The Wisdom of Crocodiles (Immortality) (1998)

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Available for Rent

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Vampire Dolby Digital Trailer-Egypt
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 94:55
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Po-Chih Leong
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jude Law
Elina Löwensohn
Timothy Spall
Jack Davenport
Colin Salmon
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Rental Music Orlando Gough
John Lunn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    As best as I can tell, this is the first film made outside of Hong Kong by the director, Po-Chih Leong who, along with a number of actors that each do an excellent job, has brought us a very interesting although somewhat quirky film. The back cover has the pivotal quote that the film is based on at the top:

"It is the wisdom of crocodiles, that shed tears when they could devour".

    To place this quote into a slightly larger context from Francis Bacon's (1561–1626) Essay on Morals: Of Wisdom for a Man’s Self

"Wisdom for a man’s self is, in many branches thereof, a depraved thing. It is the wisdom of rats, that will be sure to leave a house somewhat before it fall. It is the wisdom of the fox, that thrusts out the badger, who digged and made room for him. It is the wisdom of crocodiles, that shed tears when they could devour. "

    While this film could be called a vampire film, the mythology is all its own. Yes, the main character requires blood for survival but there the similarity to well-known mythologies ends. This is a torn man, as in one way that the above quote can be interpreted, he requires blood and the death of his victim, but unfortunately his affliction requires that he search for someone that truly loves him, and that he kill them. Part of the mythology is that the emotions are present in our blood as chemicals - when he feeds he draws in not only nourishment but also the emotions of his victim. He hopes and searches for a woman that will love him without reservation - he believes that the blood of such a woman would release him from ever having to feed on blood again. The catch is that it is most unlikely that a woman would fall in love with him without he himself committing his own feelings to the relationship.

    There are two main arcs to the story. Our protagonist, Stephen, and his search for love and blood is the first main story arc. The second is the interaction between Stephen and a police officer investigating the murder of a young woman, one that was the girlfriend of Stephen at the time of her disappearance. The film does manage to build some real tension towards the climax as you really don't know which way each of the characters is going to turn, and it will have you on the edge of your seat. The characters are surprisingly real and are brought to life with great skill by our actors. I think this is part of what builds the tension so well - you become involved with the characters and worry about them. I was particularly drawn by the portrayal of Anne by Elina Löwensohn, a wonderful mix of strength, vulnerability and innocence.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Unfortunately, we have yet again been the victim of a pan and scan drive-by. The film starts out at 1.85:1 (letterboxed) , its original aspect ratio, but at 4:03 it changes to 1.33:1. To rub salt into our wounds, the back cover claims this to be the original aspect ratio.

    The sharpness varies throughout the film. The opening 1.85:1 section is at one end of the scale, with quite good definition, but once we change to 1.33:1 it starts to go downhill with some scenes positively blurred. Motion in particular is blurred with some very fast moving objects simply disappearing. Shadow detail is not too bad but there is a fair amount of low level noise triggered by the ever-present grain. This is particularly evident in the darker scenes such as at 48:24.

    While there are no bright splashes of colour, probably intentional in a film of this tone, the colours are accurate as are the skin tones, although both again are slightly affected by the grain.

    There are no major MPEG artefacts but the transfer does suffer a little from the compression required to fit it onto a single layer. There is some posterization (4:57) and minor blocking in the same scene, particularly on the woman's face. She is moving quickly at the time and the background is changing quickly as well so this represents the worse case. There is no aliasing or telecine wobble and film artefacts are restricted to the grain.

    The subtitles are very comprehensive and include audio cues for sounds as well. At one stage the subtitles show some dialogue that really can't be heard over the noise of a large machine.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There is a single English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack on this disc with the surround flag set.

    Dialogue quality is good throughout except for the piece of dialogue that I wouldn't even have known existed had the subtitles not rendered what was being said. No matter - it is only an incidental piece of dialogue.

    There are no problems with the audio sync.

    Music is used sparingly in this film and is simple but quite effective.

    The surrounds do contain some ambience and the music when present. They are not overworked but add to the atmosphere.

    The subwoofer does not really get much to do in this film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    A simple 1.33:1 menu with a montage of images from the movie as the backdrop. There is no audio and the trailer and subtitles selections are on the top menu. The only sub menu is a chapter selection menu.

Theatrical Trailer (1:12)

    Strangely presented at 1.41:1, the trailer is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It is a series of clips from the film interspersed with text-based questions such as "Can you resist him?" - a little over-dramatic for my taste.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This film was released in Region 1 under the title of Immortality and has everything that we missed out on.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    This gives us a clear Region 1 winner.

Summary

    I found this an intriguing film with some fresh takes on the vampire theme. While certainly not a classic, it is well worth a look if you get to the video shop a bit late and all the new releases are out. It was interesting to see Jude Law, who played one of the androids in A.I., in a film that still has impact but is not in danger of being charged with emotional battery.

    The video quality is disappointing.

    The audio is functional but a little boring.

    There are no real extras.

 

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Saturday, June 07, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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