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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Espionage > Thriller > Korea > Horror > Slasher > Thriller > Mystery > Giallo > Italian > Supernatural > The Berlin File (2013/CJ Entertainment DVD)/The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970/VCI Blu-ray)/Devil's Pass (2012/MPI/IFC Midnight DVD)/Insidious, Chapter 2 (2013/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Name Of The

The Berlin File (2013/CJ Entertainment DVD)/The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970/VCI Blu-ray)/Devil's Pass (2012/MPI/IFC Midnight DVD)/Insidious, Chapter 2 (2013/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Name Of The Game Is Kill (1968/aka The Female Trap)/The Night Visitor (1970/VCI DVDs)

Picture: C+/B/C+/B- & C+/C/C Sound: C+/B-/C+/C+& C/C/C Extras: C/C+/C-/C-/C+/C- Films: B-/B-/C-/C-/C/C

Here is a group of old and new thrillers you should know about...

Ryoo Seung-Wan's The Berlin File (2013) is the big surprise here, a spy thriller from Korea that is not just a Martial Arts exercise with an incidental spy background, but one from the director of the decent City Of Violence (reviewed elsewhere on this site) about a case that manages to cross and entangle the CIA, Mossad, Russians, North Koreans and South Koreans in a well thought out tale of assassination, betrayal and the technical heisting of billions of dollars from the North Koreans as its longtime leader is replaced.

That leaves us with a ghost agent (Jung-woo Ha as Pyo) who has to juggle new enemies, old enemies, friends turning on him and maybe even his wife betraying him in a 2-hour romp that never gets boring and avoids most of the problems similar Hollywood features in the genre keep running into. Smart yet realistic with solid action sequences, this should be a much bigger hit in the U.S. where someone sooner or later is going to try to remake it. It is so good, I expect a sequel.

Extras include a Making Of featurette and Deleted Scenes.

Next we have the latest release of Dario Argento's The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970) which we are now reviewing for the fourth time and in its second of 3 known Blu-ray editions to begin with. You can read about the film and its now out-of-print Blue Underground Blu-ray edition at this link:


I still think the film is interesting, holds up and has Argento's style in total, plus Tony Mustaine just passed away, so it was a bonus to see his fine performance here in a newly transferred version. We'll get to more of the technical details on this one below, but fans should know this is an edition to get ASAP.

Extras for this version include the Original Theatrical Trailer and the Original Music Score by Ennio Morricone in uncompressed PCM sound separate from the film, but as if it were its own album release.

Rennie Harlin's Devil's Pass (2012) is the action director's belated entry into the found footage, mysterious disappearance cycle that has been one of the worst in recent decades. This time, some college students (who seem a bit airheaded) get a financial grant (how!?!) to investigate how many decades ago, a group of Russian men disappeared in the Ural Mountains in 1959. Why no one questions the wisdom of doing this or why there has been a lack of investigation for 54 years is moire logic out the window, but here they go and they are dragging us along with them.

Predictably, things do not go as planned, hey joke too much on their video cameras and this starts to especially look like a really bad rehash of Romero's very disappointing Diary Of The Dead (reviewed elsewhere on this site) but the eventual twists and turns are so lame that it is as if the writers jut threw in anything and the effects people overcompensated. Instead of rooting for any killers, you'll fall asleep.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Director Harlin & Producer Kia Jam, a Making Of featurette, Original Theatrical Trailer and Deleted Scenes.

James Wan's Insidious, Chapter 2 (2013) is a very boring, obvious, lame, tired and supernaturally predictable sequel to the 2010 original film and a cousin of the also flat and dull, yet profitable The Conjuring from earlier this year (both reviewed elsewhere on this site). Like its predecessors, instead of torture porn, we get potentially supernatural horror, but it only happens on occasion with the audience expected to read the would-be terror into the ultra lightweight scripts.

Patrick Wilson is back with Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey as the Lambert Family just cannot seem to leave their house or the horror it contains. Like the other films, there is plenty of potential in the cast and situation, but any actual story is very thin. The fact that the new film is dubbed a chapter shows even the makers know the actual screenplay could barely fill a chapter of a small novel. They are yawning their way all the way to the bank.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while both format version have two Making Of featurettes, but the Blu-ray adds two more, 3 webisodes tied to this bore and Work In Progress: On Set Q&A with lots of boring Qs and just as many forgettable As.

