I'm not exactly
sure when my interest in serial killers began, but I do remember
being quite the happy high school graduate when one of the
presents I opened at my graduation party was a book about Ed
Gein. There was a time, near the beginning of my college
education, that I was a double major in Criminal Justice and
Psychology with my sights set on being a Forensic Psychologist. I
can easily remember having to tell everyone on my floor (at our
first dorm meeting upon arrival to college) something interesting
about myself, and deciding that naming as many serial killers
(and their basic stories) as I could name in the span of five
minutes would be a warm welcome for the rest of the dorm. I think
I ended that speech with "I'm not crazy. I'm just very
interested." The shocked faces and open mouths prompted me
to throw in this little caveat: "You can check out all the
serial killer books in my room if you want."
Needless to say, Cold Case Files: The Most Infamous Cases
is right up my alley. The A&E show deals mostly with serial
killers and homicide cases that went unsolved for so long that
they became "cold," or were basically put on the back
burner until some new bit of evidence would prompt the
investigators to open the case back up. Often times, the
introduction of a new technology (e.g. DNA evidence) brings a
whole new perspective to these cases. And often times, it is this
new technology that ends up being the determining factor in
apprehending a suspect (after all those years) and proving that
suspect's guilt. It is this fascinating lapse in time that makes Cold
Case Files such an interesting show. The fact that no one
could find the evidence and make the connections to bring these
killers to justice for so long makes it all the more miraculous
when the investigators finally do track the suspects down.
providing complete "seasons" of Cold Case Files,
A&E has rather opted to spread this DVD release over two
discs and provide "The Most Infamous Cases." Although I
wouldn't completely agree with these ten particular cases being
"The Most Infamous," I will say that A&E has chosen
a very good batch of stories for this release. Four of the ten
episodes are of the 45-minute variety, while the rest clock in at
26-minutes, and it is these four longer episodes that are the
best of the bunch. At their longer runtimes, the four longer
episodes give their stories a little bit more room to breathe,
and Bill Kurtis and his crew seem to dig just a little deeper in
these tales. Most people are familiar with the stories of
"The Green River Killer" and "The Zodiac
Killer," but these two episodes are about as in-depth as you
could possibly get with these cases. They detail just about every
little nuance of the stories (and some that even I had never
heard before seeing these episodes). This is when the show is at
its very best; by bringing new light to a subject that people
have been hearing about for years and years. "Killer in the
County" and "Kidnapped," however, are not to be
dismissed as they use their 45-minutes to fully detail stories of
homicide that most people have never before heard.
The longer episodes are clearly the most detailed and intricate,
but that doesn't discount the value of the shorter episodes. Some
tales simply don't require as much time to tell, and many of the
shorter episodes on this DVD are just as interesting as the
longer ones. "Weepy-Voiced Killer" is an excellent
profile of a man that just couldn't bring himself to stop
killing, and instead, basically begged the police to catch him.
"Frozen in Time" starts as a story about a missing
women and a stolen Ryder truck, and ends up with a body found
frozen in a freezer in that very truck. And "A Map to
Murder" shows how the police find a killer by locating the
computer he used to print a map off an internet site. Not every
episode, however, is just as great. "Love Triangle,"
for instance, ends up being a bit clichéd and simply not
interesting enough to warrant inclusion as a "Most Infamous
Host (and Producer) Bill Kurtis is at his most charismatic as he
provides the narration for every episode of Cold Case Files.
He even shows up on screen to introduce a few of the more grisly
tales. Cold Case Files is proof-positive that it is not
only Kurtis's instantly-recognizable voice that makes him a
valuable asset to A&E, but it is also his depth of knowledge
and dedicated interest in his subject. The ten cases on this DVD
release are varied and intriguing enough to warrant at least a
few repeat viewings. Especially if you're a true-crime fanatic
who just can't get enough of your serial killer fix.
"One Night on the Bayou"
"Killer in the County"
"Frozen in Time"
"A Map to Murder"
"The Zodiac Killer"
"The Green River Killer"
"The Lady Killer"
Files: The Most Infamous Cases is presented in a 1.33:1 full
frame format that does a fine job of improving upon the original
broadcast quality of the show. Each episode looks just as good,
if not better, than they originally appeared on television.
Colors are nice, detail is fairly intricate, and blacks are
pretty solid. Flesh tones and lighting also appear natural, even
though the overlook of the show does tend a bit flat at times.
The archival footage fares the worst here, as there are some
signs of slight flicker, shimmering, and grain to be found. They
are minor on the whole, however, and the transfers on these discs
are probably as good as the show will ever look.
The audio on these discs is presented in a Dolby 2.0 Stereo
format that doesn't really have any surprises. The track sounds
just like what you might expect from a true-crime television
drama. Dialogue is always clear, crisp, and discernable. Spatial
separation across the front channels is just fine as the sound
effects and music simply add to the drama while never
overshadowing any of the show's dialogue. There's nothing
groundbreaking to be found on this track, but it does exactly
what it sets out to do in reproducing the original broadcast
quality of the show.
There are no
extra features to be found anywhere on either disc of
this DVD, which is a real shame because A&E Home Video has
missed a great opportunity to use the DVD format to their
advantage. In every episode of Cold Case Files, there is
at least one pop-up on the screen that tells the viewer to go to
the A&E website to find out more about the case (whether it
be in the form of an interview transcript, police sketches,
reproductions of letters from the killers, or other items from
the investigation). I would have been a completely happy reviewer
if A&E had simply put those items somewhere on these
discs as extra features. They already have them on their website,
so how hard could this have been? I'm not asking for much here,
but the simple inclusion of those items would have made this DVD
set seem infinitely more complete and informative.
If you're wondering how the people in my dorm and I got along
after that first meeting, I should probably tell you that I'm
still friends with most of them. Some of them were a little
scared, but it was nothing that a little explanation couldn't
remedy. As for me, I may not be the same encyclopedia of serial
killer knowledge that I once was - it only took two semesters for
me to realize that Psychology was too much Biology for me and
Criminal Justice was too much Politics. Nonetheless, I still love
a good serial killer tale (especially one that results in a
capture and conviction). Cold Case Files is a show that
combines so many elements of true-crime, investigation, lurid
individuals, and technology to produce an excellent little stew
of knowledge and entertainment. It may not always be perfectly
compelling drama, but it is always at least highly informative
and intriguing. Cold Case Files: The Most Infamous Cases
is a no-brainer recommendation for me. If only A&E had seen
fit to add at least a few extra features, this DVD release would
be a highly recommended one.