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Dead Ringers (DVD)

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  • Cronenberg films aren't to everyone's taste and this is no exception.
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    4 Reviews
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      04.04.2010 13:28
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      Didn't meet my expectations

      Elliot and Beverly Mantle are identical twins, who grow up to become successful gynecologists. However, the relationship isn't completely even; Elliot tends to be the leader, whereas Beverly follows. The same goes for their relationships with women; Elliot finds them and then passes them on to Beverly when he has finished, although the women are never aware of the substitution. Then along comes Claire Niveau, a well-known actress, who has fertility issues. For the first time, Beverly falls in love with Claire, which puts his relationship with Elliot in jeopardy. Even worse, Claire helps Beverly become addicted to drugs and starts having vivid dreams about abnormal reproductive organs. With Beverly heading for a breakdown, where will this leave Elliot? Will their substitution secret be revealed? Jeremy Irons plays both Elliot and Beverly Mantle in what has been a highly critcally appraised performance. Loosely based on real life gynecologists, Stewart and Cyril Marcus, there is no doubt that Irons' performance is outstanding. It cannot have been easy to give both characters their own identity, while they had so many similarities, but he managed beautifully. Even though the two characters look identical, it is almost always possible to tell who is who based on their personalities, even when they are filmed in the same scene - although initially, it is hard to work out who is who. Neither are particularly likable; they are certainly oddballs who have their own way of looking at life, but they are nevertheless intriguing and Irons has made them fit the film perfectly. I would go as far as to say that without Jeremy Irons, this film would have been little more than ordinary. Claire Niveau is played by Genevieve Bujold, and is another character who is well portrayed, but isn't very pleasant to watch. She comes across as being a very selfish woman, probably because of her desire to persuade Beverly to start taking drugs. She is a Canadian actress who is most famous for her role as Anne Boleyn in Anne of the Thousand Days, in which she starred with Richard Burton. In this film, I think she was perfect for the role - she is not a perfect, fresh-faced beauty, but, like Jeremy Irons, is slightly craggy and very natural in the way that she looks. That is not to say she isn't beautiful, because she is; it's just that she isn't the usual Hollywood Miss Perfect, who, if cast, could have turned this film into a mockery. Directed by Canadian director David Cronenberg, who is probably best known for his reworking of The Fly in 1986, I had high expectations of this film. The synopsis sounds wonderful and, with the quality of the lead actor and the director, it seemed as though it couldn't go far wrong. Nevertheless, I struggled with it. I loved Irons' performance - I can't fault that - but overall, the film seemed very slow and dark. By dark, I don't just mean the story, I mean the overall colours of the picture. Every scene seems to be filmed in the semi-dark; this is probably deliberate, because most scenes are filmed inside, but I would really have appreciated the odd flash of colour. I am a great fan of Asian film because of the use of colour, so maybe I am biased, but I found the dullness here eventually matched my overall opinion of the film. It is hard to place Dead Ringers (1988) into a specific genre. It is probably a thriller, but there are some aspects of horror as well, although they are very subtle. Nevertheless, this is an incredibly creepy film. The lack of colour adds to that, but it is really the knowledge that the twins are not your average gynecologists. This is made clear right at the start of the film when they are just young boys and very factual in their approach to sex. They are then shown as students, with a liking for rather dated gynecological equipment. It is this equipment, which features regularly throughout the film, that fills the viewer with trepidation; it is clear that something awful is going to happen at some point, but we are kept guessing all the way through. The deeply unpleasant parts of the film make it suitable for the classification of 18 that it has. The gynecological implements are likely to make any woman's eyes water, and they are occasionally used, particularly in a recurring dream that Beverly has. Then there is a discussion of a woman having sex with a Retriever. There are also a couple of sex scenes that show a close-up of Claire's face as she is orgasming - although there is little else that is explicit. This is not, however, the sort of film that I can imagine many young people wanting to watch anyway - it is a bit too short on action and long on boring psychological bits. There is just one extra with the DVD - a theatrical trailer. I really wanted to like this film, but struggled to do so. I think that it is more than just the darkness that follows the twins about their business that turned me against it, but I find it hard to put my finger on it. The subject matter certainly isn't very pleasant - but I've seen, and liked, a lot worse. I think it's possibly too psychological for me when combined with the dullness of the background and the script. There's a feeling that the script has been kept as simple as possible, which is something I would usually appreciate if the visual side was more attractive. As it is, it was just a bit too depressing and I found myself feeling unusually dejected at the end of it. Jeremy Irons' performance saves it from being so dull that it was unwatchable. Nevertheless, there are clearly a lot of people who disagree with me about this film - on imdb.com, it is rated 7.3 out of 10, based on over 12,000 votes. If it sounds like something you would enjoy, then give it a go, by all means. I rate it as average though - 3 stars out of 5. The DVD is available from play.com for £6.99. Classification: 18 Running time: 116 minutes

