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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
The Emperor's Club (2002)

The Emperor's Club (2002)

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Released 1-Sep-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Theatrical Trailer
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Kevin Kline,Emile Hirsch Rob Morrow(Act.)MichaelHoffman(Dir)
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Easter Egg-2
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 104:16
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michael Hoffman

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Kevin Kline
Steven Culp
Embeth Davidtz
Patrick Dempsey
Joel Gretsch
Edward Herrmann
Emile Hirsch
Rob Morrow
Harris Yulin
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music James Newton Howard

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
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 No

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

Plot Synopsis

"Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance.

What will your contribution be?"

    At first glance it would be easy to write this film off as an imitation of the Peter Weir classic Dead Poets Society. You almost expect one of the characters to shout out the famous line; "Carpe Diem - Seize the day". The trailer even makes it appear a similar film, and while the two draw a parallel in having an inspirational teacher at the heart of its story, that's pretty much where the similarities end.

    Long time visitors to this site will know that Kevin Kline is my favourite actor, hence my main reason for taking a look at this film which came and went from the cinema screens quite quickly back in March or April of this year. Kline is one of the truly great actors of his generation, effortlessly able to play the full range of characters, from heart-wrenching dramatic roles right through the acting spectrum to the most difficult genre of all - comedy.

    In The Emperor's Club, Kline is in tremendous form as teacher William Hundert. Hundert teaches classic Greek and Roman history to a group of boys attending the prestigious St Benedict's school on the east coast of the US. He has been teaching for many years and prides himself on his ability to shape and mould the character of the young men who pass through his classroom. "Walk where the great men have walked" and "How will history remember you?" he tells his boys among a hundred other such inspirational lines. The first part of the film is told as a flashback to the early 1970s. The year is 1972 and a new student arrives late to the first class of the semester taught by Hundert. Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch) is the spoilt son of a US Senator, a boy who is confident, brash, ill disciplined, and an instant bad influence for the well-drilled boys in the class. And yet he's also a magnet for some of the others, getting them into trouble and generally bringing the school into disrepute. Bell refuses to toe the line in class and is heading for failure, but after some intervention from Hundert and a strong word from his father, the competitive streak in him is suddenly ignited and the troublesome boy finds the desire to succeed.

    The goal for all the boys each year is an annual contest, a series of tests and exams, designed to celebrate the top Roman and Greek history student. It culminates in the top three boys battling it out in a stand-up quiz in front of the whole school with the winner earning the title of Mr Julius Caesar.

    Bell strives for one of the finalist positions, and after tallying all votes from the written tests, Hundert is a little disappointed to see Bell has placed fourth and missed a chance at the quiz by only one mark. But in a momentary lapse of ethical reasoning which will linger with him for years, Hundert reassesses Bell's final exam and changes his mark, thus elevating him to third position and a chance at the Mr Julius Caesar title. This is obviously to the detriment of the boy that originally finished third.

    I don't want to say much more in case I spoil the best parts of the story. Bell takes part in the quiz of course, but not all goes to plan and some of the decisions made by both student and teacher will linger for a generation. The story does follow a fairly obvious and conventional trail for the first two acts, but the last act digs a little deeper into some ponderous ethical questions which we all face in our lives. Just how do you measure success, what are you willing to do to get that success and are you prepared to live with the consequences. In a delicious piece of irony, the group of boys effectively mirror the makeup of the Emperors of Rome (hence the title I guess). Some were good men who applied the democratic process fairly. Others manipulated and murdered to get their way and were motivated by great personal ambition. Most notable of that latter group was -- Mr Julius Caesar himself.

    This is a beautifully photographed film that is rich and vibrant in colour and is coupled with a rousing soundtrack and a fine performance from Kevin Kline. I enjoyed it immensely.

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Transfer Quality


    Apart from one grumble this is a very nice transfer that is colourful, vibrant, and sharp.

    It is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, modified slightly from the theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is detailed, sharp, and clear, with a little edge enhancement noticeable early on. There are no problems with shadow detail and only the barest amounts of grain on some of the interior walls in the background. There is no low level noise.

    The colours are very nice indeed. The bright, vibrant and exquisitely manicured gardens and exteriors of the St Benedict's school grounds scrub up extremely well, as do the bright crimson blazers worn by the students. Blacks are deep and solid, and skin tones perfectly natural. The cinematography captures the manicured and high attention to detail look of an affluent school on the east coast of the US.

    I saw no MPEG artefacts and there is no annoying shimmer or aliasing on any surface. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for film artefacts. For a film that was only made last year, the occurrence of various white and black spots and flecks throughout the entire running length is quite disappointing. The most obvious examples occur at 4:24, 16:48, 16:50, 35:16, 40:14, and 49:56.

    English for the Hearing Impaired are the only flavour of subtitles available, and after sampling these extensively I found them quite accurate and nicely presented.

    This is a dual layered disc which is formatted RSDL. The layer change occurs at 66:13 which is not exactly the best placement for a layer change, being mid scene and quite obvious and disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    While we don't receive the dts soundtrack that is featured on the Region 1 version, the sole Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which graces this disc is still very, very nice. It offers a wide soundstage, albeit with only a little surround channel use, but it is the width of the dynamic range that is the most impressive element of this soundtrack. Despite being a dialogue focused film, the level of bass reached on occasion is quite impressive, particularly from the score.

    Dialogue is excellent and there are no audio sync problems.

    James Newton Howard's score is a little obvious at times in its efforts to tug the emotional heartstrings, but it is a full bodied and at times rousing score that is highly enjoyable and complementary to the film.

    There is only a little surround use, but it really isn't the type of film to benefit from an over-the-top enveloping experience.

    Somewhat surprisingly, the subwoofer is used extensively. The score offers up several instances where there are deep rumbling bass notes. These are handled really well and added something special to the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Dolby Digital Trailer - Rain

Theatrical Trailer

    A very nice trailer that runs for 2:21 minutes. It is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but is not 16x9 enhanced. It does not give away any of the key plot developments, but does tend to make the story appear more like Dead Poet's Society than it really is.

Interviews-Cast & Crew

    A series of five interviews with cast and crew, very much in the EPK style of promotional product. Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, and Rob Morrow talk about their characters, their thoughts on the script, and working with each other. Hirsch must have been filmed early in the shoot, as he seemed completely unsure of his character's personality. These are all quite brief, with running times as follows:

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Extensive biographical and selected filmographies for the main cast, director and writer.

Easter Egg

    There are actually two Easter eggs present, although both are only trailers for other Kevin Kline films. Have a hunt around and you will find trailers for In & Out and Life As A House.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version picks up a few additional extras that we miss out on, but from the reports I have read, the actual transfer suffers from the same number of film artefacts as our disc. There is also a full screen version available in Region 1. From all accounts the aspect ratio of the Region 1 disc is the same as theatrically presented at 1.85:1 and not the slightly modified 1.78:1 that we receive.

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on;


    I always enjoy watching Kevin Kline in action, and for this reason The Emperor's Club did not disappoint. There are similarities to Dead Poets Society, but the film also sets out to pose some tricky ethical questions about the choices we make. Questions about success, how we achieve it and at what costs are lessons that we should all take notice of.

    The video transfer is quite good, save for some annoying film artefacts in the form of dirt and scratches.

    The audio lacks the dts soundtrack available on the Region 1 version, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 effort here is still rather good. The use of bass in the score is especially interesting.

    The extras are very basic and not a patch on the Region 1 version.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Saturday, August 23, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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