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APT PUPIL ($25) is a dark, disturbing psychological thriller from director Bryan Singer (THE USUAL SUSPECTS) about a suburban high school student who discovers a Nazi war criminal living in his neighborhood. APT PUPIL covers some of the same territory that Orson Welles did with his brilliant film THE STRANGER, but since this movie is based upon the Stephen King novella, you can expect it to delve into darker territory. Director Singer has made a film that looks at the nature of evil and how easily innocence can be twisted. Brad Renfro delivers an impressive performance as Todd Bowden, a baby-faced high school honors student who ends up playing a deadly psychological game with the fugitive Nazi. While studying the Holocaust at school, Todd begins researching that black period of history on his own. One day, Todd notices the resemblance between an elderly man he sees on the bus and a Nazi concentration camp commander who was pictured in one of the reference book.

After a bit of amateur sleuthing, Todd becomes convinced that the old man is indeed a wanted Nazi war criminal. However, instead of turning him in, Todd strikes a bargain with the old devil. Todd will remain silent about the his true identity, as long as the old man tells him all the gory details left out of the history books. Ian McKellen is absolutely riveting as Kurt Dussander, the Nazi war criminal and personification of evil. As he recounts the atrocities of the camps, Dussander undergoes a transformation- going from world weary man waiting for death, to a potent force of evil waiting to pounce upon the unsuspecting. APT PUPIL is not a film the holocaust, even though there is Nazi imagery throughout the film. There is one sequence in APT PUPIL in which Todd makes Dussander put on a Nazi uniform and march in place that I found to be unnerving. But as I said APT PUPIL isn't about the Holocaust, the film only references the period as a recognizable manifestation of evil. In addition to McKellen and Renfro, the cast of APT PUPIL features Joshua Jackson, Ann Dowd, Bruce Davison, James Karen, Marjorie Lovett, Heather McComb and David Schwimmer.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has made APT PUPIL available on DVD in both wide screen and full screen presentations. The full screen version is okay, but it lacks the cinematic punch contained in the 16:9 enhanced wide screen version. The 2.35:1 Letterboxed transfer itself is certainly up to Columbia TriStar's usual level of excellence. The cinematography tends to give the film a dark, atmospheric look that the transfer reproduces faithfully. Sequences filmed in broad daylight are also recreated with an equal measure of excellence. The transfer is detail rich, even within the dark, shadowy areas of the image. Colors are highly saturated and are reproduced with maximum fidelity on this DVD. Neither chroma noise, nor digital compression artifacts were noticeable on this superbly authored disc. APT PUPIL is primarily a two-character film comprised mainly of dialogue sequences.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack recreates dialogue with a very natural timber, plus the mix has a fairly open forward soundstage. The track has a lot of ambient sound effects that serve to create a very involving sonic environment for a number of key sequences. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded into the DVD, in addition to English subtitles. The interactive menus are simple, but give one access to the standard scene and language set-up features. Through the menus one can also access a theatrical trailer and production featurette.


Apt Pupil (1998)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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