- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

As with the recent “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” you don’t need to be a major fan of the rock band in question to reap considerable rewards from End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones ($19.99), new from Rhino Home Video. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Any group that blazed so influential a trail, in this case virtually inventing the bare-bones, buzz-saw punk-rock style, merits a documentary for that accomplishment alone. But “End of the Century” also weighs in with fascinating dramatic arcs and back stories galore.

Composed of four talented hicks from the sticks of Forest Hills, Queens, who decided to adopt a common fictitious surname, the Ramones had to battle for respect in ultra-hip mid-‘70s downtown Manhattan clubs such as the fabled CBGB.

Even when their machine-gun attack — propelling rapid-fire anthems such as “Judy Is a Punk,” “Cretin Hop” and “I Wanna Be Sedated” — found an appreciative audience among listeners and fellow musicians alike, the Ramones routinely saw rival groups leapfrog over them to score far more commercial success.

Behind the scenes, meanwhile, original drummer Tommy Ramone drops out, leading to a “Spinal Tap”-like profusion of replacements; bassist Dee Dee Ramone becomes an unreliable heroin addict; singer Joey Ramone loses the love of his life to guitarist and leader Johnny Ramone, erecting a wall of silence between them that would last until Joey’s premature death. (He would be followed all too quickly by both Johnny and Dee Dee.)

Not all is downbeat, though. Directors Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields ably capture the Ramones’ onstage excitement and twisted wit, while a spate of special features further expands on the band’s life and legacy.

As a portrait of a powerful creative entity struggling to overcome pervasive human frailty, “End of the Century” is tough to top.

Collectors’ corner

Keyed to the upcoming remake, Warner Home Video goes the ghostly route with its four-disc The Amityville Horror Collection ($39.96), containing The Amityville Horror, sequels Amityville II: The Possession and Amityville 3-D (shown two-dimensionally), along with the bonus documentary disc Amityville Confidential.

Dimension Home Video debuts two features from the 1994 “Rebel Highway” series, both loose remakes of 1950s wild-youth fare — Jonathan Kaplan’s Reform School Girl, starring Aimee Graham and Matt LeBlanc, and Joe Dante’s spoofy, cameo-studded take on Runaway Daughters ($29.99 each), with Julie Bowen, Paul Rudd and Dick Miller.

A thorough hoot for superhero and camp fans alike, the complete 1949 cliffhanger Batman and Robin Serial Collection (two-disc, $29.95) flaps into vid stores via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Best of the West

Sony Pictures also supplies a bonanza for sagebrush buffs with eight vintage Westerns.

• Five feature a rugged Glenn Ford: 1943’s The Desperadoes, with Randolph Scott; the wonderfully neurotic 1956 psychological oater Jubal, co-starring Ernest Borgnine and Rod Steiger; the edgy 1949 parable Lust for Gold, with Ida Lupino; 1941’s Texas, with a young William Holden; and 1955’s The Violent Men.

• Charles Starrett in 1951’s Bonanza Town, Fred MacMurray in 1959’s Good Day For a Hanging and Audie Murphy in 1966’s The Texicans complete the outdoor octet ($14.94 each).

• VCI Entertainment counters with two offbeat early 1950s Westerns showcasing John Barrymore Jr., High Lonesome and Sundowners ($14.99 each).

Tele-video

In fresh TV-on-DVD developments, Anchor Bay Entertainment debuts a trio of bonus-laden boxed sets: the teen-doctor drama Doogie Howser, M.D.: Season One and the thriller Silk Stalkings: The Complete Second Season (four-disc, $39.98 each), along with the superhero satire The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 (six-disc, $44.98).

Elsewhere, the plots thicken in West Wing: The Complete Fourth Season (Warner Home Video, six-disc, $59.95). The set contains all 22 fourth-season episodes of the Emmy-winning series, plus two documentaries, select creator audio commentary and unaired scenes.

The ‘A’ list

In new theatrical releases, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment tops the list with Alexander Payne’s generally rewarding Oscar-nominated comedy Sideways, starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh, complete with audio commentary by Messrs. Giamatti and Church, a featurette, deleted scenes and more.

The same label issues a bonus-laden edition of the Jennifer Garner superheroine adventure Elektra ($29.98 each).

Sony Pictures looks for laughs via James L. Brooks’ culture-clash comedy Spanglish ($28.95), headlining Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni and Paz Vega.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’m a big fan of Matthew Broderick but can’t locate the movie that he and Alec Baldwin starred in last year about a wannabe movie director being used by the CIA.

Lisa Take, via e-mail—

That would be The Last Shot. Touchstone Home Entertainment plans a May 10 DVD release ($29.99).

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.videoscope mag.com.

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