Reilly: Ace Of Spies

Reilly: Ace Of Spies (1984)
A&E Home Video
Cast: Sam Neill
Extras: Documentary

On 4 discs, A&E Home Entertainment has prepared the British TV mini series "Reilly: Ace Of Spies" for release on DVD. Starring Sam Neill in the titular lead role this 1983 is definitely among the best TV mini series that has ever graced you screen.

Based on a real events, Sidney Reilly (Sam Neill) is a British super spy who has had an immense impact on European history. He is so notorious in fact that Ian Fleming once admitted that his fictional character of James Bond is actually based on Reilly’s exploits and personality. This, of course, should give you a sense of what to expect. And if you think real life could never be as outlandish as a James bond action adventure, you will be surprised at how inventive Sidney Reilly was as he went deep under cover to work against the Russians and Germans in the early 1900s. Code-named ST-I, it is easy to see how Reilly has inspired writers across the globe and throughout the twelve episodes that make up the mini-series you will find superb storytelling, filmmaking and suspenseful espionage action that is just as colorful as anything a fiction writer could have thought up.

Sam Neill is wonderful in the role and once again proves just how varied an actor he is. With an impeccable British accent he feels real from the first moment he graces the screen and manages to pull of the part with such bravado and cool that you will be mesmerized and glued to the screen as the story develops, spanning this man’s career.

A&E Home Entertainment is bringing "Reilly" to DVD in its original <$PS,fullframe> presentation. Unfortunately the image is a bit murky and washed out throughout. The print is free of defects but the presentation seems to have lost quite a bit of brilliance while undergoing its transformation from Europe’s PAL video standard to our NTSC format. During sweeps and fast moving objects there is a noticeable jumpiness as a result of the frame rate compensation. Image detail is fairly weak an ghosting is visible when objects move quickly over the screen, especially when they are in front of dark backgrounds. Edges are soft and blurred oftentimes and colors are also a tad weak. While all this may seem extremely distracting, I still that the film itself is of such a high caliber that I quickly began to forget about these shortcomings and found myself completely engulfed by the story.

The DVDs contain the original stereo audio track. The quality is good, but ADR produced dialogue appears a bit out of sync at times. The frequency response is generally good and natural and the presentation is without distortion. Sadly, once again, A&E Home Entertainment has not included subtitles or captions on this release. I don’t quite understand why, as the show must have been captioned at the very least for broadcasting purposes. In this day and age, I think it is a bit irresponsible to release DVDs without captions or subtitles to make sure those among us who are hearing impaired also have the chance to enjoy these films.

As extras, the DVD set contains an episode from A&E’s acclaimed "Vanishing" series, featuring Sidney Reilly. "Life Of Reilly, The Super Spy" this documentary takes a close look at the real Reilly, his work, the historical impact he has had, the times he has worked in and his mysterious final days after being captured by Stalin’s forces in 1918.

While on the technical side this release may be flawed and have some shortcomings, the actual mini-series is a true television highlight that will captivate you form the first to the last of its 630 minutes. The exploits of this larger-than-life real-life spy are absolutely amazing and the way the story is being told in this production will make you salivating for more. It is television at its very best and I am glad that A&E has been able to bring this production to DVD. Check it out!