- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

Sort of a male variation on Roman Polanski's "Repulsion," writer-director Michael Walker's Chasing Sleep arrives as an ace thriller and a superior showcase for the oft-underappreciated Jeff ("Dumb and Dumber") Daniels to display his serious acting chops. It's our …

Video pick of the week
"Chasing Sleep" is out next week via Trimark Home Video (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD). Mr. Daniels plays Ed Saxon, a puffy, unshaven insomniac writer and college professor first seen pacing his home, awaiting his errant wife. When she fails to surface, he phones the police, who, led by detective Gil Bellows, conduct their investigation even as Ed slips further into paranoia, suffering grim hallucinations along with the unwanted attention of his missing spouse's hostile lover (Julian McMahon), a solicitous visiting shrink (Zach Grenier) and a star-struck young coed (Emily Bergl) who show up at his door.
As the reels roll on, Ed emerges as the chief suspect in the case, but Mr. Walker aims for and achieves more than cheap thrills here as Ed's possibly criminal situation becomes a metaphor for his deflated station in a middle age stripped of the promise and hubris of his youth.
Mr. Daniels is called upon to carry the film and answers that call with skill to spare, registering the gamut of emotions as he wanders his increasingly haunted home and tortured psyche. "Chasing Sleep" is that rare contemporary chiller targeted for an adult audience, one it deserves to find on home video.

Collectors corner: Combat classics
20th Century Fox sets an early November date, to coincide with Veteran's Day and the upcoming video release of "Pearl Harbor," to introduce a quartet of quality World War II titles to DVD as part of the label's "Fox War Classics" line:
William Bendix and Anthony Quinn star in Guadalcanal Diary. Richard Widmark leads the way in Halls of Montezuma. Don Ameche and Dana Andrews topline in the aircraft carrier-set Wing and a Prayer. Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin share starring honors in Edward Dmytryk's epic 1958 adaptation of the Irwin Shaw war novel The Young Lions.
Fox also reissues and reprices The Longest Day, with John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and Henry Fonda; Patton, starring George C. Scott; Terrence Malick's all-star 1998 version of James Jones' Thin Red Line; Twelve O'Clock High, with Gregory Peck; and the POW escape adventure Von Ryan's Express, starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard. The titles are tagged at $19.98 each DVD, $14.98 each VHS.

Killer thrillers
A pair of French imports lead the way on the upcoming thriller front, with Miramax debuting the twisty mystery With a Friend Like Harry and Columbia/TriStar contributing Crimson Rivers, starring Jean Reno, Vincent Cassel and Dominique Sanda.
MTI offers a new duo of erotic thrillers: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, with erstwhile MTVeejay Kari Wuhrer and co-starring Jason Priestley; and The Treat, with Julie ("Killing Zoe") Delpy.
Winstar Entertainment bows a brace of offbeat indie thrillers: Deborah Kara ("Crash") Unger in Bette Gordon's Luminous Motion and Dan Montgomery and cult fave Karen Black in Red Dirt, set in the Deep South.
Roger Corman's New Concorde stays in the mix with Alone With a Stranger, starring William R. Moses and Nia Peeples. All of the above will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Killer comics
In family-comedy developments, Eddie Murphy and his motormouthed menagerie return in the hit sequel Dr. Dolittle 2, due Oct. 23 from 20th Century Fox ($22.98 VHS, $26.98 Special Edition DVD). Universal reissues Jim Carrey in the Dr. Seuss-based seasonal smash How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($16.95 VHS, $19.95 DVD), set to arrive next month.
Looking at the lighter side of Halloween, Anchor Bay Entertainment revives horror hostess Elvira (a k a Cassandra Peterson) in 1988's Elvira, Mistress of the Dark in spanking new DVD ($19.98) and VHS ($14.98) editions. Image Entertainment launches a DVD edition of the TV shock documentary Attack of the 50-Foot Monster Mania ($19.98), wherein Elvira hosts a parade of clips featuring many of monsterdom's literal giants.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I don't remember the title but I'm looking for a comedy, I believe with Terry-Thomas, about prisoners who break out of jail, rob a bank and then try to break back into jail. Does that sound at all familiar?
John Townes, via e-mail
Sounds like a 1969 European comedy called Seven Times Seven, with Terry-Thomas, Lionel Stander and Gordon Mitchell. It's available ($16.95 VHS only) from Sinister Cinema (541/773-6860, www.sinistercinema.com).

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at phanmedia@aol.com. And check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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