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Paramount Studios presents
Dead Again (1991)

"What I believe is that this is all far from over."
- Roman Strauss (Kenneth Branagh)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: June 26, 2000

Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson
Other Stars: Andy Garcia, Derek Jacobi, Hanna Schygulla, Wayne Knight, Robin Williams (unbilled)
Director: Kenneth Branagh

MPAA Rating: R for language and violence
Run Time: 01h:47m:35s
Release Date: June 27, 2000
UPC: 097363205777
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-A-B+ A-

DVD Review

Reincarnation and karma combine with a twist in Kenneth Branagh's cross-pollination of Intermezzo and Vertigo. This stylish thriller keeps the audience guessing throughout, aided by splendid performances by Branagh,Thompson and Jacobi.

Branagh and Thompson both essay dual roles who may be reincarnations of a husband and wife whose marriage ended in murder. The present-day version ofThompson begins with complete amnesia and inability to speak, and Branaghplays Mike Church, an LA detective who is trying to help her recover her identity. Through hypnosis, it becomes clear that in 1948 they were Roman Strauss, acomposer and conductor, and his wife Margaret, a pianist, who ends upmurdered with a pair of scissors. The iconic scissors reappear again and againthroughout the film as the pieces are put together, driving a wedge betweenThompson's unnamed character and Mike Church.

The tension is driving throughout the film, aided greatly by Patrick Doyle'sHerrman-esque score, down to the bubbling bass pizzicato anchoring the trills ofviolins. We are aided in keeping straight the past lives, which are shown in blackand white, apart from the modern sequences in color. This becomes moreimportant as the film builds to a crescendo and the episodes begin to alternatequickly.

The acting is first-rate in this film, which is not surprising considering the talentsof this cast. Wayne Knight gives us his usual character that was later to be sowell-known on Third Rock and Seinfeld. Branagh splits effectivelybetween an American and a Germanic role, skipping his own British accentthroughout. Thompson is trapped in a wordless role for the first third of the film,but she does a splendid job of getting the emotions across. Jacobi steals hisscenes as Franklyn Madson, the hypnotist/antique dealer who uses hismesmeric skills to locate antique furniture. Robin Williams, as Cozy Carlisle, aformer psychiatrist now working in a grocery, gives a solid dramatic performanceliberally laced with humor.

The script is literate and intelligent and does not make the reincarnation/karmaaspects of the story too readily acceptable. There is one cliche in the climaxwhich is a little irritating (as Doran notes in the commentary, "He was shot in anot very important part of the heart"). The pacing is steady and effective,giving the viewer a sense of movement without rushing the progress of the story. This is what Brian de Palma has been trying to do with limited success: give us amodern Hitchcockian drama. It's a definite pleasure to see this film again.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic picture is sharp and clear. The transfer is a little on the dark side, but not improperly so for a film noir type movie. Little artifacting is visible. There is a fair amount of grain in the color sequences; less is visible in the black-and-white portions of the film. Colors appear natural and there is little to complain about here: we have a typically excellent Paramount transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio of the DD 5.1 track is quite good; the subwoofer doesn't kick insignificantly until the climax, giving special emphasis to it. Dialogue generally sounds natural, and not obviously looped (although the commentaries make it clear that there was significant looping). Music has good range and there is significant directionality. The surrounds tend, however, to mostly contain the score. The sound is clear and hiss-free.

The Dolby Surround track is pretty similar to the DD track, with slightly less bass extension. Either one is perfectly acceptable, though the 5.1 track is obviously recommended.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Producer Lindsay Doran and Screenwriter Scott Frank; Director and star Kenneth Branagh
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Paramount is starting to come around on special editions, it seems. We get not one, but two full-length commentaries. The first, which is highly entertaining, features the producer, Lindsay Doran, and the screenwriter, Scott Frank. We get a great many anecdotes about production and changes made during production, such as the fact that it was not until fairly late on that it was decided that the past sequences were to be printed in black and white. They reference a number of deleted scenes that would have been nice to include on this disc, if they still exist. The second commentary is occupied just by Kenneth Branagh. He has an occasional tendency to lapse into narration, but before long he gets into the spirit of the proceedings and gives us a great deal of background and philosophical information.

Unfortunately the only other extra is a theatrical trailer, but the commentaries make up for a great deal. This is an excellent followup to Sleepy Hollow;I look forward to more Special Editions to come from the folks at Paramount.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

This disc features a clever script with first-rate performances and assureddirection, a very good transfer, and two highly interesting full-lengthcommentaries. A definite buy for your DVD library.

 


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