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        23.01.2010 15:44
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        Worth a look

        Dead Ringers is a 1988 psychological horror/drama directed by David Cronenberg and based on Bari Wood and Jack Geasland's book Twins - which was to have been the name of the film too until a certain Arnold Schwarzenegger/Danny DeVito high concept but low on laughs comedy of the same year got there first. In a departure from Cronenberg's (at the time) more usual visceral fare, Dead Ringers is very restrained and spare and revolves around successful, accomplished and somewhat odd twin gynaecologists Beverly and Elliot Mantle - both played by Jeremy Irons in a brilliant dual performance. The Mantles have a remarkably close, almost symbiotic relationship and share everything together, including an apartment ("We both like Italian furniture"), an established and profitable fertility clinic, and women, which the confident, suave Elliot seduces and passes onto the much more nervous, shy and awkward Beverly when he tires of them - the women usually unaware that these are identical twins duping them rather than one person. "Bev, you haven't done anything until I've done it too," says Elliot, expressing the unusually close nature of their relationship. Life for the Mantles becomes increasingly complicated and dangerous though when Beverly falls in love with an attractive new patient they are both seeing - troubled actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold) - and feels like this is one thing he doesn't actually want to share with his controlling brother anymore. As the two twins are completely interconnected, almost like one person in two bodies, the introduction of Claire - and Beverly's very strong feelings for her - into their ordered lives induces severe psychological strain that threatens to unbalance their relationship, sanity and everything they've worked for. Not only has Claire now replaced Elliot as the most important person in Beverly's life, she also leaves him with an escalating addiction to drugs, two acts that will have terrible consequences. The Mantles are all but Siamese twins in different bodies. Could they survive a separation? After winning praise for his gore laden and inventive reworking of The Fly in 1986, cult director David Cronenberg followed it up in 1988 with an even better film here but one that nonetheless slipped under the radar slightly with its absence of straight ahead horror, special effects and monsters. Cronenberg's usual themes - the mind-body divide, physical decline, virus invasions and the social landscape - still survive in Dead Ringers but just in slightly different forms. Here Geneviève Bujold's Claire is the virus, slowly wreaking havoc on the sterile and controlled world and harmony of the two brothers. Dead Ringers is a cold, austere and thoroughly absorbing psychological thriller about the nature of identity and empathy with an incredibly skilful dual performance by Jeremy Irons as the two deeply troubled twins. It develops at its own unhurried pace and doesn't resort to cheap shocks - two approaches that reap dividends. Dead Ringers also looks wonderfully elegant and chilly and is shot in a clinical, detached manner that creates a refined and slightly ominous atmosphere. It benefits a great deal from Peter Suschitzky's cinematography and Carol Spier's sleek and metallic production design. Women are aliens to the Mantles, a prologue of the twins as boys aptly illustrating their strange sense of both themselves and other people. "They're so different from us." Despite their extensive medical expertise, the Mantles don't really understand people or least of all emotions, somehow believing that someone can be studied from the inside rather than assessed as a living being. "I've often thought that there should be beauty contests for the insides of bodies," muses Elliot. This urge to understand women has obviously led to them becoming gynaecologists - a logical idea in the skewed world of the Mantles. The Mantle twins appear relatively seamlessly together onscreen through the visual effects and Irons gives each a distinct and nuanced personality. You come to accept that these really are two identical twins and seperate characters that we are watching interacting together and the relationship between the brothers is always engrossing and intelligently conveyed. Elliot is the more charming, morally dubious one and more in charge. He knows the danger that Claire brings but the innocent Beverly is more vulnerable - this triangle eventually sending him over the edge through a misunderstanding into depression and drug abuse. "And tomorrow, we'll take some Percodan just because it's Saturday." Dead Ringers lacks the violence and blood of earlier Cronenberg films with the horror coming here from the gradual decline of one of the brothers and the effect this has on them as a whole. The successful elements of drama and the superior performances make Dead Ringers one of Cronenberg's most accomplished and impressive films. There is a memorable scene in particular where the Mantles eat ice-cream and drink fizzy pop together, somehow sliding back into childhood as their deterioration seems to be progressing. The film becomes more claustrophobic at times as the brothers become more mentally fragile and retreat back into themselves. "Beverly and I just have to get synchronized. Once we're synchronized, it'll be easy." Jeremy Irons deserves a lot of credit in any discussion of Dead Ringers for his compelling performance as the Mantle twins. Despite the lack of gore and blood, Cronenberg's more grotesque inclinations do flicker here occasionally as the delusion stricken Beverly starts to imagine mutant women with gynaecological problems and has metallurgist Anders Wolleck (Stephen Lack) design a strange set of medical instruments for him. "There's nothing the matter with the instrument, it's the body. The woman's body is all wrong!" The scenes set in the Mantle's clinic are strikingly done with the bright red medical gowns throwing vivid colour in the restrained look and atmosphere of the film and the elaborate hoods giving the scenes a strange, anachronistic feel. Although the film seems to be slowly building to some gory medical examination of some sort it never really arrives and Cronenberg, perhaps wisely, keeps the blood off the screen for the most part here to focus more powerfully on the troubled relationship between the Mantle twins as they threaten to drift apart. Beverly's hallucinations led to some vivid dream/nightmare sequences and Cronenberg maintains a vague ambiguous quality as to what is and is not real - like the disconcertingly medieval looking gynaecological tools he has designed by the metallurgist. On the whole I like Dead Ringers a great deal and, although it sounds rather grim, it's an incredibly absorbing and very stylish drama that must rank high on any list of David Cronenberg's best films.

