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Bell Canyon Entertainment presents
Guilty Conscience (1985)

"I have no idea whether anyone saw me or not."
- Arthur Jamison (Anthony Hopkins)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: April 24, 2000

Stars: Anthony Hopkins
Other Stars: Blythe Danner, Swoosie Kurtz
Director: David Greene

Manufacturer: D-Vision
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (bloodless violence)
Run Time: 01h:33m:00s
Release Date: July 01, 1998
UPC: 645961101122
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Guilty Conscience is a 1985 made-for-television thriller starring Anthony Hopkins, Blythe Danner and Swoosie Kurtz, released on DVD in 1997 by D-Vision and Essex International. It's an interesting film with solid performances, but the "guiltiest consciences" here ought to be those of the people responsible for the atrocious DVD transfer.

Anthony Hopkins stars as Arthur Jamison, a lawyer and unfaithful husband who finds himself in a sticky divorce situation. Pre-nuptial agreement notwithstanding, his wife Louise (Blythe Danner) attempts to blackmail him into a large cash settlement with her knowledge of his long history of unethical and illegal behavior. Hopkins' character theorizes obsessively about killing his wife and getting away with it, arguing possible defense scenarios against his prosecutorial alter ego (also Hopkins, manifesting as a voice in Jamison's head or as a physical presence in fantasy sequences). When he abandons his mistress Jackie Willis (Swoosie Kurtz) for another woman, she joins his wife in a counterplot.

The film is a bit confined and talky, but the dialogue is well-written (by Richard Levinson and William Link) and buoyed by the performances of its stage-veteran cast. Hopkins is in his "mature" mode here, intelligent, manipulative, and fascinating in the "argument" scenes, where he plays two versions of Jamison against each other. Blythe Danner is quietly dignified and emotionally restrained as Louise Jamison, making her outbursts all the more dramatic, and Swoosie Kurtz does good work with an underdeveloped character whose motivations are sometimes unclear.

Guilty Conscience was directed by TV-movie veteran David Greene, who seems content to let the actors tell the story with minimal technical flash. Most of the "argument" scenes alternate between the two Jamisons, with a few split-screen shots used to good effect. Lighting in the film is often harsh, with a low-budget look—many shots are unevenly lit, and conspicuous, distracting shadows fall on the walls in some early scenes.

The film's biggest flaws are structural—no clear cues are provided for the many fantasy and flashback sequences, and I had to spend some time afterwards sorting out what was intended as "real" and what was not. One badly mishandled scene provides crucial facts to the audience but is not well-integrated into the film—Jamison is apparently not privy to the information the scene reveals, but it's presented as a flashback-within-his-fantasy that caused some head-scratching on this reviewer's part. The film's "twist" ending seems logical, if a little abrupt—I actually enjoyed figuring out the film's puzzle-like structure, but casual viewers may find it confusing.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The DVD retains the film's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio as shot for television. Unfortunately, judging from this transfer, this 1985 film seems already to have been lost to the ages. The DVD appears to have been mastered from a poor quality videotape - color bleed and fuzziness are the order of the day, with a low-contrast image that I'm certain is inferior to the original broadcast. Worst of all, the image is frequently plagued by NTSC and tape-wear artifacts, including static glitches, warping and horrible swarms of black horizontal lines in several scenes. I didn't spot any MPEG-2 artifacts, but the image is so fundamentally blurry and glitch ridden that any blocking is probably well masked to the naked eye. If you've ever seen Madacy's Metropolis DVD, this is MUCH, much worse.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The film's soundtrack is presented in monophonic Dolby Digital sound, apparently mis-mastered in Pro Logic format and directed to the rear (mono) surround channel instead of the center speaker. The frequency range sounds quite narrow, with hiss throughout and a lot of warble in the occasional, clumsily edited music (probably due to the videotape source). Dialogue is clipped and "buzzy", but generally intelligible. The soundtrack fares better than the picture, but it sounds "older" than it should and has obviously not been restored or remastered in any way.

Audio Transfer Grade: D


Disc Extras

no menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This DVD is 100% Feature Free—when the disc is inserted, a copyright warning message is displayed and the film begins. It has NO opening menu, no alternate audio tracks, no cast or production notes— it doesn't even have legitimate chapter stops. I did find some "easter egg chapter stops" accessible through the DVD remote, but they're not logically placed— they're just scattered through the movie at intervals of about 11 minutes each, usually breaking in mid-sentence. The packaging on this $9.99 release is sub-par as well, consisting of a flimsy, clear plastic tray slid into a full-color cardboard sleeve. At least the box copy is honest, stating that the disc does NOT contain chapter stops or multi-language features.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

I can't recommend Guilty Conscience as a DVD purchase. Anthony Hopkins completists will find his performance compelling, and I'd give this disc a better grade if the presentation were up to standard. But the film, minor though it may be, deserves much better treatment than D-Vision has afforded it here. This bootleg-quality disc belongs at the bottom of the "Budget DVD" barrel.


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