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Although the story has lost its timeliness due the media's overwhelming coverage of more notorious and more recent headline grabbing criminal cases, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE ($20) remains a completely riveting piece of cinema. In the decade before a notorious football player, the tragic case of Claus von Bülow and his comatose wife Sunny was the darling of the news media, generating countless headlines for the tabloids. For a long period of time, it was the story of von Bülow’s trial for the attempted murder of his wealthy wife and all its sordid details that took a majority of space in the daily papers. For those of you who don't remember the outcome of the trial, von Bülow was found guilty. Of course, his conviction only serves as the starting point of REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, which is based upon the book by attorney Alan Dershowitz, who mounted von Bülow's appeal.

Strangely enough, the comatose Sunny von Bülow, who is played quite effectively in flashbacks by Glenn Close, narrates the film version of REVERSAL OF FORTUNE. Close's detached voiceovers give the film a very haunting quality that pulls the viewer into the world of Sunny and Claus, two exceedingly dysfunctional, albeit rich people. As much as Close makes an indelible impression in REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, the film really belongs to Jeremy Irons, who brings Claus von Bülow to chilling life. Irons gives a decidedly sardonic performance as von Bülow, which is repellant, yet at the same time utterly fascinating. In fact, Irons is so good in the role, that he earned a much-deserved Academy Award for Best Actor. Not to be slighted, Ron Silver gives an impassioned performance Alan Dershowitz, who, at first, has to be convinced to take on von Bülow's case. Director Barbet Schroeder and screenwriter Nicholas Kazan take what could have been a cut and dried legal story, or movie-of-the-week melodrama and turn it into an engrossing motion picture, which is rich in character and substance. The solid cast of REVERSAL OF FORTUNE also includes Annabella Sciorra, Uta Hagen, Fisher Stevens, Jack Gilpin, Christine Baranski and an uncredited Julie Hagerty.

Warner Home Video has done quite a good job transcribing REVERSAL OF FORTUNE to DVD. REVERSAL OF FORTUNE is framed at 1.78:1 and the presentation is enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. For the most part, the film element use for the transfer is in great shape, however there is one glaring flaw. During the opening credits, there is a lengthy scratch runs down the center of the frame. While it disappears before the action of the film begins, it makes an impression, and after all, aren't first impressions the most important. During the rest of the movie, the transfer provides a crisp, very defined image, which makes one forget that this movie is already a decade old. There are occasional shots, were the image is a tiny bit softer looking, but this has more to do filter's applied to the film’s original photography, than any flaws in the transfer. Colors never appear over saturated appearance and the flesh tones look very natural. Moments with stronger hues never show any signs of chromatic distortion or bleeding.

While, the Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack does decode to standard surround, it is a very simple mix. REVERSAL OF FORTUNE is a dialogue driven film, so there is little sound effect and directional activity. The only sense of stereo imaging comes from Mark Isham's musical score. Surround activity is exceedingly limited, with just a smattering of ambient sound and musical fill to let you know that the rear channels even exist. Dialogue is always crisply rendered and fully intelligible, although there are a couple of moments where the voices sound looped. A French Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

A bit of music underscores the basic interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. Director Barbet Schroeder and screenwriter Nicholas Kazan provide a running audio commentary that is quite interesting and provides a good number of details about what it took to make this a quality film, despite have a rather limited budget. A theatrical trailer, as well as cast biographies and a smattering of notes on the film's awards fill out the extras.

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE is an entertaining and engrossing movie that doesn't wallow in the seamier aspects of a notorious story. In addition, the film features a number of truly impressive performances. The DVD looks great and sounds just fine. If you like the movie or just have an interest in the case, you will want to check out the DVD.


Reversal of Fortune



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 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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