- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Irony, rather than ennui, abounds in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1950 dramatic feature-film debut, Story of a Love Affair, a haunting meditation on the theme of guilt by wishful thinking set in Milan. It’s new in a bonus-laden double-disc set ($29.95) from NoShame Films (www.noshamefilms.com). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Wealthy businessman Enrico Fontana (Ferdinando Sarmi) unwittingly plots his own downfall when he hires private eye Carloni (Gino Rossi) to investigate the background of his beautiful but mysterious wife, Paola (Lucia Bose).

Carloni’s footwork leads him to Paola’s ex-lover Guido (Massimo Girotti), who in turn contacts Paola after seven years’ absence to warn her of her husband’s distrust. Naturally, this serves to rekindle the couple’s long-vanished romantic spark, as well as their shared guilt over a past tragedy.

Director and co-writer Antonioni adroitly plays with noir conventions while examining the deeper questions of criminal intent and personal culpability. Flawlessly acted, particularly by the luminous Miss Bose as our conflicted femme fatale, and driven by Giovanni Fusco’s discordant piano- and sax-heavy score, “Story of a Love Affair” displays a surprisingly contemporary flair.

The lavish extras explore virtually every phase of the film’s history, from creation to restoration — truly a labor of dedication and love. One caveat, though: NoShame’s back cover sleeve lists the film as being in color, but it’s actually shot in appropriately noirish black and white.

Tele-video

On the ever-expanding TV-on-DVD front, A&E Home Video issues a trio of fresh sets, leading with a pair of British comedies, the triple-disc Benny Hill Complete & Unadulterated: The Naughty Early Years, Set 3, 1975-1977 ($49.95) and a crusty Leo McKern as Rumpole of the Bailey: The Complete Seasons Five, Six and Seven (six discs, $99.95), the latter accompanied by a wealth of extras, including new introductions by source novelist John Mortimer.

Closer to home, Jane Seymour returns in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Season Six (six discs, $89.95), containing all 22 season-six episodes, plus select audio commentary and more.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment sets its sights on the Civil War with a pair of digital miniseries: 1980’s Beulah Land ($24.96), starring Michael Sarrazin and Lesley Ann Warren, and The Blue and the Gray Recut (two discs, $19.94), with Gregory Peck as Abraham Lincoln.

David Duchovny’s Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Scully investigate conspiracies galore in the four-disc The X Files Mythology Collection: Black Oil (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $39.98), linking 15 similarly themed episodes from seasons three, four and five, plus extras.

MPI Home Video keeps the creepy Goth action coming via Dark Shadows DVD Collection 19 (four discs, $59.98), containing 40 complete vintage episodes, along with bonus star interviews.

In the reality-TV arena, Paramount Home Entertainment tracks a pack of privileged California youths in Laguna Beach: The Complete First Season (three discs, $38.99).

The ‘A’ list

Warner Home Video leads the charge of recent theatrical releases making their digital debuts via its gala double-disc release of Oliver Stone’s Alexander: Director’s Cut ($29.95), a restored and reshaped version of the original film, starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer and Anthony Hopkins. Extras include an Oliver Stone commentary, five behind-the-scenes documentaries, theatrical trailers and more.

Bernie Mac contends with future son-in-law Ashton Kutcher (and vice versa) in the big-screen sitcom Guess Who (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $28.95). Bonus material incorporates audio commentary by director Kevin Rodney Sullivan, seven deleted scenes, a gag reel, a featurette and more.

In animation news, “Akira” creator Katsuhiro Otomo strikes again with his latest anime extravaganza, Steamboy (Sony Pictures, $26.96), rolling in with extras aplenty.

Collectors’ corner

Paramount Home Entertainment scores the collectors’ coup of the week with its debut of two long-awaited John Wayne titles, both directed by William A. Wellman. Together, the discs represent a high-flying movie marathon for J.W. fans.

• The 1955 all-star airborne adventure-disaster movie template The High and the Mighty lands in a double-disc edition ($19.99), with audio commentary, featurettes vintage and new, a photo gallery and more.

• The Duke experiences further wild-blue-yonder woes in 1953’s sub-Arctic Island in the Sky ($14.99), set in Canada and likewise arriving with a full cargo of extras.

Video verite

Docurama issues two Cuban-themed documentaries, Balseros, chronicling the life-risking journey of seven Cuban refugees to our shores, and the feature-length jazz concert film A Night in Havana: Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba ($26.95 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’m trying to find a copy (DVD or VHS) with English subtitles of a two-hour Finnish movie, “Raid,” a follow-up to a six-part series of the same name.

R.W. Roberson, via e-mail

Unfortunately, director Tapio Piirainen’s acclaimed 2003 miniseries and sequel have yet to surface stateside in either format.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantoqm 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.videoscopemaaaaaaaag.com.

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