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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cold Case Files: The Most Infamous Cases
Cold Case Files: The Most Infamous Cases
A&E Video // Unrated // April 26, 2005
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Scott Lecter | posted April 17, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
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.

While not 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 clich├ęd and simply not interesting enough to warrant inclusion as a "Most Infamous Case."

Nevertheless, 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.


Disc 1: Volume 1
"One Night on the Bayou"
"Killer in the County"
"Frozen in Time"
"A Map to Murder"
"The Zodiac Killer"

Disc 2: Volume 2
"The Green River Killer"
"Weepy-Voiced Killer"
"The Lady Killer"
"Love Triangle"

Cold Case 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.

Final Thoughts:
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.

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