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Anchor Bay presents
My Best Fiend (Mein liebster Feind) (1999)

"And yet we belonged together. We were ready to go down together. I see us back in the jungle, together in a boat. The whole world belongs to us."
- Werner Herzog

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: August 13, 2000

Stars: Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski
Other Stars: Eva Mattes, Beat Presser, Claudia Cardinale
Director: Werner Herzog

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, adult themes)
Run Time: 01h:38m:47s
Release Date: August 15, 2000
UPC: 013131123692
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-A-A- D+

DVD Review

When most people speak of Hollywood "teams," they're referring to the great movie stars—Tracy and Hepburn, Gable and Lombard, Wheeler and Woolsey (well, maybe not—Abbott and Costello, perhaps?) Less visible but equally valuable collaborative relationships have existed between directors and their stars—John Waters and Divine, David Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan, Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski. Werner Herzog's My Best Fiend is a personal remembrance of his relationship with the volatile Kinski, utilizing archival on-set footage, film clips, and new material in which Herzog and others freely reminisce about the five films the director and star made together: Aguirre, the Wrath of God; Nosferatu the Vampyre; Woyzeck; Fitzcarraldo; and Cobra Verde.

This is the kind of story usually told by biographers and scholars long after the fact, and it's a rare treat to hear from one of the principals at such length. Herzog recognizes the danger inherent in his first-person approach, and he strives to temper his own feelings and analyze his statements with care. He gets away with it in large part because he avoids self-aggrandizement and whitewashing—he seems frank and open, recognizing his own dependence on Kinski and admitting to his aborted but serious plan to firebomb Kinski's home during one protracted conflict. Given the chance to write the history books, Herzog doesn't abuse it.

Footage from the films accompanies Herzog's discussions, rounded out by interviews with others who worked with Kinski, notably actresses Claudia Cardinale and Eva Mattes and photographer Beat Presser. Herzog even returns to the Peruvian locations of Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo to stimulate his memories. The only unfortunate absence is that of Kinski himself, who passed away in 1991 and thus appears only in historical footage, captured in a raging on-set tantrum during the making of Fitzcarraldo and playing gently with a butterfly during the same production. It would also have been nice to hear from his actress daughter Nastassja Kinski, but perhaps such was not possible.

Werner Herzog sets a difficult task for himself here, and he succeeds in documenting his insane, difficult but ultimately productive relationship with Klaus Kinski. My Best Fiend is generous and honest, communicating Herzog's respect and admiration for Kinski's mad, maddening genius.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.77:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents My Best Fiend in its original 1.77:1 theatrical aspect ratio, with a solid anamorphic transfer. The source material consists of archival video footage, 35mm feature film clips and Herzog's newly filmed documentary material. The transfer deals successfully with all of these, handling varying levels of grain and smeariness with no distracting compression artifacts. The quality of the anamorphic transfer is most appreciated during the film clips—the scenes from Nosferatu included here look much better than on Anchor Bay's older disc of the film itself.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0German, English/Germanyes

Audio Transfer Review: My Best Fiend features German and English soundtracks, both in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. Both soundtracks contain quite a bit of German content, with the narration and interview material voiced-over in the English track, generally by the original speakers with no need for lip-synch. The audio mix is naturally front-and-center oriented, with just a bit of atmospheric surround use and some stereo music. Not a "demo disc" by any means, but this is a clean digital transfer of a perfectly serviceable documentary soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (2 versions) with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Anchor Bay provides few extras for My Best Fiend, though that's not surprising given that the film is essentially a companion piece to the Herzog/Kinski oeuvre. There are 26 chapter stops accessible through text menus, and the film's theatrical trailer is presented with and without subtitles.

Special credit is due for the comprehensive subtitling support—two optional English subtitle tracks are provided, one of which subtitles all speech for use with the German track, while the other covers only the remaining German material within the English track. The subtitle and audio tracks can be selected and mixed freely, so the comprehensive English subtitles double as "hearing impaired" titles for the English audio track.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

My Best Fiend is a very personal documentary by a respected director about his greatest, most difficult star. Anchor Bay's anamorphic DVD presentation is clean and solid given the nature of the material, and anyone interested in the Werner Herzog/Klaus Kinski films or the creative process in general will find this fascinating viewing. Recommended.


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