- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Never available on VHS, maverick auteur Sam Fuller’s 1957 Western Forty Guns at last gallops into the digital corral, courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment ($14.98). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

The film stars Barbara Stanwyck as iron-willed ranch owner Jessica Drummond, a “Hard Ridin’ Woman (With a Whip),” according to a recurring on-screen song. Barry Sullivan, Gene Barry and Robert Dix play the Earp-like Bonnell brothers, traveling lawmen out to arrest one of Jessica’s titular 40 — count ‘em — 40 hired-gun hands. When Jessica and rugged Griff Bonnell (Mr. Sullivan) “meet tough,” sparks and fur fly with equal fury.

Director Fuller, recently represented on DVD by the restored World War II saga “The Big Red One: The Reconstruction,” pulls out all the celluloid stops here. Among his top innovations are a scene shot through the barrel of a gun (take that, James Bond) and close-ups so extreme you can virtually see only the whites of his characters’ eyes (take notes, Sergio Leone).

The movie concludes with a justly legendary shootout that brazenly overturns a longstanding Western-film convention. Despite its years, “Forty Guns” is must-see, not musty.

The label further mines the best of the West by introducing (for $14.98 each) the edgy Gregory Peck vehicle The Bravados (1958); Spencer Tracy in Broken Lance (1954); Joel McCrea as Buffalo Bill (1944); John Ford’s eastern Colonial Western Drums Along the Mohawk (1939); the Cisco Kid silent In Old Arizona (1928); and Warlock (1959), with Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark and Anthony Quinn.

Collector’s corner

Image Entertainment opens a veritable gold mine for movie buffs with its four-disc, 11-hour Treasures From American Film Archives: 50 Preserved Films ($69.95). Included are such reel rarities as an 1893 Thomas Edison short, John Huston’s 1945 combat documentary “The Battle of San Pietro” and the 1916 feature film “Snow White.”

Mackinac Media (www.mackinacmedia.com) rescues “The Forgotten Films of Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle” in a four-disc limited edition set, collecting 32 silent and sound films directed by and starring the tragedy-plagued comedian, along with a film historian’s commentary track, a 36-page color booklet and more.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment mines a more contemporary vein with bonus-packed new double-disc editions of a trio of action hits — The Day After Tomorrow, I, Robot and Man on Fire ($26.98 each).

The ‘A’ list

Warner Home Video leads a short list of recent theatrical films taking a bow on DVD this week with Martin Scorsese’s multi-Oscar-winner The Aviator ($29.98), starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes and Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn. The double-disc edition flies high with an audio commentary by Mr. Scorsese, an additional scene, and a hangar full of featurettes.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment focuses on another type of travel with its bonus-packed edition of the Ice Cube road-trip comedy Are We There Yet?

Wellspring Media issues Jonathan Caouette’s experimental indie Tarnation ($29.98), augmented by extras ranging from director’s commentary to extended scenes.

Tele-video

In current TV on DVD developments, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment proffers a pair of airborne adventure series — Airwolf: Season One, starring Jan-Michael Vincent, and the World War II-set Baa Baa Black Sheep Volume 1, with Robert Conrad. The three-disc sets are tagged at $39.98 each.

Paramount Home Entertainment returns to Mayberry with Sheriff Andy Griffith, Deputy Don Knotts and friends in the 31-episode The Andy Griffith Show: Season 2 (three-disc, $39.99).

Alan Alda leads his troops into hilarity in M*A*S*H: Season Eight (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $39.98), a three-disc set marshaling all 25 Season Eight episodes.

Video verite

In the documentary arena, First Run Features (www.firstrunfeatures.com) debuts a trio of titles on DVD: Donya Feuer’s The Dancer, an acclaimed portrait of budding ballerina Katja Bjorner; Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, a profile of the eponymous author/activist; and S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine ($29.95), a chilling account of Cambodian atrocities in the 1970s.

All three arrive with assorted extras.

Animated antics

Walt Disney Home Entertainment takes an animated tack with two new features — the Disney Channel Original Movie Kim Possible — The Movie — So the Drama (Extended Version) ($19.99) and the theatrical release Pooh’s Heffalump Movie ($29.99), both equipped with ample extras.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Can’t seem to find the 1980s cult movie Liquid Sky on DVD. Is it available?

Jeff Kantor, via e-mail

In an odd reversal, the “Liquid Sky” DVD is currently out of circulation, while the VHS is available ($24.99) from Movies Unlimited (www.moviesunlimited.com).

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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