- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Canadian directorVincenzo Natali followed his clever,franchise-launching 1997 sci-fi cult hit “Cube” with the equally engrossing 2002 conspiracy thriller Cypher, available at last on DVD via Miramax Home Entertainment ($29.99). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Versatile British thesp Jeremy Northam, whose knack for nailing American characters was shown the same year in the role of Dean Martin for the TV movie “Martin & Lewis,” tackles the tricky role of Morgan Sullivan, a nearly blank Yank computer expert recruited to adopt a fresh identity in order to spy on a rival multinational corporation. But as the more extroverted, earthier “Jack Thursby,” Morgan not only grapples with his new personality but finds himself trapped in a web of escalating paranoia.

Coming to Morgan’s aid is mystery woman Rita Foster (Lucy Liu), a shadowy secret agent who tries to guide him through increasingly dangerous terrain. But is Rita to be trusted? Is anyone? And is Morgan still truly “himself”?

Deftly combining intricate intrigues with an exploration of the nature of personal identity, director Natali and screenwriter Brian King concoct a heady ride that ultimately reaches a satisfyingly surprising conclusion.

Along the way, director Natali shows he has studied his John Frankenheimer, retooling scenes from the late, great suspense master’s “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Seconds” while filling the screen with often-striking imagery of his own invention.

“Cypher” is one recent film that would have benefited from a director’s commentary and behind-the-scenes material. As it stands, however, Miramax’s no-frills disc supplies plenty of thought-provoking thrills for mind-game movie fans.

Tele-video

In the TV-on-DVD arena, Anchor Bay Entertainment roams all over the cathode map to unearth a quintet of vintage sets:

• William Katt returns, abetted by Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca, in The Greatest American Hero: Season Three (four-disc, $39.98).

• John Lithgow leads his alien brood on earthly adventures in the bonus-laden 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 1 (four-disc, $39.98).

• Palm Beach homicide detectives Rob Estes and Mitzi Kapture investigate evildoing in Silk Stalkings: The Complete Third Season (six-disc, $39.98).

• Comic Christopher Titus takes center stage in the offbeat eponymous series Titus: Seasons 1&2 (six-disc, $44.98), complete with select audio commentary, a new Christopher Titus interview and more.

m The label pulls out all the stops for Xena Warrior Princess: 10th Anniversary Collection (seven-disc, $59.98), collecting 17 fan-favorite episodes along with new interviews with star Lucy Lawless and crew, audio commentaries and a lengthy lineup of wide-ranging featurettes.

Over at Buena Vista Home Entertainment, it’s a celebration of all things Muppet with both The Muppet Show: Season One (four-disc, $39.99) and the feature The Muppets Wizard of Oz: Extended Film Version ($24.99), with human guest stars Queen Latifah and Quentin Tarantino.

Extraterrestrial visitors supply the focus for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Roswell: The Complete Third Season (five-disc, $59.98), containing all 18 third-season episodes, select commentaries and featurettes, while former TV space explorer William Shatner switches uniforms as beat cop T.J. Hooker: The Complete First and Second Seasons (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, six-disc, $49.95).

Collectors’ corner

Good news for celluloid sophisticates: Almost as if working in concert with the American Film Institute Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, whose revival of the “Thin Man” series continues through Aug. 24, Warner Home Video emphasizes old-school charm and mystery via its seven-disc The Complete Thin Man Collection ($59.92).

William Powell and Myrna Loy play sleuths Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934), After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Thin Man Goes Home (1944) and Song of the Thin Man(1947).

The discs come complete with bonus shorts, cartoons and radio dramas, while a seventh DVD, Alias Nick and Nora, yokes two documentaries, William Powell: A True Gentleman and Myrna Loy: So Nice to Come Home to.

More for collectors

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment adds three titles to its ongoing Studio Classics line: Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland in the 1964 Southern Goth shocker Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Tyrone Power in 1938’s In Old Chicago and Gregory Peck as 1955’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. The extras-enhanced discs are tagged at $14.98 each.

The ‘A’ list

Recent theatrical films making their digital debuts include the family-friendly fido film Because of Winn-Dixie (20th Century Fox, $29.98), with audio commentary by star Jeff Daniels, plus two from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment — Stephen Chow’s wild Hong Kong genre comedy Kung Fu Hustle ($28.95), in a bonus-heavy edition, and the indie comedy Off the Map ($24.96), with Joan Allen and Sam Elliott.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Has the 1950s “Superman” series, with George Reeves, ever come out on DVD?

— Ken Sears, via e-mail

Warner Home Video plans an October release for the five-disc Adventures of Superman: The Complete First Season ($39.98).

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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