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Apt Pupil

Ian McKellen , Brad Renfro , Bryan Singer    DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 77.88
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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


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:DVD
Director Bryan Singer seems fascinated by the dense blackness that comprises the unpleasant side of the human psyche, and he has built a reputation on creating films that explore those darker facets of mankind. Fans will not be disappointed, then, by APT PUPIL (1998). It is a riveting but disturbing fictional thriller that deals with the real-life subjects of evil and the Holocaust, the latter being a topic that is often regarded as too sensitive and controversial for all but non-fictional works. With APT PUPIL--which is based on a Stephen King novella--Singer actually uses the Holocaust as a backdrop for his exploration of the ease with which evil can take root in even the most prosaic of locations in the everyday world. And to a lesser degree, the film is also Singer's comment on the strong influence that an authority figure can have on shaping the worldview of a naïve and eager disciple.
In the film, an American high-school honor student (Brad Renfro) who is fascinated by the history of WWII--specifically the Holocaust--discovers that an elderly German émigré (Ian McKellen) living in the neighborhood is actually a hunted Nazi war criminal incognito, and the clever boy is able to gather enough evidence of this fact that he could easily expose the old man's true identity. But instead of turning his data over to the authorities, the boy uses it to muscle the elderly gent into sharing the details of the atrocities he committed during the war--details that "they're afraid to tell us about in school."
Of course, the old Nazi is outraged, but he also knows he's been trapped. So he ultimately resigns himself to the situation, and detailed stories of heinous actions he does tell.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen King Tackles the Holocaust Dec 2 2003
By OoOoOoO
Format:DVD
This is the story in which Stephen King Tackles the Holocaust, a dangerous and difficult topic at best of times, an explosive one if it is not handled well. But the King of Horror pulls it off with great skill, sensitivity and panache. A uniquely insightful psychology thriller about an aged SS officer living under an assumed identity in idyllic American suburbia, whose true identity was discovered by a teenager and who was subsequently 'blackmailed' into telling the youth his true-life experience as a death camp commandant in Poland. Stephen King handled this potentially difficult subject with his usual consumate skill at managing the dramatic, and the director skilfully translated this on-screen with a relentlessly masterful control of the build-up of plot tension. This is the best, and like the very best of DARK chocolate it is also very dark and bitter. One of the better on-screen treatment of the Master of Horror, Stephen King. A remarkably keen-eye and un-preachy treatment of the issue of ex-Nazis and their subsequent lives living incognito amidst their arch-enemy, America. If one is interested in this topic one should also watch MOTHER NIGHT (1996, starring Nick Nolte) for a dramatic adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's 1961 novel of the same title.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating study in evil.... Nov. 10 2003
Format:DVD
The third film spun from a book by Stephen King (the others being Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption), Apt Pupil is adapted with skill from the book by director Bryan Singer.
The story centers around an intrepid young suburbanite who tracks down an elderly Nazi war criminal in his neighborhood. The teenager, Todd, (played by Brad Renfro) at first has the older man where he wants him and humiliates the Nazi Kurt Dussander (played masterfully by Sir Ian McKellan) and forces him to give him graphic accounts of his crimes, always hanging the evidence he has against him as the "sword of Damacles" over his head. However, through an interesting series of events, the teenager's school troubles result in a stunning reversal of fortune for Todd and he is forced by Dussander to do his bidding. All of the while, Todd is slowly becoming like the evil Dussander whom he despises and is facinated with. Todd's strange evolution from a pigeon killer to a cruel blackmailer and murderer is stunning.
David Schwimmer also has a great role as Todd's hapless guidance counselor Ed French. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool enemy of the TV show Friends, but Schwimmer's performance was excellent and gave me a newfound respect for him as an actor.
While most alterations of books in the translation from page to screen are almost always for the worst, the film version significantly alters the ending of the book for a vastly improved effect. The book ends in a typical Stephen King-esque gory way. The film's conclusion is more in-line with the subtle and creepy tone of the entire book and is much better than the book's ending.
The bottom line is that this is a vastly underrated movie (much like the Shawshank Redemption when it first came out in theaters) and another great adaptation coming from a Stephen King book (makes me wonder when someone is going to put out "The Breathing Method" on film).
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4.0 out of 5 stars It's best to let the past remain in the past Oct. 2 2003
Format:DVD
Based on a book by Stephen King, 'Apt Pupil' is a movie that is as fascinating and entertaining as it is disturbing. Sometimes it is wiser to let the past remain in the past, as high-school student Todd (Renfro) finds out. After studying the Holocaust in school, Todd personal research leads him to former Nazi concentration camp commander Kurt Dussander (McKellen), who is living in his neighborhood. Todd threatens the old man with exposure as a war criminal unless Dussander tells Todd all his 'stories', 'everything they're afraid to show us in school'. Thus began Todd's unusual relationship (though never friendship, as Todd's motives were neither friendly nor sincere) with the ex-Nazi officer. Soon things began to spiral out of control. Dussander had been living as a recluse before Todd's interference, but now Todd had triggered off Dussander's memories, with deadly consequences. Todd's morbid fascination with Dussander led him to treat Dussander as a stooge, buying him a SS Officer uniform as a Christmas gift and making Dussander march at his sadistic command. Not one with a kind heart in the first place, Todd kills a pigeon with a broken wing at his school gym, has a nasty confrontation with his well-meaning best friend and displays other behavioral changes after being haunted by Dussander's 'stories'. Dussander tries to kill a neighbor's cat, Todd's grades slip, Todd makes a deal with his guidance counselor, the friendly neighborhood tramp witnesses Dussander donning the SS uniform and the plot generally thickened and grew more intense. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Awesome movie and fast shipping :)
Published 1 month ago by Lacey
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this movie
This movie is one of the best I have ever seen it is so believable you cannot guess for one second right up to the end what is going to happen.
Published 18 months ago by Nath
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense movie
Dear Seller

Thank you for delivering this DVD. The story, which I had read in "Different Seasons" by Stephen King, is very intense. Read more
Published on April 28 2010 by Diane St-denis
4.0 out of 5 stars "Well today I am going to tell you story about an old man.."
This movie was not a horror movie like the preview might stimulate it as being but it is more of a dark drama, until the middle when it starts going into the thriller genre. Read more
Published on May 27 2004 by R
1.0 out of 5 stars Implausable.
'Apt Pupil' was half decent until the ending, where the resolution of the story was ridiculously implausable. Read more
Published on April 10 2004 by Dhaval Vyas
4.0 out of 5 stars DILATED PUPIL
Buoyed by the marvelous performances of Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro, APT PUPIL, Stephen King's expose on the horrors of the Holocaust, manages to entertain and provoke thoughts of... Read more
Published on April 9 2004 by Michael Butts
2.0 out of 5 stars A poor adaption of a great story
As usual, it seems like the director never reads the book. We all rented this and were disappointed up to the end. Read more
Published on March 27 2004 by Johny Bottom
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest stories ever
This is one of Stephan King's best stories that was turned in an ok movie. The story was more graphic and the ending was much better, but this is an excellent movie all the same. Read more
Published on March 25 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Pathetic Adaptation
There sometimes seems to be an instinct among moviemakers to try and sanitise the stories they adapt from disturbing books - a sort of attempt to reach the greatest number of... Read more
Published on May 28 2003 by Wallace Kantai
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