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Bound By Flesh

by Kevin Taft
Contributor
Friday Jun 27, 2014
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"Bound by Flesh" is a compelling and well assembled look at the legendary Hilton Sisters -- conjoined twins who were sold by their mother to a woman who made them into a sideshow performance.

For years, Daisy and Violet Hilton were basically a freak show act for hire, but they became so used to the spotlight that it became their lives. Using a plethora of pictures, footage, and clips from the movies the girls have done, director Leslie Zemeckis has amassed an intimate and fascinating look at their lives.

Born in Brighton, England in 1908, the girls and the "ribbon of flesh" that connected them became a local sensation. But seeing that there was money to be made, their new guardian, Mary Hilton, began to show them off. Forcing them to learn how to sing, play instruments, and dance, Hilton made them into international sensations. As they grew up and blossomed into attractive children and then beautiful young women, their popularity grew. Soon they were earning over $5000 a week and had the world at their feet.

But they had many battles to fight, including the infamous trial to win their legal independence, the right to be married (if one were married, the state considered it polygamy), and the struggle to maintain a career as the venues for their niche act became a thing of the past. The story becomes more despondent as it goes on, so the film itself can be a bit of a downer, but Zemeckis keeps the proceedings upbeat and humorous with interviews and excerpts from the girl's autobiography.

Using a bit of whimsy, Zemeckis employed the voices of actresses Lea Thompson and Nancy Allen to make it seem like we are hearing recordings of the actual Hilton Sisters themselves. The tone and manner of speaking are so spot-on that they had this reviewer fooled.

To be fair, the repeated use of some of the archival info can be a bit wearisome, but the film is edited together so masterfully that it never bores. In fact, it is a beautifully sad tribute to a forgotten era and two women that rose to the top of it.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to ’Star Wars’ and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg. He can be seen in the flesh on the weekly PBS movie review series "Just Seen It."

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