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Film / Dead Ringers

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There's nothing the matter with the instrument, it's the body. The woman's body is all wrong!

"Separation can be a... terrifying thing."

Dead Ringers is a 1988 horror drama film directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jeremy Irons.

It's a story about twin gynecologists, Elliot and Beverly Mantle, who run a brisk business treating infertile women. That, and they have a tendency of taking advantage of them, too. Being the more suave of the two, Elliot woos them, and when he's finished he pulls the old switcheroo and pawns the unsuspecting women off onto Beverly.

Getting Elliot's sloppy seconds begins to tire Beverly, and he sets out to get a woman on his own. He makes the big personal leap of dating an actress he's taken a fancy to. Unfortunately, Beverly is a jangled bundle of neuroses, and when he sees the girl he's set his eyes on meeting with a coworker, Beverly jumps to the conclusion she is cheating on him.

Cue descent into delusional hell, wherein Beverly begins performing unnecessary operations with custom gynecological tools on women who he believes have "mutant genitalia". When the effects of his declining mental health spill over into the brother's practice, the board of health suspends Beverly's license. Elliot, who had always been sensitive to his sibling's fragility, leaves his practice and his current love interest to join Beverly, who has holed himself up in their apartment.


The twins then embark on a medical procedure to separate themselves for health reasons. Has it been mentioned that they aren't conjoined twins?

Not related to the British television and radio series Dead Ringers.

This film operates on the following tropes:

  • Angsty Surviving Twin: At the end, Beverly kills his brother with surgical tools at the latter's request in a drug-fueled stupor. He doesn't outlive his brother for long, as he simply can't bear to live without him and instead chooses to die with Elliot.
  • Bed Trick: Elliot seduces women, then hands them over to Beverly once he's tired of them, without the women knowing they're sleeping with two different men.
  • Body Horror: A Cronenberg staple.
    • The Dream Sequence.
    • The medical instruments.
    • A disturbingly subtle one for what's not shown is Beverly's diagnosis of Claire; the reason she can't get pregnant is because she has three uteruses, each with its own cervix. When Beverly calls Claire and gets her (male) receptionist, he believes she's cheating on him — and tells him about her condition. Claire's actually a good sport about it; she's already accepted Beverly's neuroses, and is less disturbed by the confidentiality breach than she is by her receptionist's reaction — he was a Flamboyant Gay before Beverly accused him of "fucking a mutant", which grossed him out beyond recognition.
  • Canada, Eh?: Toronto is given as the setting for the majority of the film (with the exception of one scene near the beginning set in a university in America). A fairly realistic depiction without any stereotypes. Also Geneviève Bujold is actually French-Canadian, though it is not explicitly stated whether her character Claire is as well.
    • Her last name (Niveau) and accent would suggest that to be the case.
  • Cow Tools: Beverly's custom-made gynecological instruments are shown on display, and they are quite nasty looking, but (thankfully) their utility is never made explicit.
  • Dramatization: Cronenberg based the film on the deaths of Stewart and Cyril Marcus. However, the Marcus twins were "just" a pair of gynecologists who shared a practice, an apartment, a drug addiction, and were both found in said apartment some time after they died of withdrawal, resulting in them looking like rotten beef jerky - and no one really knows what the hell actually happened. Cronenberg, being Cronenberg, decided that all of this wasn't creepy enough...
  • Dream Sequence: There's one in the middle of the film and it is pretty ... disturbing.
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake: Perhaps surprisingly, the eating of a delicious cake is an integral part to The Climax.
  • Identical Twin ID Tags: As the story progresses, Beverly and Elliot's personalities diverge due to one of the twins' advancing mental instability. This is reflected in their appearance, with Elliot maintaining a healthy, well-tanned look while Beverly develops bags under his eyes, a sickly pallor, and a nervous twitch.
    Beverly's the sweet one...and you're the shit.
  • Mad Doctor: Beverly, after his mental decline.
  • Market-Based Title: The original name of the film was Twins, but it had to be changed thanks to the Schwarzenegger/DeVito film coming out first.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Starts with Beverly, who begins seeing genital mutations in his patients that may not really exist. But the madness spreads to Elliot via twin osmosis. This leads to them using a scalpel to perform a "separation procedure", AKA a murder-suicide.
  • Together in Death: When the twins reach the nadir of their breakdown, they perform a "surgery" where Beverly effectively eviscerates Elliot. After he realizes what he's done, Beverly makes one final, abortive attempt to connect with his new paramour. He instead decides to join Elliot in death, cradling his brother's body.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Beverly does the "rocking back and forth" variation at one point.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: The film begins with a flashback to Elliot and Beverly as 9-year-old children, discussing the evolutionary basis for sexual reproduction in humans. It works as an Establishing Character Moment for how connected Elliot and Beverly are to one another yet completely at odds with the rest of society and culminates in one of the few funny moments in the film:
    Raffaella: Are you kidding?! Fuck off, you freaks! I'm telling my father you talk dirty. Besides, I know for a fact you don't even know what a fuck is. *storms off*
    Elliot: They're so different from us. And all because we don't live under water.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy:
    • Elliot orders up an evening of "entertainment" with a pair of high-class twin hookers called Coral and Mimsy. Taking it even further, he requests that one of them call him by his own name, and the other call him by his brother's name...
    • In a later scene, Elliot's girlfriend tries to initiate a threesome with him and Beverly. Elliot seems totally into it, but Beverly is way too uncomfortable.


Example of: