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Case Number 00021

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Apt Pupil

Sony // 1998 // 112 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Kathy Leach (Retired) // May 26th, 1999

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All Rise...

The Charge

If you don't believe in the existence of evil you have a lot to learn.

Opening Statement

Stephen King has been my favorite horror writer for many years, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when I learned his Apt Pupil novella was being made into a movie. Unfortunately, no movie based on a Stephen King work has ever come close to equaling the intense, nail-biting feeling I get while reading it on paper. But, Apt Pupil certainly came much closer than previous movies.

The Evidence

Here's another great transfer from the folks at Columbia. It is 2:35:1 anamorphic transfer that offers outstanding picture quality. The color saturation is right on the money even in low light scenes. The images were nicely detailed, as well as crisp and sharp. It had no inherent graininess that I have noticed in a multitude of discs that I have watched. Hats off to Columbia for supporting anamorphic widescreen transfers. Yeah, yeah…I know there are a lot of people out their who claim that an anamorphic disc has downconversion artifacts on a 4x3 screen, but this phenomena is something I have never witnessed. This, in turn, leads me to believe that some people just want something to bitch about. Okay, I'll jump off my high horse now and get to the film.

Apt Pupil centers around 16-year old honors student Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro) whose interest in the Holocaust is piqued in his sociology class. Thus begins his perilous journey to seek out the hideous truth behind the fences of the infamous concentration camps. He becomes entranced by the untold stories of this hellish part of history—and his sick fascination grows. One rainy night while riding the bus, he glances over at another passenger, an older gentleman. After a second look, he realizes that this person is possibly a Nazi war criminal living in his own town. Instead of consulting the police, Todd begins a mission of his own to determine if his suspicion is true. He takes photographs of the gentleman to compare to earlier photos of war criminals and, finally, dusts his mailbox for fingerprints. In the end, Todd's suspicion is confirmed. His neighbor is Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen), a concentration camp leader and escaped Nazi war criminal. Todd confronts Mr. Dussander with a file he has built confirming his identity, and demands Dussander tell him the stories that they are "too afraid to tell in school." If Dussander refuses, Todd will send the file to the Israeli government. This is where we begin to see the true evil that lurks in Todd's mind.

The most chilling scene in the movie is when Todd presents Mr. Dussander with a gift. This gift is a Nazi SS uniform that he ordered from a costume shop. Mr. Dussander is horrified when Todd asks him to put it on, but relents for fear he will lose his freedom. This scene leads you to believe that he has remorse over the past atrocities he committed against humanity. But, as he begins to march in the kitchen, you see the evil that once lay dormant in the dark recesses of his mind begins to come alive again. This leads to a grotesque scene near the end of the film where Mr. Dussander calls upon Todd to take care of a problem in the basement before calling an ambulance to transport him to the hospital because he is having a heart attack.

I don't want to spoil the end of the movie for anyone. Let's just say you won't be disappointed. You will get thrills and chills as the old man and teenager jockey for control over each other. You will also come to realize how sick and twisted Todd's mind really is.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

My only disappointment with this disc is, of course, Columbia's lack of extras included. They only included a "making of" featurette and trailer. Again, I am thrilled with their support of anamorphic transfers, but their lack of extras can keep me from buying a disc of an otherwise decent movie.

Closing Statement

Apt Pupil is a good film and definitely agrees with its genre as a drama and thriller. It kept me on the edge of my seat and had me cringing at some points when I realized how deep evil can lurk in some people.

The Verdict

Acquitted on all counts except for lack of extras—$500 fine.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 85
Extras: 10
Acting: 75
Story: 75
Judgment: 67

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror
• Mystery

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailer
• Featurette


• IMDb

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