.
When it was first screened, he tells us, the audience nearly lynched him. Not only did he get the sound out of synch for the last third of the movie, but he ended the film with Jennifer Jason Leigh waking up in a mental hospital and the entire story was just a dream!
I don't blame them for turning into a lynch mob.
So Condon thought about the matter and decided to eliminate the scene of JJL waking up.
Unfortunately, these kinds of decisions cause a ripple effect through the rest of the movie, and he made no adjustment for that. When the whole thing was a dream, it made some sense to have the killer stopped by a supernatural force, but without the "only a dream" ending, we are left with a plain-ol' Southern Gothic revenge tale that follows the natural laws of the universe for 85 minutes, then resolves the entire thing with five minutes of hokey supernatural crap! First, the killer is about to kill JJL in the bayou when he himself is killed by one of his former victims. That's right, a dead guy saves her life. Then JJL is hanging out in the bayou in her nightie when the dead guy comes poling by in a flatboat and reaches out for her. She starts to go, then pulls back from his hand when she hears her sister's voice.
Cut to her sister's wedding to a cop who got his head blown off with a shotgun by the killer a few minutes earlier! When JJL goes upstairs to get her hat, the killer is seen in the mirror, apparently behind her. She looks over her shoulder. He's not there. She turns back to the mirror - it's OK. She breathes a sigh of relief - until the killer breaks the mirror from behind as he jumps through at her.
|You see what happened when Condon changed
the ending? That "only a dream" idea may have
really stunk it up, but by changing it, he made the movie
totally incomprehensible - a naturalistic film that suddenly changed
gears and delivered an inexplicable supernatural
ending. It's the ultimate "deus ex machina" - the
heroine saved by a dead guy, so that she can go to the
wedding of her sister to another dead guy.
Condon should have screened this again. Maybe the second lynch mob would have convinced him to re-write the last five minutes to something that made sense. Before that the film was no Citizen Kane, but it was a semi-involving mystery with a few twists, and some red herrings, plenty of nudity, and some very spooky bayou atmosphere, so I was watching with some interest.
Two sisters turn their Southern mansion into a boarding house. There seems to be a psychological problem with the younger sister, but its exact nature is not apparent to us. One of the boarders (Eric Stoltz as a handsome young congressional aide) falls in love with the strange younger sister. The older sister tries to prevent it. A local guy is jealous, or something. We can't tell if he is good or evil. There is something in their past that seems to connect all four of these main characters, and the exact nature of that is the mystery.
Turns out that the two sisters killed a guy who tried to rape the older sister on her prom night. The younger sister was very young, and this incident is the source of her mental health problems. The menacing local guy saw it, and they asked him not to tell. The mysterious boarder turns out to be somebody else related to the incident, the brother of the murdered guy, also a witness, and now bent on revenge.
OK, that wasn't an awful plot. It was predictable, but they revealed the secrets slowly and atmospherically, so it was OK until disaster struck there at the end.
Bill Condon pretty much made crap this bad all of his career until an incredible thing happened a couple years ago. After 11 years of grade-b's and made for TV hack work, he wrote and directed a terrific little film called "Gods and Monsters", about James Whale, the guy who directed Frankenstein. This was a genuinely good independent flick, so good that it was nominated for three Academy awards (a rare Indy achievement). In a genuinely heartwarming story, Condon himself won for best screenplay adapted from another medium! True to his own nature, the self-effacing Condon talked about his few hours as a day player among the Hollywood elite, none of whom knew who the hell he was, even after he got his Oscar. "Gods and Monsters" is currently rated in the top 250 movies at IMDb.
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