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          24.09.2001 04:53
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          • "Cronenberg films aren't to everyone's taste and this is no exception."

          Great film, shame about the DVD... Dead Ringers is a brilliant David Cronenberg film that features brilliant performances from Jeremy Irons as the Mantle twins (Elliot and Beverly). Without going into too much detail about the film (this is a DVD opinion after all) the twins are gynaecologists with a great reputation building up a successful private practice and academic/research career. Of course that alone wouldn't make for a very interesting movie, let alone an interesting David Cronenberg one, so what we have here is a great story about identity issues, personality crises, drug abuse, the merging of the mechanic with the organic - all the normal ingredients you get in a Cronenberg film. Beverly is the milder of the twins, with Elliot the more forceful one - but they share everything, and are happy playing each other when out at dinner parties, giving speeches, presenting research, etc. When Beverly falls in love with famous actress Claire Nouveaux things start to go wrong for the brothers. Claire doesn't react too happily to the news that she's been seeing (and I mean 'seeing' in every sense of the word..) two identical twins rather than one person, she ends the relationship, they get reconciled, but while she is away filming Beverly becomes paranoid that Claire is having an affair and it all goes rapidly downhill... Drug abuse sets in, he loses the plot, their business suffers, he invents some rather bizarre surgical instruments (here's where the regular organic/mechanic theme comes in - not as obvious as the weapons in eXistenZ but still spooky), he brings his brother down with him, and it all ends.., well, you're not expecting happily ever after are you? That's too quick and doesn't do the film justice but I don't want to give anything away and besides I should be talking about the DVD... ...which is as basic as DVD releases get, just about. Fortunate ly it is in widescreen and they have put it on one side of a disc but other than that forget it, no extras whatsoever. No insight into the making of the film, no comments from director or actors, not even a trailer. This is a real shame - this is a great film and I would be really interested in watching some supplementary material. Jeremy Irons plays the twins magnificently - with subtle differences in voice, posture, etc. It would have been good to get some insight from Mr Irons as to how he pulled it off, and how he acted with 'himself' in this way. They trick you with a 'Trailer' button on the main menu but it is only a 30 second advert about the Carlton Silver DVD range of films. The widescreen print is in 2.35 to 1 ratio but isn't presented anamorphically. Colours seemed a little pale and washed out in places, and the picture quality wasn't consistent. This could be my setup or a dodgy connection but I haven't noticed it on other films. Of course with a film like this it could well be intended to be drab and downbeat, but there are sections of the film that are vibrant (the eery red outfits of the surgeons for example) that should come across much better on DVD than they do here. Sound wise you do get a Dolby Digital soundtrack - but I don't have sufficient equipment to test it out. The standard stereo soundtrack is fine - mainly dialogue, obviously, but there is a good background score by Howard Shore. This DVD is a budget release on the Carlton label, so despite everything at least it is less than a tenner. Having said that I'd rather pay a few pounds more if I knew I was getting an anamorphic picture and some decent extras. The film is superb, but probably not to everyone's tastes. It is spooky, it is shocking, that''s what you kind of expect from Cronenberg. Irons performances are superb. 4 and a half out of five for the film but I 9;m knocking that down to a 3 overall due to poor DVD features - and maybe that is being too generous.

