- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Rife with complex ironies, rich suspense and three-dimensional characters, director Claude Chabrol’s 1969 This Man Must Die, new from Pathfinder Pictures ($19.98 DVD), can take its rightful place among the greatest thrillers ever made. It’s our …

Video pick of the week

When a young boy is killed in a brutal hit-and-run accident, his devastated dad, Charles (Michael Duchaussoy), channels his shattering grief into an obsessive effort to track down and execute the unknown driver. Following weeks of frustration, a chance roadside breakdown leads Charles to his first possible clue, in the form of actress Helen (Caroline Cellier). Charles calculatingly insinuates himself into Helen’s life in the hope their relationship will bring him closer to the killer.

Like Henri-Georges Clouzot (of “Diabolique” and “Wages of Fear” fame) before him, Mr. Chabrol never sacrifices credibility or character depth even as he piles on the intricate plot twists (brilliant in their own right). Mr. Duchaussoy, Miss Cellier and Jean Yanne as Paul, a thoroughly despicable garage owner who emerges as Charles’ chief suspect, strike just the right subtle notes to punch home Mr. Chabrol’s powerful fable. (“This Man Must Die” would later inspire Sean Penn’s “The Crossing Guard,” a film that frankly pales in comparison.)

Pathfinder’s widescreen DVD, which looks stunning, arrives with few frills beyond biographies, a still gallery and two trailers (which give away far too many of the film’s surprises), but in this case, the feature itself is easily worth the price of admission. For more information on the label’s other new Chabrol titles, scope out the Web site at www.pathfinderpictures.com.

The ‘A’ list

Comedies dominate the current mainstream-video slate. Arriving this week are the LL Cool J vehicle Deliver Us From Eva (Universal Studios), Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher in the romantic romp Just Married (20th Century Fox) and the British “kitchen-sink” comedy Me Without You (Columbia/TriStar), starring Anna Friel, Michelle Williams and Kyle McLachlan.

Columbia/TriStar strikes again next week with Paul Thomas Anderson’s offbeat Adam Sandler showcase Punch-Drunk Love, co-starring Emily Watson. All four titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Also next week, Warner Home Video goes the sell-through route with the Outback-set surprise hit Kangaroo Jack ($27.98 DVD/$22.98 VHS), pairing comics Jerry O’Connell and Anthony Anderson. Already in area vidstores is the Will Farrell frat farce Old School (Dreamworks, priced for rental VHS, $19.95 DVD), featuring Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn.

Tele-video

Back on the suspense track, WGBH Boston Video debuts a fresh episode from the British series The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries titled “Speedy Death,” originally aired on PBS’ “Mystery!” series. Ex-“Avenger” Emma Peel, Diana Rigg, plays the eponymous sleuth in this witty whodunit set in the 1920s and involving blackmail, murder and plenty of devious story turns. The disc includes cast biographies and a virtual tour of the “Mystery!” studio.

Next month, the same label follows up with a three-hour installment of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries titled “A Great Deliverance,” a contemporary thriller starring Nathaniel Parker as Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Sharon Small as his intrepid partner, Sgt. Barbara Havers. The DVD contains a Q&A; with Mr. Parker and Miss Small and other extras. The discs are tagged at $19.95 each.

For the grittier goods, look for A&E; Home Video’s Homicide: Life on the Street: Seasons 1 and 2 ($69.95). The ensemble cast includes Andre Braugher, Melissa Leo and Yaphet Kotto. The four-DVD set incorporates all 13 first- and second-season episodes and comes complete with a dossier of extras, including audio commentary by director Barry Levinson and producer Tom Fontana on the pilot “Gone for Goode,” cast interviews and more.

Video-active

Literally putting the audience in the picture, Slingshot Entertainment offers 3-D versions, viewable via the label’s own 3-D Theater device, of a trio of black-and-white 1960s fright faves: Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13, Roger Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. See www.slingshotent.com for the full three-dimensional skinny.

Rhino Video goes the interactive route with Scourge of Worlds: A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure ($24.95), a 3-D medieval fantasy based on the popular role-playing game that allows the viewer to control more than 990 story combinations.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I hope you can help me in my quest for a VHS tape of “John Goldfarb, Please Come Home.”

Louis C. Burch,

Takoma Park, Md.

Unfortunately, that football-themed 1965 satire starring Shirley MacLaine and Richard Crenna has yet to score a home-video release.

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

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