MICHAEL CAINE CLASSICS Deadfall The Magus Peeper CINEMA CLASSICS COLLECTION Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year/Length: 324 minutes Genre: Drama & Comedy Aspect Ratios (widescreen enhanced): Deadfall 1.66:1 The Magus, Peeper 2.35:1 Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English 2.0 mono English 2.0 stereo Spanish 2.0 mono French (The Magus only) 2.0 mono Subtitles: English, Spanish Film Rating: PG, R (Deadfall) Release Date: October 17, 2006. Collection Rating: / Continuing with the success of the Cinema Classics Collection, Fox has unveiled three new anticipated releases: The Michael Caine Classics. This collection includes Deadfall, The Magus, and Peeper. Each disc is available separately rather than in a set, but I’ll guarantee you’ll want each of these treasures. In Deadfall, Michael Caine is Henry Clarke, a recovering alcoholic and a retired jewel thief. With an intention of leaving the sins of his past behind him, he’s intrigued by an offer by a beautiful but mysterious woman named Fe Moreau. The details are unravelled as she takes him back to her mansion where he discovers her husband Richard wants to hire Henry for a jewellery heist. Henry is known to be the best and he’ll pay to have him. But that isn’t all: Richard is gay despite being married to Fe, and in her affectionless marriage she wants to become romantically involved with Henry. This is my favourite title of the lot and highly recommended. In a mind twister of fantasy vs. reality, all becomes blurred in the shocking thriller The Magus. Caine is Nicholas Urfe, an English school teacher who accepts a position in Greece. What he didn’t know before his arrival was that he was replacing a man who mysteriously committed suicide. But life in the ancient land is about to become mystic when he meets the magician Maurice. This wacky character seems to like hiding his identity and playing the all-knowing superior. At first Nicholas is taken aback by his behaviour but returns when he asks and the two develop a friendship enshroud in mystery. As time goes on, Nicholas is pulled into Maurice’s world of violent and bizarre mind games that leaves him clinging for the fight of his life! Peeper is the hilarious spoof of the film noir genre in which Caine is a private eye who is hired to locate a long-lost daughter of a wealthy man. During his best detective work he comes across many strange and eccentric people but the missing daughter still doesn’t turn up. But when he meets the very strange Prendergast family, he believes that one of the daughters is the missing girl but which one is it and how does he prove it? If you aren’t a film noir fan this title will most likely bore you with its gags appearing one after the other. Those who understand and appreciate the film noir era for what is was will most likely get a kick out of this movie. Each disc is packaged in a keep case with a chapter stop paper on the inside. DEADFALL: VIDEO QUALITY / THE MAGUS: VIDEO QUALITY / PEEPER: VIDEO QUALITY / Deadfall is decidedly the best looking of the three titles. The widescreen enhanced 1.66:1 picture boasts consistent colour, contrast, and sharpness for its age with little, if any, film artefacts. Edge enhancement is absent as well compression artefacts. The only downfall to the picture is its age. It has a much more muted look when compared to modern films but that shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment of this good-looking disc. The Magus appears at bit different sporting a much more colourful image but it’s also a bit problematic. Immediately noticeable is the lack of definition in the image. It’s true that the film looks free from most major artefacts, but it looks like the image has undergone significant noise reduction giving it a finely blurred look on an 8-foot wide screen possibly to cover up fine film grain.. What’s worse is that it seems some edge enhancement has been applied after the noise reduction just to give the impression of a bit more definition. It’s hardly acceptable if that’s the case and I’m just reporting it as it appears. Also distracting are ghosts that appear along the top and bottom “black bars” of this 2.35:1 picture presentation. Each bar seems to ghost three times over…so go figure…I haven’t seen this on any title in a long long time… The other Michael Caine titles do not have this artefact. Peeper, the last title in this collection, also doesn’t have the same high class as Deadfall. With warmer than usual skin tones and weak shadow detail, this picture is resolution strapped with its efforts. The filmmakers did film in lower light situations at some points in the film to give it the dim look necessary for the noir feeling, but in the end the quality of the original production is probably what limits the performance of this DVD presentation. The aspect ratio is a surprisingly wide 2.35:1. I’m surprised a narrower ratio wasn’t selected to mimic the look of these early films. DEADFALL: AUDIO QUALITY / THE MAGUS: AUDIO QUALITY / PEEPER: AUDIO QUALITY / The quality of the audio varies widely between releases. They are all limited-range mono recordings with a newly created stereo mix that is still essentially mono (just with a bit more center width). Deadfall’s soundtrack is good but not great. It does suffer from a wobbled sound that can be heard especially on the strings of John Barry’s acclaimed soundtrack. The pitch seems to flutter just ever so slightly, but noticeable enough to be heard. Dialogue is not always matched to the lips and is frequently surrounded by hiss. While not quite equalling the wider frequency range of Peeper, the sound is not as lean as the soundtrack for The Magus - it often sounds brittle. SPECIAL FEATURES / Each disc has a small assortment of features, all enhanced for widescreen televisions: Deadfall includes: isolated score and SFX track. The score is mono and much louder than the film. I didn’t notice any special effects on this audio option. I’m sure they are there I just didn’t listen long enough for them. The John Barry Touch: The Music of a Master (19.04) – is a featurette including John Barry, Author Eddie Fiegel and screenwriter/director Bryan Forbes. Theatrical Trailer - Not very good looking. It’s 4:3 and riddled with composite video artefacts. The Magus includes: John Fowles: The Literary Magus featurette (22.44): feature his biographer and other fans discussing his literary works. Original theatrical trailer Peeper includes: A Conversation with Peter Hyams featurette (8.43) Peeping in on Noir featurette (17.50): is a discussion of the film noir genre and the whys and hows of the director getting involved with this project. Original theatrical trailer IN THE END… Available on DVD for the first time, these Michael Caine classics look and sound their best on DVD and I consider them an excellent addition to the DVD collection. Mike Osadciw October 27, 2006.