Dead Ringers (1988)

"Would you like to have sex with us in our bathtub? It's an experiment" isn't such a great pick-up line for a pair of 10-year-olds...

“Would you like to have sex with us in our bathtub? It’s an experiment” isn’t such a great pick-up line for a pair of 10-year-olds…

Dead Ringers, oh boy! Much like the first time I saw The Brood, this movie had me in its grasp the entire time, and is one of my favorite Cronenberg movies. Q likes to point out that, strangely, Cronenberg’s most misogynistic films are my favorite. What does it mean that I hate badass chick movies but don’t mind seeing my good gender smeared onscreen? I don’t know, this post isn’t about me, it’s about Jeremy fucking Irons.

Beverly (Jeremy Irons) and Elliot (Jeremy Irons) Mantle have been into sex since they were little kids. No, not having sex, the study of sex. As two creepy little identical twins with sex on the mind, they didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, so they had plenty of time for studying. By the time they get to medical school they’re already using their own custom-made instruments. Success comes easy for the twins, and they share it well together. In fact, they share everything, their apartment, their career, even women.

Claire & Beverly's first date.

Claire & Beverly’s first date.

Elliot is the suave one, so he takes the women to bed first. After warming them up, he hands them over to Beverly. Shy and meek and perfectly incapable of normal human contact, Beverly’s only success with women comes from these relationships. This whole set up works well, until Claire Niveau, a famous actress, walks into Beverly’s fertility clinic. The twins are both intrigued by her: Elliot because she is famous, Beverly because she is a mutant: she has three cervixes. This condition has made it impossible for her to get pregnant, and she’s come to Dr. Mantle for help.

What Claire really needs, though, is psychological help. Her inability to have children has given her some sort of inferiority complex, and she’s seeking out humiliation in both her film and sexual careers. She’s also got quite a good pill habit going on, and as her relationship with Beverly (yes, just Beverly) continues to get more serious, Elliot is convinced she’s using him for his prescription pad. All the while, Claire has no idea she’s dating an identical twin (not to mention that she’s actually screwed both of them), and is disgusted when she finds out they’ve taken her for the proverbial ride. Beverly is devastated when Claire leaves him, as he’s developed quite a dependency on her (as well as her pharmaceutical dosing).

"I slave over the hot snatches, and he makes the speeches."

“I slave over the hot snatches, and he makes the speeches.”

Claire and Beverly do end up together again, but when Claire leaves town for 10 weeks for a film shoot, Beverly’s beside himself. His dependence on her and prescription drugs has reached an all-time high, so to speak, and Claire has pleaded with Elliot to take special care of him while she is away. While all this is going on, the twins relationship is deteriorating – Claire has really thrown a wrench in the status quo. The two aren’t sharing all the same experiences anymore and it’s causing them both some serious psychological distress. Claire and Beverly’s relationship, Beverly’s addiction to drugs, Beverly’s dependence on Claire and the dependency Beverly and Elliot have on each-other makes for a desperate, sad and pathetic molotov cocktail that explodes their lives, their career, everything. Oh yeah, and I’d be remiss not to mention the “gynecological instruments for operating on mutant women” that Beverly makes while descending into madness. That is some fucked up shit.

"Tomorrow, we kick."

“Tomorrow, we kick.”

As is to be expected from Cronenberg, this movie is disturbing. Really disturbing, and perhaps that’s because its roots are more firmly planted in reality than most of his previous work. Like The Fly, it tells the story of a guy whose love affair causes everything in his life to fall apart. Though here I think Beverly’s deterioration can be blamed on his utter dependency on Claire. After sharing everything with his brother, the twins have obviously built a relationship based on codependency, and when Beverly tries transplanting that onto another person and throws prescription pills into the mix well… the shit is bound for the fan. Ultimately, Elliot decides there is no experience unless the two of them share it, another theme we’ve seen a couple times now from Cronenberg (Stereo, Scanners), and it makes for a truly sad ending.


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