- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Paramount Home Entertainment digs deep into its vaults to liberate a virtual Jerrypalooza — the 10-disc, nearly 15-hour Jerry Lewis: The ‘Legendary Jerry’ Collection ($54.95) — that’s sure to satisfy fans and win new converts into the bargain. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Even non-Jerryphiles are advised to revisit his two undisputed masterworks: 1961’s The Ladies Man finds the co-writer/director/star at his most inventive, with much of the action staged on a single, multi-tiered women’s residence set that, we learn, took some eight months to build. Brilliant conceptual gags blend with inspired slapstick as a femme-phobic Jerry copes with a houseful of hyperactive ladies.

And in 1963’s The Nutty Professor, Jerry employs a “Jekyll and Hyde” hook to deconstruct his complex relationship with ex-partner Dean Martin — with frequently hilarious results.

Satirizing the artifice of studio filmmaking and celebrity culture rated as one of the multi-hyphenate mirth machine’s strongest suits, as evidenced by 1961’s The Errand Boy, wherein Jerry wreaks havoc at “Paramutual Studios,” and 1964’s The Patsy, where he portrays a schlub groomed for stardom by a slick team of industry hucksters.

Showbiz-skewering and unexpected pathos form the backbone of the sole Martin and Lewis entry represented here, 1953’s The Stooge, a film sufficiently different, with its emphasis on candid backstage drama, that Paramount delayed its theatrical release two years for fear it would alienate the duo’s core audience.

Also recommended are Lewis’ successful solo debut, The Delicate Delinquent (1957), the sight-gag-driven The Bellboy (1960) and the frantic The Disorderly Orderly (1965). Rounding out the set are the fascinating musical flop Cinderfella (1960) and the overly gimmicky The Family Jewels (1965).

Extras include select audio commentaries by a still-witty Lewis and longtime pal Steve Lawrence, along with choice vintage outtakes. Hopefully, Paramount will keep the Lewis laughfests coming with future collections.

Tele-video

Paramount also stays busy on the TV sci-fi front with the six-disc Star Trek Enterprise: The Complete Fourth Season ($129.99), containing 22 episodes and over three hours of special features, along with War of the Worlds: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $38.99), with all 23 Season One episodes.

The label likewise offers a terrific, extras-enriched “special collector’s edition” of producer George Pal’s pioneering 1953 big-screen The War of the Worlds ($14.99).

Comedy dominates in 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s In Living Color: Season Four (three-disc, $39.98) and Paramount’s The Brady Bunch: The Complete Fourth Season (four-disc, $39.98).

The accent’s on youth in WGBH Boston Video’s drama Degrassi Junior High: The Complete Collection (nine-disc, $99.95), complete with six bonus documentaries, and the lighter-toned The Adventures of Pete & Pete: Season Two (Paramount, two-disc, $26.99).

Elsewhere, Warner Home Video keeps the Halloween spirit alive with the 18-episode Tales From the Crypt: The Complete Second Season (three-disc, $39.98) and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment revives the mystery series Hart to Hart: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $49.95), starring Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers.

Video verite

PBS Home Video issues a pair of impressive documentary sets. First, American Lives (eight-disc, $139.99) collects seven Ken Burns biographies — “Thomas Jefferson,” “Lewis & Clark,” “Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony,” “Mark Twain,” “Horatio’s Drive,” “Frank Lloyd Wright” and the excellent double-disc “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.”

PBS’ Dynasties: People and Passions That Changed the World (five-disc, $89.99) assembles “Egypt’s Golden Empire,” “The Greeks,” “The Roman Empire in the First Century,” “The Medici” and “Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire.”

Film buffs are well served by Xan Cassavetes’ in-depth double-disc Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession ($24.99), profiling the titular pioneering 1970s California cable TV station and its ultimately doomed movie-mad mentor Jerry Harvey.

Animated antics

Warner Home Video has a triple treat for “Looney Tunes” lovers:

• The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Three (four-disc, $64.92) gathers more than 60 remastered cartoons plus a plethora of extras.

• Bugs and the gang resurface in Looney Tunes Movie Collection, containing the features “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie” and “Bugs Bunny’s 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales,” (two-disc, $26.99).

• And a famous cartoon cat-and-mouse team takes center stage in Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection Vol. 2 (two-disc, $26.99).

The ‘A’ list

20th Century Fox tops the new release slate with George Lucas’s event epic Star Wars — Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith ($29.98), arriving with an impressive array of extras, along with director Danny (“Trainspotting”) Boyle’s change-of-pace romp Millions ($27.98).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is there a DVD or VHS version of “Operation Snatch,” with Terry-Thomas, available for purchase?

— D. Gist, via e-mail

Unfortunately, while that 1962 British World War II comedy was briefly out on cassette, it’s not currently available in either format.

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.video scopemag.com.

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