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DVD Review: BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN

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BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 108 minutes

STUDIO: United Artists/ MGM/SPHE

RELEASE DATE: 10-4-2005

"He was a very stupid man. A patriot, of course... very brave... During a war, such men earn medals, win victories... we are proud of them. But at such a time as now, a little bit stupid"- Colonel Stok

Harry Palmer has a special place in my heart. The Ipcress File and Funeral In Berlin were two great Cold War thrillers starring Michael Caine. Bullet To Beijing and Midnight In St. Petersburg showed what Harry was doing in Russia after the collapse of Communism. The BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN falls in the middle of those two sets of films. It is an infamous film that was never released in the USA on VHS, but now it sees life again on DVD. BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN is mostly complete except for 45 seconds had to be edited out due to that it contained a Beatles song (those pesky high costs that music publishers ask).

BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN is the third film in the Harry Palmer series starring Michael Caine and the last theatrical film (the next two films were made for cable movies). BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN is like a Harry Palmer movie on crack. It is the oddball entry of the series. The most bizarre movie with Harry Palmer. Also it injects much more humor than what were in the other four movies. The movie is still very entertaining with a beautiful music score by Richard Rodney Bennett.

Harry Palmer is a failing private detective in London. MI-5 wants him and even will pay him 300 extra Pounds a year. After his visit from Colonel Ross (of MI-5), Harry gets a strange computer voice phone call. he is to deliver a package to Helsinki where he gets 200 now and 200 more on delivery. He scans the package to see what is in it with a crude X-Ray machine. Instead of meeting the man he was supposed to meet, he is met by Russian spy Anya who works with Leo Newbigen (Karl Malden). Leo recruits Palmer into a crazy organization headed by General Midwinter, a loony Texas oil baron who thinks it is his duty to free countries from Communism starting with the country of Latvia.

BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN is an odd Harry Palmer film that is still like the other films in some ways while trying to be a little different. It looks at the war on Communism in the 1960s through a little satire. If you love the other Harry Palmer films and you haven't seen BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN, buy it (or rent it if you can find it at your local video store). I'm glad I finally seen this one. It lives up to the first two entries in the series.

"You know, it's an extraordinary thing but I have the feeling you don't like working for me."- Colonel Ross (to Harry Palmer).

VIDEO: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen), 1.33;1 (Full Frame)

Yes, the DVD is a dreaded flipper. One side contains the widescreen version of BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN while the other side has the dreaded Pan and Scan version. The widescreen version is the better one of the two because you see all of what director Ken Russell shot while the Full Frame loses up to 60 percent of what he shot in each frame of the movie. A little print damage does show with the occasional speck of dirt. Film grain is present. Colors and shadow values are good. The transfer is a little soft looking. The shadow values are terrible on the Full Frame version.

AUDIO: English 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English, French

The dialogue, music, and sound effects come through very clearly. However it is a mono track with no surround action at all.

EXTRAS: No extras for this film at all. It would have been nice to have an audio commentary from director Ken Russell or an expert on the Harry Palmer films. Not even the original theatrical trailer is on this DVD. The only extras are for other MGM films on DVD.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Finally the wait is over and the BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN makes it debut on DVD. If you liked the other Harry Palmer films, it is a must-see and a must-own.

this DVD Review is (c)10-18-2005 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content (and news/updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia