- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

An isolated clone farm provides the antisepti- cally sinister setting for Clonus ($19.95), a distressingly prescient 1979 sci-fi gem rescued from obscurity by the international specialists at Mondo Macabro (www.mondomacabrodvd.com). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Secretly financed by government honchos who harvest unwitting victims for organ replacements, Clonus is run like an Olympic training camp, where the brain-washed young-adult clones hone their bodies to athletic perfection, all in the hopes of an eventual graduation to “America.”

But when smarter-than-your-average-clone Richard (Tim Donnelly) happens upon a stray Old Milwaukee beer can, that random discovery kick-starts a quest that threatens to expose the wide-ranging conspiracy.

“Clonus” (originally “Parts: The Clonus Horror,” which is still the on-screen title) works best when focusing on the chilling clone farm and its poignant, doomed residents. The film’s third act seems a bit rushed after the brilliant buildup, but “Clonus” recovers in time to reach a disturbing climax.

In addition to fine turns by Mr. Donnelly and his clone squeeze, Paulette Breen, “Clonus” benefits from a veteran cast that includes Peter Graves; Keenan Wynn; and “Bewitched” alum Dick Sargent, uncharacteristically cast as Dr. Jamison, Clonus’ coldblooded commandant.

Mondo Macabro’s pristine widescreen transfer represents a vast improvement over Lightning Video’s long-vanished VHS version. A revealing audio commentary by, and separate lengthy interview with, debuting feature-film director Robert S. Fiveson round out the extras. Though largely overlooked in its time, this low-budget labor of love receives a much-deserved second life here.

Collectors’ corner

• Hollywood’s premier swashbuckler swashes and buckles anew in Warner Home Video’s six-disc The Errol Flynn Signature Collection ($59.92). The dashing matinee idol takes to the high seas in 1935’s Captain Blood and 1940’s The Sea Hawk, romances Bette Davis’ Queen Elizabeth I in 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, and rides the prairie as a reluctant lawman in 1939’s rousing Dodge City and as Gen. Custer in 1941’s They Died With Their Boots On. The feature-length documentary The Adventures of Errol Flynn completes this essential sextet. The titles are also available individually ($19.97 each).

• MGM Home Entertainment goes to war with a six-pack of combat titles priced at $14.95 each: Hugh O’Brian and Mickey Rooney in Ambush Bay (1966); Lloyd Bridges in Attack on the Iron Coast (1968); actor-director Cornel Wilde’s devastating antiwar parable Beach Red (1967); Zoltan Korda’s peerless classic Four Feathers, set in Sudan (1939); Gregory Peck in The Purple Plain (1954); and James Caan in Submarine X-1 (1968).

• Paramount Home Entertainment also continues to release vintage titles at a prodigious pace. This week’s offerings include Peter Palmer and Leslie Parrish in the lavish 1959 musical adaptation Li’l Abner, Doris Day and Clark Gable in the 1958 comedy Teacher’s Pet, and Charlton Heston and Anne Baxter in the tense 1957 Western Three Violent People ($14.99 each).

• Shirley Temple makes her belated digital debut in the eponymous double-feature disc Shirley Temple (Universal Home Entertainment, $19.98), containing Little Miss Marker and Now and Forever, co-starring Gary Cooper, plus the comedy short The Runt Page.

• In the cult-disc arena, Koch Vision introduces the genuinely strange sci-fi musicomedy Big Meat Eater ($19.98) with outsized jazz singer Clarence “Big” Miller, while Tartan Video imports the powerful Korean chiller A Tale of Two Sisters ($24.99).

The ‘A’ list

Universal tops the recent theatrical list with the blockbuster comedy sequel Meet the Fockers ($29.98), starring Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand; copious extras include filmmakers’ audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers and more.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases Zhang Yimou’s sumptuous House of Flying Daggers ($28.95) and the Southern-fried drama A Love Song for Bobby Long, with John Travolta ($26.96).

New Line Home Entertainment counters with the Nicole Kidman thriller Birth and indie actor-auteur Shane Carruth’s intriguing sci-fi-festival fave Primer ($27.95 each).

Tele-video

In new TV-on-DVD developments, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment revives a popular 1980s prime-time soap opera with Dynasty: The Complete First Season ($39.98), a four-disc set assembling all 13 Season One episodes, along with select audio commentary, a series-overview featurette and character profiles.

The same label indulges in comic nostalgia for the previous decade with the four-disc That ‘70s Show: Season Two ($49.98), arriving with all 26 Season Two episodes, plus select commentary and featurettes.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’m a huge fan of Argentine director Eliseo Subiela. Any ideas when “Man Facing Southeast” will make it to DVD?

Jeff, Centreville

No word as yet, though that haunting 1986 parable, originally out on VHS on the long-defunct New World label, would be a most welcome digital addition.

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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