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  • Belphegor – Phantom of the Louvre

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 9th, 2002

    Overall
    Film
    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    (out of 5)

    Another recent big-budget French production to hit these shores, this, along with Brotherhood of the Wolves, makes for an interesting comparison with American blockbusters.

    Synopsis

    A sinister mummy case is discovered in a disused vault of the Louvre. The expedition that originally found the mummy was decimated, and now the mysterious deaths begin again. Living across the street from the Louvre is Sophie Marceau (most recently seen by North American audiences in The World Is Not Enough), wh… is possessed by the spirit of the mummy. This possession makes electrical appliances behave oddly when she is near, and wreaks havoc with her budding romance with Frédéric Diefenthal. The challenge for our heroes is not only to stop the deaths, but to find out exactly what it is the Phantom wants.

    Though the climax is both confusing and anti-climactic, and the editing is sometimes disorientingly choppy, this is, for the most part, a hell of a lot of fun. Though frequently humorous (in no small measure thanks to some quite sparkling dialogue), the film never plays its menace for laughs, and comes across more often than not as the kind of film that The Mummy could have been.

    Audio

    The music sounds terrific, and the sound effects aren’t too shabby either. The surround mix (presented in both 5.1 and 2.0) is solid. We aren’t quite in a total environment, but we’re pretty close. There is the occasional buzz with some of the dialogue, but it is rare. The English dubbing isn’t bad (Sophie Marceau and Julie Christie, at least, appear to have done their own dubbing), but there is that unavoidable flatness endemic to dubbed soundtracks, with the voices clearly detached from the other sounds in the scene. The original French is infinitely preferable.

    Video

    The colours, especially during the day scenes, are sumptuous. The flesh tones are good, if sometimes a bit pale, and the blacks, while not bad, aren’t quite perfect either. There is no grain, however, and the format is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The layer transition, however, is disastrous, freezing rapid action. Would it have killed them to time this just a bit better?

    Special Features

    The menu is basic, and, apart from the trailer (available both in French and weirdly stilted English), the primary extra is a 55-minute making-of documentary, which you can watched straight through or by individual chapters (there are eight parts). While basically promotional material, there is still a fair bit of information packed into the doc, as it covers performances, technical aspects, and the origins of the film, tracing the story back to its pulp fiction origins. The documentary is in French only with no subtitles.

    Closing Thoughts

    The film is tremendous fun, but it should be noted that this release is primarily aimed at French-speaking audiences. The English dubbing is acceptable, and the translations are pretty accurate, but the dubbing still makes the performances seem more stilted than they are, and there are no subtitles of any kind available.

    Special Features List

    • Theatrical Trailer (English and French)
    • Making-Of Documentary
    Posted In: 2.35:1 Widescreen, Canadian Release, Disc Reviews, Dolby Digital 2.0 (English), Dolby Digital 2.0 (French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), DVD, Horror, TVA International

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