- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2004

In the tradition of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1927 “Chang” and F.W. Murnau’s 1931 “Tabu” comes the Milestone Collection’s latest exotic archival discovery, the fascinating 1935 feature Legong: Dance of the Virgins ($29.99). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Here, filmmaker Henri de la Falaise, then-husband of high-profile actress Constance Bennett, hies to Bali to fashion a flavorful docudrama that serves as a convenient frame to highlight the island’s lush scenery and rich culture.

Our simple story, enacted by a native cast, finds young “legong” temple dancer Poutou (Goesti Poetoe Aloes) entranced by carefree musician Njong (Njoman Njong), who upsets the social apple cart and rocks the tribal boat by tumbling for Poutou’s junior sis, Saplak (Njong Saplak).

While spinning this tale of troubled romance, Mr. de la Falaise also trains his camera on all aspects of Bali village life, particularly its elaborate religious and dance rituals.

One of the last Hollywood-produced silent films and the last lensed in the two-strip Technicolor process, “Legong” succeeds on the strengths of its stunning visuals and the locals’ natural charisma. Largely free of the racial stereotyping that marred many documentaries of the day, “Legong” paints an enchanting portrait of a specific long-vanished time and place.

Due to its many (decidedly nonprurient) topless scenes, “Legong” was subjected to the wrath of various censors’ scissors but is preserved here in its pristine entirety.

Milestone’s DVD includes two additional short features — Mr. de la Falaise’s previously lost 1937 black-and-white Kliou, the Killer, a dramatic re-enactment of Vietnam villagers’ battle against a predatory tiger; and producer Robert Snyder’s straightforward 1952 ethnography Gods of Bali, concentrating on the cultural, social and religious rites earlier recorded in “Legong” but with a deeper scholarly focus.

Other extras include a second, optional “Legong” music track with a new score, an interview with the composers and DVD-ROM content.

“Legong” represents yet another important, and highly entertaining, anthropological contribution from Milestone’s dedicated archivists.

Collectors’ corner

• Keyed to the upcoming sequel “Meet the Fockers,” Universal Studios Home Entertainment bows the original, fun Robert De Niro-Ben Stiller dysfunctional-family romp Meet the Parents ($29.98) in a new bonus edition complete with deleted scenes, outtakes, a “silly cat tricks” segment and more.

• 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment mines a vintage-sophisticated-humor vein via the 1966 Audrey Hepburn-Peter O’Toole caper How to Steal a Million ($14.98), with commentary by co-star Eli Wallach, among other extras.

• Disney DVD introduces two handsomely packaged new double-disc entries in its ongoing “Walt Disney Treasures” line. Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume Two assembles more than five hours of Mickey cartoons from 1928 to 1935, while The Mickey Mouse Club contains that influential TV show’s first five episodes (1955), along with bonus archival footage and new Mouseketeer interviews. The sets are tagged at $32.99 each.

m MGM Home Entertainment goes the Gothic route with 1989’s ghoulishly entertaining The Phantom of the Opera ($14.95), wherein Robert Englund trades in his Freddy Krueger fedora for the more traditional Phantom mask.

Tele-video

Warner Home Video looks skyward with the sci-fi show Crusade: The Complete Series ($59.98), a four-disc affair featuring all 13 episodes, select audio commentary, a “making-of” documentary and more.

Universal Studios takes a time-travel tack with the triple-disc, 22-episode Quantum Leap: The Complete Second Season ($59.98), starring Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment debuts the Reba McEntire showcase Reba: The Complete First Season ($39.98), with 22 episodes, select commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and more, along with Family Guy: The Freakin’ Sweet Collection ($19.98), containing several fan-favorite episodes plus extras.

Paramount Home Entertainment targets the youth market with its extras-enhanced two-disc edition of MTV’s Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica: The Complete First Season ($26.99).

The ‘A’ list

Will Smith barrels in, guns blazing, as an anti-humanoid law enforcer in the futuristic blockbuster I, Robot ($29.98). 20th Century Fox’s disc includes commentary by director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldman, a “making-of” featurette, a photo gallery and more.

Guns likewise play a pivotal role in Michael Mann’s Collateral ($29.99), starring Tom Cruise as a slick hit man, arriving in an extras-packed double-disc edition from Dreamworks Home Entertainment.

On a quieter but equally intense note, Universal Studios introduces a bonus-laden edition of the John Irving-based drama The Door in the Floor ($29.98), with Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Are the Boris Karloff-Bela Lugosi films “The Black Cat” and “The Raven” on DVD yet?

R. Bell, via e-mail

Let’s hope those 1930s Universal horror classics, currently withdrawn on VHS, will join the digital ranks soon.

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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