- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Buena Vista Home Entertainment unlocks legendary B-movie king and prolific director/producer/distributor Roger Corman’s voluminous film vaults to retrieve a fresh batch of edgy titles, including a quartet of backdate winners now available in special editions. They’re our…

DVD picks of the week

The very model of what a B movie should be, director Paul Bartel and co-screenwriter Charles B. Griffith’s 1975 Death Race 2000 ($19.99) adroitly blends sci-fi elements, high-octane action and the blackest of satire in a streamlined 78-minute romp.

Producer Corman and crew’s caustic futuristic vision uncannily presages today’s wilder reality TV shows as the film depicts a brutal televised cross-country race wherein drivers — David Carradine and a very young Sylvester Stallone among them — are awarded bonus points for killing pedestrians along the way.

Extras include a fun commentary by Mr. Corman, who covers the technical side, and co-star Mary Woronov, who recalls the pic from a performer’s point of view, and the excellent retrospective documentary “Playing the Game: Looking Back at ‘Death Race 2000,’ ” featuring many of the film’s participants and admirers.

The separately released Roger Corman Early Films Collection includes three films ($14.99 each) either produced by Mr. Corman or produced and distributed by his company.

The collection leads off with Adam Simon’s 1990 cerebral shocker Brain Dead, scripted by frequent “Twilight Zone” writer Charles Beaumont and offering an excellent cast headed by Bill Paxton, Bill Pullman, Patricia Charbonneau and George Kennedy. Cast biographies and the original trailer constitute the sole extras.

Not your typical women’s-prison movie, Michael Miller’s 1976 Jackson County Jail casts Yvette Mimieux as a sophisticated urbanite, unjustly interred in a rural hoosegow, who eventually hooks up with escaped con Tommy Lee Jones. The film’s climactic scene, set amidst a Fourth of July parade, rates as a reel gem. Bonuses include a Leonard Maltin interview with producer Corman, trailer and cast bios.

Another initially underrated film that’s since acquired a well-earned cult rep, future “Wayne’s World” director Penelope Spheeris’ 1983 Suburbia presents a nearly verite portrait of contemporaneous West Coast punk culture, focusing on a group of aimless young squatters. The disc comes equipped with director’s commentary, trailer and cast bios. Here’s hoping Buena Vista keeps the Roger Corman genre goodies coming.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases hitting vidstores this week, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play the titular Wedding Crashers in the blockbuster comedy hit, available from New Line Home Entertainment ($28.98) in both the original R-rated version and an “Uncorked” unrated edition with additional footage. Both include commentary by Messrs. Wilson and Vaughn, a separate track with director David Dobkin, featurettes, deleted scenes, a music video and more.

Bill Murray portrays a resolute bachelor in search of a rumored son in Jim Jarmusch’s critically acclaimed Broken Flowers (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $29.98). The same label introduces School of Life ($27.98), starring Ryan Reynolds as an unorthodox teacher.

Creepy doings dominate The Cave ($28.98), where mysterious parasites attack unwary spelunkers, while an R&B singer returns to his religious roots in The Gospel (both via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $28.95 each).

Collectors’ corner

Sony’s The Mob Box (four-disc, $34.95) caters to hard-boiled movie buffs with Warren Beatty’s excellent 1991 Bugsy; Mike Newell’s hard-hitting 1997 Donnie Brasco, with Al Pacino and Johnny Depp; Guy Ritchie’s snappy 2000 Brit caper Snatch, featuring Benicio Del Toro and Brad Pitt; and the documentary The American Gangster.

In a separate Sony release, Charles Bronson plays against type as the eponymous Mafia informer in 1972’s The Valachi Papers ($19.94).

The same label zeroes in on gridiron fans with The Football Box (three-disc, $24.96), packaging the Tom Cruise showcase Jerry Maguire, “Jerry Maguire” costar Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s more recent vehicle Radio, and the true story Rudy, set at Notre Dame.

Tele-video

In fresh TV-on-DVD developments, Anchor Bay Entertainment revives a pair of backdate crime-fighting series with the six-disc Hunter: The Complete Third Season and the triple-disc Silk Stalkings: Season Four ($39.98 each).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment proffers the big-to-small-screen sci-fi adaptation Alien Nation: The Complete Series (six-disc, $49.98), with select audio commentary, while Carroll O’Connor and contentious brood return in All in the Family: The Complete Fifth Season (three-disc, $29.95).

Sony presents four episodes from an innovative animated series with its premiere Cartoon Adventures Starring Gerald McBoing-Boing collection ($14.94).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I have been trying to locate the old 1950s Robert Stack “The Untouchables” TV series on DVD or VHS. Can you give me any ideas? I very much enjoy your column.

Stan Whiting, Baltimore

Unfortunately, “The Untouchables” has yet to land a legit home video release in any format, though the series would be a natural for Paramount Home Entertainment to issue on DVD.

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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