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Apt Pupil (1998)

Ian McKellen , Brad Renfro , Bryan Singer  |  R |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ian McKellen, Brad Renfro, Joshua Jackson, Mickey Cottrell, Michael Reid MacKay
  • Directors: Bryan Singer
  • Writers: Brandon Boyce, Stephen King
  • Producers: Bryan Singer, Don Murphy, Jane Hamsher, Jay Shapiro, John Ottman
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 13, 1999
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0767821599
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,410 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Apt Pupil" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Making-of featurette

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro star in a dark drama about a sixteen-year-old honor student who recognizes an old man living in his hometown as a hunted Nazi. Compelled to reveal the secrets of his death camp past to earn the boy's silence, the German fugitive derives a sinister scheme to implicate the teenager in a dangerous psychological game.

At the top of his game, Stephen King has a real gift for mining monsters--zero-at-the-bone horror--out of everyday faces and places. Adapted from a novella in the 1982 collection that also spawned Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil looks at first as if it might draw authentically enlightening terror from the soul-cancer that makes blood relations of a Southern California golden boy (Brad Renfro) and an aging Nazi war criminal (Sir Ian McKellen). Turned on by a high-school course about the Holocaust, Todd Bowden (such a bland handle for this top-of-his-class sociopath!) tracks down Kurt Dussander, a former Gestapo killer hiding in the shadows of sunny SoCal. Blackmailing the old man into sharing his firsthand stories of genocide, the teenager trips out on the virtual reality of the monster's memories. There's perverse play here on the way a kid hungry for knowledge can bring a long-retired teacher or grandparent back to life. Truly superb as James Whale in Gods and Monsters, McKellen brings subtlety to this Stephen King creepshow: his dessicated Dussander is like a mummy or vampire revivified by Todd's appetite for atrocity.

Considerable talent intersects in Apt Pupil: It's director Bryan Singer's first film since The Usual Suspects, that enormously popular, rather heartless thriller-machine. The outstanding cast also includes David Schwimmer as a Jewish guidance counselor pathetically impotent in the face of Todd's talent for evil, and Bruce Davison as Todd's All-American Dad, lacking the capacity to even imagine evil. And the story itself has the potential for gazing into the heart of darkness right here in Hometown, U.S.A. But Apt Pupil just turns ugly and unclean when it trivializes its subject, equating Holocaust horrors with slamming a cat into an oven or offing a nosy vagrant (Elias Koteas). Reducing the great spiritual abyss that lies at the center of the 20th century to cheap slasher-movie thrills and chills is reprehensible. Both Todd and the writers of Apt Pupil should have heeded the old saw: When supping with the devil, best use a long spoon. --Kathleen Murphy

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When you dine with the devil, take a long spoon January 29, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This movie quickly disappeared from the theaters, which is really too bad, because it's an excellent film. Those reviewers who disliked it because it didn't have enough "Stephen King" have missed the point. Good horror doesn't always depend on lots of supernatural gore. Sometimes the most frightening things are the terrible possibilities we find within ourselves -- if we dare to look. Much of this film consists of psychological games, but that doesn't make it any less terrifying. If you have ever wondered how ordinary good citizens (like yourself???) could have ended up serving the Nazi genocide machine, then this movie is a chillingly real answer. An excellent study in how seemingly moral people can be manipulated by fear and seduced by power.
What starts out as an honor student's curiousity about a dark chapter in history soon degenerates into cruelty and manipulation on both sides. The student begins by blackmailing an old Nazi war criminal into telling him all about the concentration camps -- and that means EVERYTHING -- or else he will turn him over to the authorities. The old Nazi, fearing arrest, complies. But the boy soon goes beyond curiousity, as he begins to enjoy having absolute power over another human being. At this point, the student is the sadist, and I actually found myself feeling sorry for the old man. But wait -- the Nazi still has a few tricks up his sleeve, and the tables are soon turned... To tell you more would be a spoiler. Just remember: when you dine with the devil, the spoon is never long enough.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick Study October 18, 2005
Once upon a time many years ago, a fictional French baroness smirked as her paramour pronounced his undying devotion to his Lady Fair: his dedication to her, his wonderment in the face of her not inconsiderable charms. His---Love.

To which she replied, tartly: "Love---I don't like the word 'Love'. I prefer the word 'Cruelty'.

So do I. And so does the world, if the genocide raging through Africa is any kind of case in point. We live in a world where terrorists ram planes into skyscrapers because of grievances, and the question raised by our 'elites' is not "how do we destroy these barbarians", but rather a whining, sniveling "why do hey hate us?"?

Is not Cruelty, then, our due?

The real question is not why the Holocaust happened, but, in the words of Max von Sydow's artist in "Hannah and her Sisters", why it doesn't happen more often. "Apt Pupil" is one of the most harrowing, horrifying, repulsive films I have ever watched.

