David Cronenberg’s film DEAD RINGERS centers on twin gynecologists, who use their identical nature to seduce women into unwittingly falling for both of them. Alpha twin Elliot is the first to seduce, then once he has tired of a woman, he passes her on to his more demure and shy brother Beverly. All the while the women are unaware of the switch. However, when Beverly has his love unrequited by an actress, he begins slipping into drug-induced insanity. Beverly starts to see women as strange mutations. He turns to a metallurgist to have him construct a strange set of archaic tools in order to deal with these mutant women. After Beverly injures one of his patients, he is suspended from the hospital and sent to a clinic for help. Eventually, both brothers slip into drug addled psychosis filled with disemboweling and some seriously fucked up looking surgical tools.
Now here’s the real story… That’s right, this movie is based on a REAL life story.
It’s hard to believe something so fantastical and twisted could actually occur. However, some of the elements of DEAD RINGERS actually came from actual events. Stewart and Cyril Marcus were twin gynecologists on staff at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. The brothers also shared separate apartments in the same building. Cyril, who divorced in 1960, moved in to his brother’s building soon after his separation. The two began sharing an apartment soon after Stewart’s long time girlfriend moved out.
For a week, neighbors complained about a foul smelling odor emanating from the Marcus apartment. Then on July 19, 1975 the 45 year-old twins were found dead in their Manhattan apartment. Stewart, who was found completely nude, died first. His brother, Cyril, who was clad only in his underwear, was second to die a day later. By the time they were found, both bodies were badly decomposed.
For the longest time, the brothers were highly esteemed gynecologists. They had both graduated with high honors from New York University Upstate Medical Center and had even written a textbook as well as a number of articles in numerous medical journals. In addition to their work at New York Hospital-Cornell, the twins also shared a very successful private practice.
Hospital officials had long known something was wrong. The Marcus brother’s behavior had become increasingly erratic. They had been skipping their shifts at the hospital and canceling appointments at their private practice. On several occasions, the hospital had to step in through administrative action in order to protect patients and the hospital from possible malpractice.
In June, the hospital informed the twins that they would not be reappointed to the staff and that their tenure would cease at the beginning of July. Having been on staff for over 15 years, they were offered a chance to appeal the decision before the board. But sadly the brothers failed to show up for their appeal; by then they were already dead. Drugs and depression were theorized to be the cause of the brother’s demise. Medical examiners ruled their deaths to be caused by a barbiturate overdose. Whether they had been longtime users of the drug still remains a mystery.
The Marcus brothers shared a strong bond. Their bond drove them into the same field of study, the same women, the same addictions, the same downward spiral, and eventually the same death. It’s a fantastic study and one that certainly made for an incredibly visceral and frightening film.