DVD Review: Primal Fear Hard Evidence Edition

Primal Fear Hard Evidence Edition DVD CioverPrimal Fear is one of the best courtroom dramas in the history of cinema. Not only does it feature great performances by Richard Gere and Laura Linney, but it also marks the debut of a talented young man named Edward Norton – some of you may know him. His startling performance earned him an Oscar nomination as the stuttering murder defendant and put him on the map as one of the best actors on the scene. Even better, Primal Fear features one of the best twist endings to ever grace the silver screen.

Needless to say, I like this movie. I like this movie a lot. And since Paramount Pictures just sent me the all-new Hard Evidence Edition, I now have two versions of the DVD.

This latest release of the 1996 thriller doesn’t offer enough bonus features to warrant repurchasing the picture, but Paramount has packaged a couple of short featurettes to accompany this amazing film:

  • The Final Verdict – this 17-minute featurette examines the making of the film, with a focus on the challenges the crew went through to get it made. Though Richard Gere was signed on to star, he almost backed out due to a lack of a convincing script. Once the script was rectified, the director and producer faced the challenge of selling a $30-million film with only one recognizable name to the studio. Furthermore, setting up the story in a way that the twist ending would remain hidden required the right mixture of acting, writing and directing. The featurette is short, but does offer some sincere interviews with everyone involved, save Gere.
  • Star Witness – Casting Edward Norton – the other 17-minute featurette on the DVD focuses on how Norton came to be casted in this role. This interesting segment of interviews has Norton talking about his experience of going into the initial audition with no expectation of landing the role through his wide-eyed realization that he’s been offered the part. This featurette offers some insights I wasn’t aware of and also offers more sincere interviews with Norton, the director and the casting director.
  • The Psychology of Guilt – this 13-minute featurette explores the legal ramifications of multiple personality disorder and whether it actually exists or not. While short, the featurette is smartly put together and tackles a lot of different aspects of the alleged disorder. It was good enough to compel me to look up the Hillside Strangler(s) and a few other serial killers who all seem to have crossed paths with my alma mater’s town, Bellingham, WA.
  • The original theatrical trailer and a commentary with the director, writer, producer and casting director are also included.

In all, there are only 47 minutes worth of raw bonus features – hardly enough to warrant an all-new edition. Yet, those 47 minutes are packed full of insightful interviews with most of the big names involved in the picture. My only real fault with the DVD is the DVD cover… the cheesy crime scene layout makes the picture look like some B-grade action flick rather a quality drama. Still, if you don’t own Primal Fear, this would be a good time to buy. The Hard Evidence Edition comes to stores on March 10, 2009, available in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats.

By Erik Samdahl
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