Reversal of Fortune (1990)

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Released 9-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 106:48
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Barbet Schroeder

Starring Glenn Close
Jeremy Irons
Ron Silver
Annabella Sciorra
Uta Hagen
Fisher Stevens
Jack Gilpin
Christine Baranski
Stephen Mailer
Christine Dunford
Felicity Huffman
Mano Singh
Johann Carlo
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Mark Isham
Josh Clayton-Felt

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Reversal of Fortune begins with a long sweeping glide across the extraordinary real estate of Newport, Rhode Island, one of the most exclusive places one could ever hope to live. Exclusive and utterly detached from the world the majority of us inhabit - a world of leisure, privilege and as we learn, sometimes desperation and unhappiness. We enter the ward of a hospital, then a room, to find a comatose woman (Glenn Close) who 'speaks' to us, narrating the story, posing questions we become increasingly interested in having answered. Thus begins one of the most fascinating whodunits ever committed to film - a slick, adult story that cleverly avoids spelling everything out to the letter, preferring instead to leave us with as many questions at the end as we begin to ponder at its beginning. This may prove frustrating to some but it is an accurate reflection of the subject material; the story is based on true events, as recalled by lawyer Alan Dershowitz (played here by Ron Silver). The title reflects Dershowitz's attempts to win the freedom of his client (Jeremy Irons, who won an Oscar for his performance), Claus von Bulow, a wealthy, European aristocrat, convicted of attempted murder. The victim? That comatose woman, the wealthy and beautiful Sunny von Bulow, Claus' wife.

    One of the many things that distinguishes this film from most of its counterparts in the legal drama/thriller genre is that we are never really sure whether Claus is guilty or not. Dershowitz and his team of law students, who madly rush to complete a submission to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, aren't sure. In fact, on some occasions they seem convinced of his guilt. He is an elusive, unlikeable character, possibly racist, certainly snobbish. He is not noticeably distressed by his wife's condition and goes as far as making rather sick jokes about it, at his own expense, whilst dining on takeaway (which he clearly views with distaste) with his legal team. He does, however, maintain his innocence and as the film progresses, proceeds to tell his side of the story - a disturbing one of that, of the decay of his and Sunny's marriage, her drug use, his affair with a seductive soap actress. Irons is simply superb in the role, imbuing Claus with a eccentric, not quite sinister charm. Glenn Close turns in yet another wonderful performance, perfectly capturing the bipolar moods of a complicated woman, always on the edge of personal disaster. I would go so far as to say it is her best performance. Silver has the most conventional role - he is the brilliant, moral, too good to be true lawyer ("Get the Jew I said," Claus' new girlfriend (Christine Baranski) says upon their first meeting, as only a wasp could) but there is some realistic interplay between he and his son and Sarah, his would be partner.

    I will not divulge the ending. Some may be familiar with the real events and know already. Let me simply say I think it rivals Hannibal Lecter's final line in The Silence of the Lambs in diabolical humour. It is a perfect end to a screenplay brimming with terrific dialogue. Something I was a little bemused to hear was Irons' line "You have no idea," after Dershowitz says to him "you're a very strange man". Interesting because The Lion King features a similar line, delivered with the same nonchalance by Irons in his performance of the villainous lion Scar. Legal thrillers influencing scripts of Disney movies - who would have thought?

    This is a fantastic movie, with wonderful performances from expertly cast actors. It ranks with Goodfellas and The Grifters as one of the finest of 1990.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This is a decent if unremarkable transfer. It is presented at its intended aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 enhancement.

    Sharpness levels are good. Shadow detail is fairly consistent although there are some scenes that are a little too dark and levels consequently suffer. There is some low level noise but this isn't a major issue.

    Colours are well rendered, with accurate skin tones and barely any bleeding or oversaturation.

    Compression artefacts are a niggling issue but one that doesn't detract too much from one's enjoyment of the movie. The opening scene is the most obviously affected.

    Aliasing occurs fairly infrequently.

    The most jarring problem is a line that splits the screen during the entire opening sequence. This is most disconcerting as the opening scene is entirely visual in character. Occasional specks of dirt also intrude but aren't too distracting.

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


    The audio is well suited to the film but is certainly not of demonstration quality.

    MGM provide us with a choice of five language tracks, all presented in Dolby Stereo 2.0 sound: English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, and accompanied by the appropriate subtitles, including some extras. I sampled the French track and listened in full to the English track.

    Dialogue is clear and precisely presented. Audio sync was not an issue. There were no detectable defects in the track.

    Unsurprisingly for a 2.0 presentation of a dialogue heavy film, the surrounds and subwoofer don't get much to do, although there is some nice added weight to the haunting score by Mark Isham.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is a solitary extra - a rather uninspiring (with the typical, early 90s voice-over) trailer presented at 1.33:1, without 16x9 enhancement.

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 release appears to be identical so our cheaper and better looking local version is a winner.


    A brilliant film then, quite unlike any I've seen before.

    Decent if a little disappointing visuals and audio.

    Only one extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Monday, September 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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