DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Counterfeit Traitor

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Jul 12, 2004.

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  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    The Counterfeit Traitor



    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 1962

    Rated: NR

    Length: 140 Minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English remix, Dolby Digital English Mono (restored)

    English subtitles

    Special Features: None

    S.R.P. $14.99 USD


    Release Date: July 13, 2004




    Eric Erickson (William Holden) is an American and a naturalized Swedish citizen and oil trader in World War II era Sweden. It’s a great place to be for an oil man, since Sweden’s neutrality allows him lucrative trade with the Germans.

    At the start of the film, we find that Erickson’s name has appeared on a list of Nazi sympathizers in America, and he’s been blacklisted by the Allied powers. He becomes further dismayed to find that British Intelligence officers were responsible for the listing, and offer to get him off the list in return for some help from the trader. Ericson’s frequent travels to Germany under the banner of Swedish neutrality makes him a valuable commodity in the intelligence community.

    Erickson is the ultimate reluctant spy, taking on the job only to save his name and his business from ruin, brought on by the very spies he must work for. To make his role as spy even more convincing, he must play the part of Nazi sympathizer - losing his wife and Jewish friend in the process. Still, his reluctance diminishes over time, as he witnesses first hand the horrors of Nazi rule.

    This film is based on real events, and is one of my very favorite spy movies - riveting from beginning to end.

    Video
    The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is anamorphically enhanced. The print shows its age a bit, via a moderate amount of dust and scratches - while it definitely could have benefitted from more cleanup, it doesn’t look bad.

    Colors are slightly muted and warm, and some blacks have a slight brown tint to them - I imagine that this is more of the age of the source print showing through. There is good contrast, overall, and a fair degree of sharpness - though it appears that there has been some filtration. Some details are lost in shadows, on occasion. There is minor ringing around high contrast edges, only truly noticeable during the title sequence.

    Grain is moderate throughout, as it most likely was in the original elements.

    It is always difficult to rate a transfer of an older film. Without knowing the condition of surviving elements, one can never be sure of how good a transfer could be. My guess is that most of the defects in the transfer are due to the deteriorating condition of the surviving prints used. I suspect that this transfer is, for the most part, faithful to the elements available.



    Audio
    Occasionally, a 5.1 remix of a mono source is done and actually delivers a pleasing aural experience. This is one of those times.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on this disc is very nice, offering up good frequency response, including a good deal of bass. Music is opened up nicely, and is the chief benefit in this mix. The track is clean and hiss-free, and seems quite natural, despite its monaural origins. It is surprisingly well done.

    The original mono track has been restored, and also sounds very good. Clean and hiss free, with good frequency response, dialog sounds clear and music sounds good (though I prefer the 5.1 track, in this respect).

    No matter which track you choose, it won’t disappoint.

    Special Features
    There are no special features.

    Final Thoughts
    This is a remarkable film, highly recommended to fans of the spy genre. Since a transfer to DVD can only be as good as the source, I’d say the transfer is adequate - displaying the defects of the print. I’d like to have seen a more serious restoration done on this film, but I’m thrilled to have this title on DVD in any form.

    Recommended.
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    As stated, the transfer is adequate and there is moderate grain throughout the video presentation, but I'm a happy camper to finally have this title in its OAR. After sampling, I chose to watch the entire dvd in it's OAF.






    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    Scott, you say the 5.1 remix opens up the music but is the music stereo or is it mono spread across the channels. I'm a great fan of Alfred Newman's music and would like to have clarification on this point before purchasing.
     
  4. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    as am i.
    this one almost slipped by me when Martin let loose with the schedule- i'd only caught the film on cable midway in and the title didn't register until i looked it up.
    a FANTASTIC movie.
    can't wait to sit down with this
     
  5. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    Well I have now bought this and so I can answer my own question! The music obviously IS genuine stereo and sounds great. Paramount obviously went back to Alfred Newman's original stereo music tracks to do a 5.1 re-mix for this film which played in mono theatrically.
     
  6. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    just watched this last night and the 5.1 track sounds wonderful.
    this is really well done.
    however i did notice a few problems.

    a line from Bill Holden is dropped early on in chapter 2 (he is pouring a drink and turns around to see 'Memphis' tacking up designs for the refinery and his lips are clearing mouthing something along the lines of "what is that?" is absent on the audio.
    at another point, the scene does a slow fade to black with the music swelling and the music abruptly cuts out for a second or two- very odd.

    but then even with these problems i found the audio to be miles better than the video.
    i hate to say it, but for me, this is clearly a very disappointing looking disc.
    the visuals have numerous problems, the biggest being what looks like mis-registration.
    hopefully someone who knows more about this can fill me in- because i wouldn't think that a 3 strip process was used on a film like this in 1961- but the qualities of the image are so consistent with the appearance of mis-registration
    -a color fringe along objects that looks in some ways like EE (although there is also a separate EE problem at times)
    - very wacky variations in the color tempeture of a scene at certain points (as if the values of one of the separate CMY elements faded or darkened and threw the color balance off).
    i don't know how anyone could not see this and comment on it.
    it seemed very noticeable and distracting to me.
    - another problem apparently from this mis-registering is that detail, especially in the middle and backgrouds, is very hard to make out.

    taken as a whole, it looks just ok.
    it is sadly one of the weakest looking 60's era titles from a major i've seen that has at least been 16:9 enhanced.

    i don't want to say all this in an effort to dissuade anyone from seeing this film, and it would be a real shame if they pass it up because of this- it's a spy movie that is refreshingly about adults and engages the spirit and the intellect in a way that all the cartoon crap of the last several decades would never comprehend.
    the moral quandaries the film touches on, i found to be more dynamic that a dozen cgi/stunt sequences.

    great movie, great price point- and while the video is not as good as i would have hoped for- i don't really blame Paramount. apart from some clear EE in a few scenes, the fault is with source and not the transfer.
    to me it looks like Paramount went the extra mile with the audio, because they were just as disappointed with what they had to use, and short of an unlikely full blown, expensive restoration, this might be as good we'll get.
     

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