- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

Viewers who miss the action double features of yore will want to pounce on a fresh pairing of two 1950s Technicolor jungle adventures, Appointment in Honduras and Escape from Burma, available now on a single action-packed disc from VCI Entertainment ($14.99). They're our…

Video picks of the week

"Appointment in Honduras," made in 1953 and presented full frame, stars a two-fisted, ultra-taciturn Glenn Ford as a maverick Yank on a mysterious mission in 1910 Honduras. To facilitate said mission, our enterprising hero liberates a crew of Central American criminals and takes a brace of hostages, including unscrupulous businessman Zachary Scott and his unhappy wife Ann Sheridan (soon to develop a yen for Glenn).

Veteran director Jacques Tourneur (of "I Walked with a Zombie") knows his way around a back-lot jungle with the best of them. Mr. Tourneur yields maximum old-school thrills from the situation as our characters are beset by such lurking dangers as crocs, piranha, malaria, enemy soldiers, bandits and, most of all, each other, all in a streamlined 79 minutes.

In 1955's slightly more upscale "Escape to Burma," shown in widescreen format, rugged, equally laconic Robert Ryan plays a similarly suspicious loner on the run from government forces who believe he murdered a young prince. Mr. Ryan wanders into the lavish home and lonely arms of independent-minded plantation owner Barbara Stanwyck, who must ultimately choose between macho Bob and his stiff-upper-lip Brit pursuer David Farrar. The action proceeds at a lively, if not always logical, pace, with yet another perilous jungle trek serving as the pic's exciting centerpiece.

While light on extras beyond actor bios and a few coming-attraction trailers, VCI's twin bill supplies more than enough entertainment value with these flavorfully pulpy time-warp escapades. For more vintage film fare, including new B Westerns and serials, check out the label's site at vcientertainment.com.

The 'A' list

In A list news, look for a pair of well-received acerbic indie comedies: Campbell Scott, Isabella Rosellini and Jennifer Beals in Dylan Kidd's Roger Dodger, set in New York City (Artisan Entertainment); and Steven Shainberg's offbeat battle-of-the-sexes exercise Secretary (Lions Gate Home Entertainment), with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

In higher-profile romantic comedy developments, Columbia/TriStar sets an April date for Wayne Wang's Jennifer Lopez showcase Maid in Manhattan, co-starring Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Stanley Tucci and Bob Hoskins. All three titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

MGM Home Entertainment takes a more earnest turn with the period domestic drama Evelyn, set in Ireland and featuring Pierce Brosnan in the decidedly non-Bondian role of a separated father seeking custody of his children ($27.50 VHS/$26.98 DVD).

Diamond discs

In time to celebrate the 2003 baseball season, MGM Home Entertainment also launches a foursome of horsehide faves on disc, leading with the DVD special edition of Ron Shelton's 1988 comedy Bull Durham ($19.98), starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Extras include audio commentary by Mr. Costner and Mr. Robbins, a separate track by director Shelton, a new "making of" documentary, a photo gallery and more.

Completing the quartet are three that are new to DVD: John Sayles' atmospheric 1988 recreation of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Eight Men Out, with John Cusack and Charlie Sheen; and a pair of vintage bios, 1950's The Jackie Robinson Story (starring Jackie himself) and 1942's The Pride of the Yankees ($14.95 each), with Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig.

Andy's gang

Action auteur Andy Sidaris strikes again with a brace of drive-in-styled backdate adventures starring Dona Speir and Roberta Valesquez as foxy federal agents: 1991's Do or Die, co-starring R.J. Moore, and 1992's Hard Hunted, featuring Erik Estrada and Pat Morita.

The discs (Ventura Distribution, $14.98 each) arrive locked and loaded with a plethora of extras, from audio commentaries by director Andy and producer spouse Arlene Sidaris, behind-the-scenes featurettes, interviews, filmmaking how-to tips and much more.

"Paradiso" regained

Cinema Paradiso, writer-director Guiseppe Tornatore's valentine to the magic of the movies, receives a major makeover from Miramax Home Entertainment. The label's "new version" ($29.99) presents a digitally remastered, fully restored widescreen director's cut including 51 minutes of previously unseen footage. For comparison-minded viewers, the disc also incorporates the original 1990 theatrical edition, along with the original trailer.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: With all the talk about "Gods and Generals," is there any chance The Hunley will be out in DVD? Thanks.

Ruth, via e-mail

No word as yet, but that 1999 made-for-TV Civil War submarine adventure, starring Armand Assante and Donald Sutherland, is available on VHS ($13.49) via Movies Unlimited (moviesunlimited.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 Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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