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Dead Ringers (1988)

David Cronenberg is not a director for the squeamish. In Dead Ringers, he returns to his obsession with – and seeming disgust at – the human body.

Courtesy of clever, unobtrusive trick camerawork, Jeremy Irons plays the dual role of Elliot and Beverly Mantle – telepathic identical twin brothers who are both world-renowned gynaecologists and run a fertility clinic in Toronto.

The twins share everything from their clinic to their women but their relationship is disturbed when they encounter childless actress Claire (Genevieve Bujold), who has three cervixes.

As the delicate balance between the twins is fatally frayed, she realises that she has been making love not to one man but two.


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.

This is a deeply morbid movie, black with Cronenberg’s association of sex with bodily decay and bright with the harsh light refracted from the clinical instruments on which his camera lingers with baleful relish.

Despite the lack of gore and blood, Cronenberg’s more grotesque inclinations do flicker here occasionally as the deluded Beverly starts to imagine mutant women with gynaecological problems and has metallurgist Anders Wolleck (Stephen Lack) design a strange set of disconcertingly medieval-looking medical instruments for him – “There’s nothing the matter with the instrument, it’s the body. The woman’s body is all wrong!”

This finely wrought urban horror tale from Cronenberg was inspired by the true story of identical twin gynaecologists who were found dead on New York’s Upper East Side in 1975.

Beverly/Elliot Mantle
Jeremy Irons
Claire Niveau
Geneviève Bujold
Dr Cary Weiler
Heidi Von Palleske
Barbara Gordon
Shirley Douglas
Anders Wolleck
Stephen Lack
Nick Nichols
Lynne Cormack
Damir Andrei
Mrs Bookman
Miriam Newhouse
David Hughes
Dean of Medicine
Richard Farrell

David Cronenberg