Dead Ringers (1988)

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Released 18-Mar-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Trailer-My Beautiful Laundrette; Cinema Paradiso
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 110:44 (Case: 115)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By David Cronenberg
Studio
Distributor
James G. Robinson
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Jeremy Irons
Genevieve Bujold
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music Howard Shore


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This is the third David Cronenberg film I've seen, after The Fly and eXistenZ. I hadn't expected there to be as much connection between this film and those, because this one is not science fiction, but it is just as much a horror film as those. Indeed, it is somewhat more horrifying, because it is far too credible. There's comfort to be had in thinking that the virtual reality of eXistenZ doesn't exist yet (pun intended), and likewise the teleportation of The Fly (although there are reports of an Australian team successfully teleporting a laser beam...). We cannot take that comfort here, because gynaecologists working in fertility treatment are only too real.

    Jeremy Irons is both the leading men in this film. He plays identical twins, Beverly and Elliot Mantle. They have been fascinated with human reproduction since childhood, and have been winning awards for innovation since before they graduated. They are brilliant and gifted gynaecologists. They have chosen to specialise in helping women become fertile, correcting conditions that interfere. One scene illustrates their work shown in grisly detail, replacing a faulty fallopian tube with another part of a patient's body, a femoral lymphatic something-or-other, with Beverly performing the surgery and Elliot commentating to an audience from outside the operating theatre (a theatre in more than one sense?). (Their operating garb is bright red, which seems wrong - I've seen surgeons in white, I've seen them in blue or green, but never in red - I'd have thought that red would be a poor choice, given that it is rather useful to be able to tell when the patient is bleeding...) Elliot is the outgoing one, doing the public speaking and winning over of people and grants, while Beverly is the more inwardly focused one, doing the research and surgery.

    Once we are introduced to the brothers Mantle, the events of this film begin to unfold. A woman presents herself at their fertility clinic; an actress, Claire Niveau (Genevieve Bujold) who wants to become pregnant. The twins find her fascinating, at first because she presents a medical anomaly, but later because she's an attractive woman and promiscuous. We learn that the brothers share more than a practice and an apartment. Because no one can tell them apart (they are the "dead ringers" of the title), they even share lovers, including Miss Niveau. And that's where things start to come unstuck...

    This is a disturbing and darkly effective horror story. I do not wish to spoil the story for you (hey, you should suffer as I did!), so I won't go into detail, but we watch a mind slide into drug addiction and worse, and the dreadful effects this has on another mind. There is nothing supernatural here; there are no ghoulies or ghosties, and the only things going bump in the night are nightmares (one of them quite grotesque); that's one of the reasons I found this so affecting. (Heck, I'm writing this review at four in the morning because I can't sleep - that gives you some idea, I think).

    There's a link between this movie and eXistenZ. David Cronenberg seems fascinated by tools that articulate like bones and joints. One of the surgical instruments invented by Beverly Mandel looks like a large finger, and moves like one - it suggested, to me at least, the inspiration for the gun in eXistenZ.

    Although I'm male, I found the opening credits, depicting historical gynaecological instruments and engravings, quite disturbing. Likewise some of the events in the film. Ladies, if you are about to visit a gynaecologist, especially if you are seeking treatment that might involve surgery, I strongly recommend avoiding this film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1, but is not 16x9 enhanced. That's really a shame, because this transfer could really have benefited from the additional resolution. Reports have come in that the director's preferred aspect ratio is 1.66:1, so it is likely that this disc is presented in something other than the original aspect ratio.

    The picture is mostly quite soft, with occasional moments of reduced softness in close-ups, but it's never really sharp. I suspect it has been compressed a bit too far. Shadow detail is good. There's some low-level noise evident, especially on fades to black.

    Colour is reasonable, and mostly well saturated. There are no instances of oversaturation or colour bleed.

    There are quite a few film artefacts, especially in the early parts of the film. I was wondering if this was deliberate, simulating the age of the film from earlier times (the earliest sequence is set in 1954), but it isn't - these are normal film artefacts, including spots, flecks, and the occasional water mark (4:53). There aren't a lot of aliasing artefacts, except for a sequence around 22:24, where there's a diagonal lamp moving across a background of Venetian blinds. There's no real moire, mainly because the picture is so soft. There are no significant MPEG artefacts except for a fair bit of light background shimmer.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is single-sided and single layered, so there is no layer change. This film is a little long for a single layer, and I think they've compressed it a little further than was ideal to get it to fit.

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

Audio

    The only soundtrack on this disc is English in Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded - it sounds generally monophonic. The soundtrack is rather too quiet - I had to turn it up about 8dB-10dB over my usual listening level to be able to understand the dialogue. This comes after the Umbrella Entertainment logo that opens the disc, which is presented far too loud (I have had occasion to comment on this in the past, but I hadn't noticed this was an Umbrella disc, so it jolted me again). There's noticeable background hiss, and a little distortion - I suspect these would have been much less noticeable had the soundtrack been recorded at a more normal level.

    The dialogue is clear and comprehensible, once the level is elevated. There are no visible audio sync problems.

    The score, by Howard Shore, helps develop the horror of the film by its very normalcy. The disjunction between the score and the events portrayed is highly effective.

    There is no signal for the subwoofer or surrounds. There's no need - this film is very much dialogue-driven.

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

Extras

Menu

    The main menu is static, with music behind it. It's easy to operate, although it's a bit macabre having obstetric forceps as the selection icon.

Trailers

    All we get are trailers for My Beautiful Laundrette (1:55) and Cinema Paradiso (1:28). Both trailers are presented without 16x9 enhancement. Both appear very soft and grainy, and quite unattractive.

R4 vs R1

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

    There are two versions of this movie on DVD in Region 1. The first is an Anchor Bay release, the second is from the Criterion Collection. The Anchor Bay version (which may be out of print) is virtually feature-free, like this one. The Criterion version has an interesting list of extras, including an audio commentary. Both versions are in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, not 16x9 enhanced - I have been unable to discover if this is the intended aspect ratio (if so, the R4 is incorrect). Reviews from Region 1 make it sound as though the picture quality is not especially good on either version. Without being able to compare them directly, I can't recommend either of the R1 discs over the R4, but if you want an audio commentary, your only option is the Criterion edition.

Summary

    Dead Ringers is an effective and gruesome psychological horror film, presented on a DVD that is a long way short of perfection.

    The video quality is not particularly good, and may well be in the wrong aspect ratio.

    The audio quality is not good, mainly because it was mastered at too low a level.

    The extras are irrelevant.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, June 27, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)
The DVD Bits - Damien M

Comments (Add)
Dutch version similar to the Criterion and a note on the Criterion's aspect ratio - Sam O (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
No wonder we order from overseas! - Sum Whan REPLY POSTED
Um...so where do you buy these dutch DVDs? - REPLY POSTED
Dutch DVDs - REPLY POSTED
In reply to a reply - Sum Whan REPLY POSTED
Re: Frame rates and disk space - JustB (read my bio)
and further - REPLY POSTED
Criterion version now available in Canada - capone (they're some fine antibiotics you got there..)