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I attended a theatrical showing of MORE THAN SISTERS back in 1979 when it was released, and it became one of my favorite Adult films at that time. One reason was I got the chance to meet its star Leslie Murray, who was in attendance promoting the movie.
She is also credited with top billing, even though her role on screen is relatively small, not entering the picture until 50 of its 82 minutes have elapsed. Under her better-known moniker Lynn Stevens, she also was Shaun Costello's production manager for the shoot.
Today's film buffs, who use IMDb the way we oldies used to refer to Leslie Halliwell's book "The Film-goer's Companion", may not recall a big controversy in the 1970s regarding Brian De Palma, director of SISTERS, the inspiration for Costello's film. After a promising underground filmmaking career, in which he discovered Robert De Niro and featured him in some fun comedies including GREETINGS and HI, MOM!, De Palma soon became known for a series of pastiche movies aping (or ripping off, I fell into the latter camp of criticism) Hitchcock, Antonioni and others. Even his best film of that period OBSESSION was a Hitchcock derivative replete with Bernard Herrmann score (then a badge of pride as in Scorsese/De Niro's TAXI DRIVER).
After SCARFACE this debate over De Palma the imitator abated, but in 1979 I was still deeply polarized against the famous movie brat. So seeing MORE THAN SISTERS was extremely satisfying, in seeing Brian get his just desserts -Costello ripping him off and satirizing him in such a serious and successful manner.
Shaun's film has a very interesting structure in addition to the teasing use of Murray. First, Leslie's beautiful still photo dominates the credits sequence, yet she does not appear for so many reels in the film proper and is not a main character. Instead, we have a NYC-based cover story of doctors led by Jamie Gillis working with seriously mentally ill Alice Randall (blonde Colleen Anderson in the film's title roles), married to very sympathetic and concerned husband Martin Randall (Costello, in one of his rare sincere performances, never tongue-in-cheek for a change).
Through flashbacks and under the influence of sodium pentathol injections, we discover that French-Canadian orphan Alice had a Siamese twin Eva from whom she was separated who is incarcerated at Harienwood Asylum in Quebec. The tortures sis experiences at the hands of some very creepy staff there (well-played by Marlene Willougby, R. Bolla, Roger Caine, David Morris and others) are sympathetically experienced by Alice in twin fashion.
With distorted, low-angle photography by his regular D.P. Bill Markle, Costello creates some suitably nightmarish images of Alice's (and sis') plight, and in retrospect despite the imitation of De Palma tropes right down to the Quebec setting, the film reminds me more of Scorsese. At any rate, I enjoyed MORE THAN SISTERS as much as SISTERS back when it was new.
Secondary story is very well handled, as Gillis in desperation of getting to the bottom of Alice's illness, hires Eric Edwards as a private eye to track down details of her youth (he's the one who finds out about the Siamese twin). They meet photogenically on the Staten Island Ferry, and film even begins with a dedication to the boat's crew.
Edwards' lover is NY Governor's daughter played by Murray, Another fascinating twist is that Murray's sex scene with Edwards in the top-billed role is strictly soft- core, while Anderson and others participate in XXX action. I wasn't to see Leslie in hardcore roles until decades later, when I caught up with her hour-long quickies, made by Costello and other directors, in which she did all manner of gonzo stuff including sex with a wine bottle. But for this introduction to the public five years into her porn career, replete with new stage name, Leslie was all class and glamour.
Significantly, after the story is resolved, the film ends romantically with focus on Eric and Leslie, latter reading a letter from Shaun and Colleen indicating they had named their new daughter after her (Susie = character name). End title reads "The Beginning" and a decidedly different "Russ Carlson"-directed movie has been delivered.
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