Unlike the hilarious comedy Twins whose sole joke was that Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito were twins separated at birth, true life documentary Three Identical Strangers is initially bemusing but becomes far darker as it progresses. It starts with one of the triplets recalling how, on arriving at college, everyone was so friendly and welcoming which is quite a change from the Frat house hazing rituals that might be expected. But the reason here is that of mistaken identity when one of the students recognises him as the spitting image of his actual friend who had left the college the previous term vowing never to return and this friends then drives with him for two hours to his actual friends house where on seeing one another for the first time immediately recognise each other as long lost identical brothers. It’s not an unusual story but when their story hits the local paper and is seen by a father who recognises that his own son is the mirror image of these two long lost brothers.
Reunited they are Three Identical Strangers and Tim Wardle’s documentary recounts how they became minor TV talk show celebrities appearing together and recounting their similarities in smoking the same cigarettes, liking the same girls and so on. It’s launches them into C-list celebrity heaven and they have the run of the city, allowed into night clubs, free drinks and everything that comes with it.
But that’s as light as it gets because where Three Identical Strangers take us next is just how did the identical triplets get separated and why were their adopted parents never told of the existence of the siblings. Like the best documentaries its almost too incredible to believe and it’s a journalist doing research for an article that he’s been commissioned to write who uncovers just how this came into play as part of a wider scheme of frankly sinister revelations for other twins finding themselves in the same situation which all stems from a Jewish adoption agency and a Holocaust survivor who seems to be the key to it all.
Three Identical Strangers is an absolute compelling story which in the best tradition uncovers layer upon layer of how such a situation came to be. Though the story came to light in 1980 it has taken decades for the back ground to be uncovered and to a degree the documentary is still playing catch up with what has been found out and there are undoubtedly further revelations to be unearthed over the coming years. Fans of Steven Kings novel Cat’s Eye’ may already guess where this is going and readers of the recent Dragon Tattoo /Millenium novel The Girl who takes an eye for an eye will recognise instantly the inspiration for the latest in the Lizabeth Salander stories. Dark, dysfunctional, sinister and ultimately tragic this is another great little documentary taking the start of what was at the time a widely known story in the US a step further and down a very dark path.
Here’s the Three Identical Strangers trailer……