The blood doesn't flow like claret and the gore doesn't cake the walls, but a warning: "Apt Pupil" is not for the faint of heart.

That said, Singer has an exceedingly subtle touch with distills one of Stephen King's best short stories into an engaging and particularly nasty piece of cinema that bores deep into the fundamental cruelty that feeds and nourishes human evil.

Tod Bowden (played with understatement and sublime nastiness by Brad Renfro) is a high school student who discovers that an elderly German man---who might just be an infamous Nazi war criminal---is living in his quiet Southern California neighborhood.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterfully executed! July 16, 2005
Based on a Stephen King novel, `Apt pupil' directed by Brian Singer tells the story of a hunted Nazi who is identified by a sixteen year old student. The student rather than reporting to authorities his discovery, attempts to blackmail the old man: he won't tell anyone if he tells him stories from the dead camp he was in charge of.

This incredible thriller takes some surprising twists as the story unfolds. The acting is superb, Ian McKellen as Dussander (the Nazi fugitive) and Brad Renfro deliver some of the most disturbing sequences of the film, from the stories being told by McKellen (excellent flashback scenes) to the sequence in which he wears the Nazi uniform again, the performance delivered by these two actors is one of the highlights of the film.

A story of how evil may present in the less expected ways and how a teenager falls under the clutches of the Nazi killer he thought he had under control. The directorial style of Singer is all over the film, the score composed by John Ottman is the perfect complement in some of the key scenes. Some of Singer `regulars' are here on brief cameos and there is the special appearance of David Schwimmer (even though he tries to portray a serious character, the stigma of Ross Geller won't leave him) Bottom-line, an excellent thriller filled with surprising twists, excellent sequences from the Nazi's dead camps and a shocking ending.

The DVD comes in both Widescreen and Full screen versions. Special features in the DVD are a `making of' documentary, cast and bios and the theatrical trailer. English 5.1 and Dolby surround available with subtitles in English only.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars History and storytelling April 7, 2000
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
Presently working on "History in Stephen King's books", I am studying, in great details, The Dead Zone and Apt Pupil. Insofar as the books and the films are concerned, The Dead Zone is marvellous, because the film does not in any way distort the book. Cronenberg has done a beautiful job. The film gives a visual dimension to the book and hence enriches it in a way. But with Apt Pupil, there are so many twists and changes that the book is difficult to recognize in the film. We do not find the progressive and absolutely total degradation of both Mr Denker and Todd. Todd does not kill vagrant people in the film. Mr Denker only kills one wino. He even fails with the cat. The boy, Todd, is not cornered as he is in the book, cornered by his conscience and by the police and his guidance councelor, as he is in the book. He becomes vicious but his degradation is far from being finished and he can survive and even prosper in our society with his new agressive domineering attitude. He might even be seen as a winner. In the book he is a loser. We lose the essential lesson: to get involved with those crimes, at a certain age, if it is not done with care and distanciation, in a discursive way, with aware adults, it leads to degradation because evil is catching and there is no remedy, no medicine to cure it. I guess that we can maybe enjoy the film, if we do not know the book, even if the swiftness of the film erases most details and most dark corners in the tale. I definitely prefered the book. Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, Paris Universities IX and II
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As advertized
Published 14 days ago by larry combs
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Glad to have found this movie. Came out a long time ago. So it was a great find
Published 16 days ago by RONDA
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I Liked the movie.
Published 20 days ago by Robert M Squires
5.0 out of 5 stars APT PUPIL. Goes the whole marathon!!! Excellent
What to say about this beaut?. A masterpiece in every aspect. All of the actors put there 101%, & the director of course. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Antreas
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great teaching movie
Published 2 months ago by Adrian Howe
2.0 out of 5 stars Apt Pupil-great acting, flop of a screenplay
Stephen King's collection "Different Seasons" contains 3 novellas that have been made into movies. Read more
Published 2 months ago by J. Frazee
5.0 out of 5 stars An important and powerful movie with the bonus of hanving Brad Renfro...
A powerful and important film. Well written and well acted by Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro.

As a bonus, Brad Renfro looks hot and terrific in his nude school shower room... Read more
Published 2 months ago by William Lance Lenon
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Chess Match
This film is basically a chess match between a master player (Ian McKellen) who is a Nazi and now living as an American (Otto Denker) real name Kurt Dussander who votes, His... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Al Rubin from Southfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent item
Published 3 months ago by James T. Bain
3.0 out of 5 stars A Beefy Concept That Ultimately Boils Down to Just Hot Air
Ian McKellan is a Nazi war criminal hiding long-term in suburban America. Four decades after the war, a bright high school student with a fascination about WWII marks him on a bus... Read more
Published 3 months ago by drqshadow
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