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Dobermann, the leader of a dangerous gang of bank robbers is targeted by a corrupt police official at their underground partying fortress spot, a transvestite club called Jo Hell.
For more about Dobermann and the Dobermann Blu-ray release, see Dobermann Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 2, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Tchéky Karyo, Monica Bellucci, Antoine Basler, Dominique Bettenfeld, Marc Duret
Director: Jan Kounen
» See full cast & crew
Dobermann Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 2, 2009
Yet to be officially released in the United States, Jan Kounen's hyper-violent and once very controversial "Dobermann" (1997) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal-France. The disc contains a newly remastered high-definition transfer of the film personally supervised by the director. Amongst the extras on the disc are two audio commentaries, an exclusive interview with director Kounen, deleted scenes, trailers and more. Not English-friendly, Region-B "locked".
The more things change, the more they stay the same…for English speakers looking for a proper release of Dutch director Jan Kounen's cult Dobermann, an utterly violent and vulgar film based on a series of novels by Joel Houssin. Ever since Dobermann was first screened in France in 1997, English speakers have been hoping to get a deserving release. But, aside from the disturbingly poor DVD the now defunct UK label Tartan produced, no one else has dared touch the film.
In the United States, Dobermann has been practically banished. The major studio that owns the rights to the film has shelved it, finding it easier not to deal with it rather than possibly defend it, if it was released, in the eyes of those who – believe me, I have absolutely no doubts about this – will immediately slam it for its stripped of political correctness narrative. Frankly, I find all of this rather ironic. And to be perfectly clear, it is not because I believe that American viewers are missing on a terrific film, but because I am firmly convinced that the more the studio holding the rights to Dobermann denies it a proper release, the more kids will want to see it, and hype it even more to other kids for all the wrong reasons. Those of you familiar with Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale (2000) and its history in North America know exactly what I mean.
Here's the plot: Yann a.k.a Dobermann (Vincent Cassel, Le pacte des loups ) is the leader of a gang of freaky goons – a perverted priest (Dominique Bettenfeld, Atomik Circus - Le retour de James Bataille), an emotional drag queen (Stéphane Metzger, Demain la veille), a dim-witted giant (Antoine Basler, La guerre dans le Haut Pays), a sex maniac (Pascal Demolon, Il y a longtemps que je t'aime), a gypsy guitarist (Ivan Merat-Barboff, Le dernier chaperon rouge), and a trigger-happy junkie (Romain Duris, L'auberge espagnole) - who are planning to rob a bank. He is always accompanied by his mute, stunningly beautiful, gypsy girlfriend Nat (Monica Bellucci, Irréversible). The gang hits the bank, leaves a few bodies behind and disappears. A sadistic fascist cop, Cristini (Tchéky Karyo, Nikita), immediately vows to capture Dobermann. He corners him and his gang in a large fetish club. A mind-boggling shootout ensues.
Dobermann is a flashy film, one that lacks substance. Its style, however, is what separates it from similarly themed films. It is incredibly fast, shockingly violent and vulgar. Frankly, there are few taboo subjects in it that have not been at least partially exploited by director Kounen and his team. Unsurprisingly, this was the primary reason why Dobermann quickly earned a cult status amongst teenagers in Europe.
As expected, the critics felt very uncomfortable with the film's message. I remember director Kounen had to answer plenty of questions after Dobermann was released in French cinemas. As it often happens in such cases, his film received far more publicity than it rightfully deserved. Eventually, things went back to normal and nowadays practically everyone agrees that Dobermann is exactly what its creators wanted it to be – a hilarious spoof on pop culture with all of its excesses.
Another factor that convinced many that Dobermann was worth seeing was Bellucci and Cassel's reunion in front of the camera. Only a year earlier, they had appeared in Gilles Mimouni' L'appartement (1996), a terrific thriller that went on to win the BAFTA award for Best Film not in the English Language. At the time, the couple's relationship was followed closely by the European media.
Dobermann Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jan Kounen's Dobermann arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal-France.
This newly remastered HD transfer has been personally supervised by director Kounen. As a result there are some notable improvements over what the black coffret offers (this is the SE DVD release of the film, which has been available in Gallic territories for quite some time now) – contrast is much more convincing, detail strong and clarity good. I see that the color-scheme has also been addressed. Greens, reds, blues, grays, blacks and whites are richer and better saturated. The blacks in particular are far more prominent on this HD transfer. During the final thirty or so minutes, the blacks are much more stable; on the SDVD release, they looked blocky. This being said, I noticed a bit of noise reduction during some key scenes. Elsewhere, the healthy film grain has been preserved. I noticed a bit of mild-edge enhancement as well. The macroblocking issues that plagued the SDVD release, however, are nowhere to be seen. The actual print is in terrific condition. Those of you who have been exposed only to the Tartan SDVD release will have a difficult time believing that they have seen Dobermann before – the amount of information the HD transfer reveals is incredible. Finally, I did not detect any overly disturbing debris, specs, scratches, or dirt to report in this review. (Note: Unlike what some French sites have announced, this disc is Region-B "locked". Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free player in order to access its content).
Dobermann Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, the disc contains only optional French HOH subtitles.
The French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is near flawless. It is incredibly potent, pleasingly active and well balanced. The bass, especially during the final thirty or so minutes of the film, will undoubtedly test your audio system. It is loud, deep and very strong. The surrounds are also used tremendously well. The first time the cops hit the fetish club, you could literally feel the empty shells falling on the floor. This being said, the high frequencies are certainly not overdone. The dialog is also crisp, clean and very easy to follow. Balance is not an issue either. Aside from two scenes, where I felt that the bass was perhaps a tad too strong, the rest of Dobermann has been mixed very well. The soundtrack, a collection of techno and electronica tunes, blends well with the dialog. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing, pops, clicks, hissings, or dropouts to report in this review. The French subtitles must be activated from the main menu. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame. Please note that Universal have used different colors for them – yellow, white and red.
Dobermann Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Making-Of – this is the old Polygram International piece that has been available on previous French releases of the film. Director Kounen, cast and crew members talk about the film while we are given an opportunity to see how many of the most violent and controversial scenes from Dobermann were shot. (PAL, 21min)
Interview with Jan Kounen – an exclusive, long and very informative interview with the director where he talks about what expired him to film Dobermann, what its message is, etc. (PAL, 24 min).
Commentary with Special Effects supervisor Rodolphe Chabrier – a few quick comments addressing some of the special effects in the flm. (PAL, 3 min)
Never Scenes –19 deleted and unedited scenes with an optional commentary by director Kounen (PAL).
Le Dob multilingue – a collage of scenes dubbed in Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese, Hungarian, etc. (PAL, 7 min).
Trailers/teasers – two teasers and a trailer for the film. (PAL)
Audio Commentary by Jan Kounen, Vincent Cassel and Tchéky Karyo -
Audio Commentary by Jan Kounen, Joel Houssin and B. Brunet -
Dobermann Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
English speakers are once again out of luck! At least for now, it seems like Dobermann will remain exclusive to the Gallic markets. Considering who owns the rights to the film in the United States, as well as the fact that a local release wasn't even considered during DVD's most glorious days because of the film's politically incorrect tone, I think it is fair to say that all eyes are now on the United Kingdom (an Australian release is highly unlikely). So, keep hoping!
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