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            01.08.2000 06:07

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            Having broken through into the mainstream with one of his most sick and personal films 'The Fly', Cronenberg didn't squander the opportunity, making this wildly unhealthy melodrama with a bigger budget, a genuinely great star (Jeremy Irons), and a determination not to compromise. Irons plays twin gynaecologists, Elliot and Beverley Mantle (rendered together onscreen with quite stunning special effects), gradually spinning out of mental control through drug abuse and madness when Bev falls for an actress (Genevieve Bujold), and realises for the first time in their lives that he wants to exclude Elliot from an aspect of his life. So far, it could be a soap opera, but the horrifying collapse into insanity goes very far indeed, and while for a Cronenberg film, it's exceptionally restrained, there are enough sick and twisted ideas to fill a dozen wild movies (you will never quite forget the tools that one twin hopes to use on his patients). Alongside Cronenberg's usual obsessions (death, mental collapse, the corruption and mutation of the body), there's a marvellous satire on the business of men dominating a fundamentally female branch of medicine, and a startlingly good pair of performances from Irons as both twins which should have, but didn't, win him an Oscar.

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          Like many other films by Canadian director David Cronenberg (especially Crash), Dead Ringers presents the cinematic and psychological equivalent of an automobile accident--you dare not look, but you can't turn away. The film marked a directorial breakthrough for Cronenberg, who was able to continue some of the themes explored in his earlier horror films while graduating to a higher, more critically "respectable" level of artistic sophistication. The film is loosely based, amazingly enough, on a true story about twin gynaecologists who routinely traded each others' identities, lives and even lovers. Utilizing innovative split-screen technology (years before computer manipulation made such trickery much easier), the film stars Jeremy Irons in flawless dual roles as the identical brothers Beverly and Elliot Mantle. Their ability to instantly switch identities leads them to a shared relationship with a well-known actress (Genevieve Bujold) and, ultimately, a physical and psychological tailspin that sends them both to the brink of madness and death. The scenario suggests that both men are halves of a whole, and that one cannot exist without the other. But when Beverly pursues a kinky, drug-addicted affair with the actress, his more self-controlled brother is helpless to prevent their mutual decline. In this way Dead Ringers becomes a fascinating and stylistically clinical study of duality, and Cronenberg doesn't shy away from the dark and unpleasant aspects of the story. (One look at the movie's display of bizarre gynaecological instruments and you'll know why women find this film particularly--and unforgettably--disturbing.) The Criterion Collection DVD includes illuminating commentary by Cronenberg, Irons, production designer Carol Spier and others; extensive production information; interviews with the principal cast; and a detailed examination of the film's groundbreaking use of invisible special effects. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com --This text refers to the DVD edition of this video.