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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English - Hearing Impaired
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 8 Cast/crew biographies
  • 5 Interviews
  • Filmographies
  • Dolby Digital trailer

The Emperor's Club

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 104 mins . PG . PAL


Following in the footsteps of many great teaching films before it like Dead Poet’s Society, Mr Holland’s Opus, Stand and Deliver and High School High... okay, that last one was a pop quiz to see if you were listening – comes The Emperor’s Club. Following a slightly different bent to those other great works, this film starts out with the same regularity that the others do. It takes us just long enough to get settled and open our books to page 98, for the film to take us in an unexpected direction.

"Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated and drunkenness sobered, but stupidity lasts forever."

Kevin Kline plays William Hundert, a devoted history teacher much admired by the staff and students at St Benedict’s. When a new pupil arrives – a pupil who turns out to be the rebellious son of the state Senator – Hundert is challenged beyond his capacity to reach him. What follows is an exploration of the will to succeed and the costs that will can incur if desirous enough of the outcome. The student, Sedgwick Bell (Emile Hirsch), becomes a sort of protégé to Hundert and Hundert soon finds within him a conflict as his own beliefs are tested within the context of trying to help this boy. Told mostly in flashback, the events that take place between these two in 1972 impact upon events today as a reunion brings to light information unknown at the time.

Kline is magnificent, giving his usual calibre of quality acting to the role of Hundert, using his unique ability to make us forget every other role he’s ever played while he’s within this one. Ably supported by a stable of young male actors and Embeth Davidtz (Bicentennial Man) in a rather tacked on love story, Kline’s performance is the hub upon which the whole film turns.

What appears at first as just another teacher movie becomes a good story and due to its unusual angle on the usual theme, treads new ground in the teacher/student literary. The tension between Kline and Hirsch is well played by both, creating an almost stifling atmosphere between them, even though they’re working toward similar ends. Engaging and acute, this is a well made, tense and not overly dramatic interpretation of a dramatic series of events.


Released in 2002 we would expect fabulous picture quality, particularly as released by Roadshow, and this we get for the most part. Presented in 1.85:1 with 16:9 enhancement, the only real failings (and minor they are) are in some slight grain in interior shots and a just off razor transfer. The grainy interiors are very rare and only in poorly lit night scenes and perhaps only twice in the whole film, so it’s no biggie.

There are occasional instances of film artefacts, but these are very small and fleeting. Flesh tones are natural and even, regardless of the colour and on that subject, colours are all nicely balanced and well saturated. Shadows lean toward deep on occasion, but for the most part they are detailed and blacks are true to life.


A classic Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer, nicely rounded out with clarity and resonance befitting such a recent film. Dialogue is well clipped and neat without any distortion or slurring and the very limited sound effects are also nice and clear. Music is really well scored here, too. This has been produced by James Newton Howard and it fits very nicely with the film’s story. Never overshadowing or submissive, it is even and well balanced throughout.


Well, the case makes it look like we get plenty, but we really don’t. Firstly, and I don’t consider this an extra by a long chalk, but when we hit play we get one minute of advertising from a prominent movie theme park I’m not going to mention. That’s pretty disgusting if you ask me. Don’t we buy DVD so as to avoid advertising? Thanks a lot. And on top of that there’s the Dolby raindrops trailer, good start! At least we can fast forward them.

Anyway, then comes the trailer in 1.85:1 without enhancement that runs for 2:20. This is also a bit misleading with an unused (in the film) voiceover by Kline in it. It also contains some spoilers, so check it out after the film.

Next up are several cast and crew interviews. These are delivered in a text format with the answer then spoken by the interviewee. These run for over 16 minutes and include Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, Rob Morrow, director Michael Hoffman and author Ethan Canin. Not bad, with the highlight being the author speaking. Hardly anyone gets the author involved in the promo stuff and it’s good to see. More power to writers (and reviewers)!

Eight cast and crew biographies follow and these are all text, naturally. Included are a couple more actors on top of that previous list of interviewees and they also include filmographies which is a nice touch. Well, except for Ethan Canin. He’s not made any other films.

Finally, there are two easter eggs included, though both are just trailers for other Kevin Kline vehicles.


Kevin Kline is always a great actor and puts in such a well-crafted performance, it’s hard not to like his work. The Emperor’s Club has been well made and has a few surprises, whilst the transfer has been accomplished very nicely by Roadshow (as usual). Some valid performances from the supporting cast of young fellas fill out the story, but the one disappointment of the film is the very thin ‘love story’ which just isn’t necessary to the story overall. It was probably stuck in there so we didn’t have to look at the nearly entirely male cast for 104 minutes. Anyway, Embeth Davidtz does her best with what little she gets and does add something, if only a female presence. An interesting take on the school teacher genre and one that will find itself a lasting rewatchability factor, regardless of its sleepy delivery.

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      And I quote...
    "Kevin Kline is at his usual best in this quiet story of moral choices and the will to succeed."
    - Jules Faber
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