Gunnar Hellstrom's The Name Of The Game Is Kill (1968) is one of those curios like the original Willard or Medak's Negatives that you cannot seem to find, but VCI has gained the rights and a print (from superfan Joe Dante) so the film is finally available. A few years after he was the first Felix Leiter in Dr. No (1962) and just as he was about to start his long run on the original Hawaii 5-0, Jack Lord plays a Hungarian guy (complete with an accent he could have used on the original Mission: Impossible) who gets a ride from a gal and lands up at her family's home.

But something strange is going on there and he is unaware of it at first. When he tried to leave quietly not suspecting anything is wrong, something bad happens to him, but he is dumb enough to return just the same. Logic is not a strong point of the screenplay, but oddity is and there are some wacky and unintentionally hilarious moments here, thanks in part to co-stars Susan Strasberg, Tisha Sterling and Marc Desmond. A fitting music score by Stu Philips is a plus and though this one does not always add up, it is worth a look for any serious film fans and especially horror and thriller fan. I had not seen this in eons, so the surprises were fun all over again.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Screenplay Writer Gary Crucher & Daniel Griffith, Rare TV Spots, Extensive Promotional Gallery, an Interviews Gallery, a Making Of featurette entitled Psycho's Sister and Schlockmeister: Joe Solomon On Reels about the Distributor and Producer who originally released this film.

Laslo Benedek's The Night Visitor (1970) attempts to make a smart thriller out of Ingmar Bergman elements including several veterans of his films on a tale about a man (Max Von Sydow) sent to a mental institute for being an ax murderer, but the real story may not be as simple. He escapes to get back at those who crossed him, but in a way that makes those holding him think he is in the asylum so when and if they complain, they'll seem like they are losing their minds. Liv Ullmann, Per Oscarsson, Trevor Howard, Rupert Davies and Andrew Keir round out a decent cast.

Unfortunately, the film produces more atmosphere than suspense or thrills, but it has some good moments and is an interesting change of pace for all. I like the look of the film and how odd it tends to be, so we have here a potential cult item. Henry Mancini also helps with an original music score that keeps the film moving.

A Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the Bird and Insidious Blu-rays are the best two visual performers here as expected, but Insidious has more weakness than expected throughout and lands up not being able to match or outdo VCI's fine restoration of Vittorio Storaro's work from a film that is now 43 years old and counting. The transfer can at times show the age of the materials used, but it is a Techniscope shoot and will have more grain than expected. The big question is, how does it compare to the out of print Blue Underground version?

For starters, it is superior to all previous DVD versions, as well as the controversial 2 X 1 Univisum revision Storaro did himself as issued on Arrow U.K. Blu-ray and DVD, which cut off the sides, took too many liberties with the color and sadly (sorry, Mr. Storaro) ruined the compositions. This is a scope film and should be seen as such. One of the reasons besides extras the Blue Underground version is valuable is the transfer, but I can say with great certainty that this VCI Blu-ray can more than compete with that edition.

When compared to each other, color and frame area are very similar, but in some shots, the color and clarity on the VCI are better than the Blue underground version, then in others it is the opposite. There is a four year difference in the releases, but VCI has some of the rich representation of a Chromoscope (Eastmancolor) 35mm print version of the film you would expect from such a print. Like both very much, but now, fans do not have to get the more expensive version to enjoy the film. Only a very expensive restoration would produce better results in either case.

The anamorphically enhanced DVD of Insidious is weaker than either Blu-ray, but not as soft and awful as it could have been, yet the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the RED EPIC-shot Berlin and anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on the digitally-shot Pass can more than match I on DVD with consistent image quality, even if it can be softer than we would have liked. Berlin would benefit best from a Blu-ray release and could edge out Insidious in a match-up.

That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Kill (from an unrestored print) and 1.33 X 1 (miscredited as anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1) on Night as the poor performers, though both have fine Directors of Photography (Vilmos Zsigmond on Kill, Henning Kristiansen (Babette's Feast, Peter Brook's King Lear (1971) on Night) with both possessing great character. They need HD upgrades down the line and deserve them.

As for sound, Insidious has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix here mixed down from its Dolby Atmos 11.1 release, but you would never know that since the dialogue and other sounds that should be across at least the front channels are all too often coming from the center channel. What were they thinking? As a result, the PCM 2.0 Mono on Bird actually sounds better and more consistent throughout and the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on Berlin and Pass can equal it. The same type of 5.1 mix on the Insidious DVD has the same mixdown issue and sounds worse, so the old, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Kill and Night (flaws, age and all) can compete with it.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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