- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2006

A fresh trio of vintage treats comes now from the voluminous vaults of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. These Fox Film Noir releases ($14.98 each) are our …

DVD pick of the week

Leading off the threesome, “Laura” director Otto Preminger and leading man Dana Andrews reunite for the moody 1945 nail-biter Fallen Angel. After con artist Eric Stanton (Mr. Andrews) stumbles into a small coastal town and tumbles for avaricious waitress Stella (a stunning Linda Darnell), he hatches a scheme to fleece wealthy “spinster” June Mills (musical star Alice Faye playing against type). Beyond the suspense angle, the film is further boosted by Joseph LaShelle’s atmospheric cinematography and Charles Bickford’s brilliant performance as Mark Judd, a low-key cop who knows more than he lets on.

More of a mystery thriller than a pure noir, 1951’s House on Telegraph Hill casts Valentina Cortese as Victoria, a Polish war refugee who assumes a deceased friend’s identity to secure a better life as the wife of San Francisco businessman Alan (Richard Basehart). But Victoria’s scam pales beside the plot concocted by Alan and his partner Margaret (Fay Baker). Director Robert Wise fashions a tense, twisty tale, drawn from Dana Lyon’s novel, that injects an additional dose of reality into the genre with its harrowing opening-reel concentration camp scenes.

No Way Out represents the grittiest surprise among Fox’s dark troika. A harsh, textured drama with noir overtones, the film marks Sidney Poitier’s movie debut as Luther Brooks, a young black doctor accused by ultra-repulsive racist psycho Ray Biddle (a sneering Richard Widmark) of causing his brother’s death. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz designs a frightening vision of an urban hellscape where impoverished whites and blacks are ever poised at each other’s throats. Super-edgy for 1950, “No Way Out” has lost little of its shock value over the intervening decades.

Film noir historian Eddie Muller supplies informative audio commentaries for all three films. The discs also include original trailers and photo galleries.

Tele-video

In new TV-on-DVD developments, thrills and drollery mix in A&E Home Video’s gala 17-disc The Avengers: The Complete Emma Peel MegaSet Collector’s Edition ($179.95), containing all 50 Diana Rigg episodes in that long-running British espionage series co-starring Patrick Macnee, plus three bonus “lost” episodes, the documentary “Avenging the Avengers” and more.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment welcomes two additional cathode crime-fighters: Angie Dickinson takes the titular role in Police Woman: The Complete First Season (five-disc, $49.95), assembling all 23 Season One episodes plus commentaries by Miss Dickinson, while Bo Svenson carries a big stick in the seven-episode Walking Tall: The Complete Series (two-disc, $29.95).

Paramount Home Entertainment corners the comedy market with three new boxed sets — The Brady Bunch: The Complete Final Season (four-disc, $44.99), Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Third Season (five-disc, $39.99) and the more contemporary Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out: Uncensored (three-disc, $44.99).

Warner Home Video aims to please animation fans with bonus-laden editions of The Flintstones: The Complete Fifth Season and The Scooby Doo Dynomutt Hour: The Complete Series (four-disc, $44.98 each).

BBC Video introduces the Charles Dickens-based miniseries Bleak House (three-disc, $39.98), starring Gillian Anderson and Charles Dance, plus Ballykissangel: Series Four (three-disc, $49.98).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases making their digital debuts, Daniel Radcliffe and friends return in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in a gala double-disc set (Warner Home Video, $29.98) packed with multiple featurettes, deleted scenes, DVD-ROM content and much more.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment issues the disquieting, fact-based military drama Jarhead, showcasing a dynamic Jake Gyllenhaal as Marine-turned-author Anthony Swofford, in separate single- and double-disc editions ($29.98, $39.98), along with Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman in the romantic comedy Prime ($29.98); both titles arrive with copious extras.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment unveils Atom Egoyan’s mystery Where the Truth Lies ($26.99), starring Kevin Bacon and Alison Lohman, and the Chinese epic The Warrior ($24.96), featuring Ziyi Zhang.

Collectors’ corner

Dark Sky Films/MPI Home Video goes the backdate drive-in route with two early ‘70s biker flicks, The Losers and the memorably titled action/horror hybrid Werewolves on Wheels, plus the 1965 Jayne Mansfield crime caper Dog Eat Dog ($14.98 each).

Mondo Hayao

Buena Vista Home Entertainment offers new, extras-enhanced editions of three Hayao Miyazaki anime classics — Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro and Whisper of the Heart ($29.99 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I have never found the French gangster movie Borsalino and Co., with Alain Delon, on video. Any information would be much appreciated.

Warren Robinson, via e-mail

Kino Video released that gritty 1970s crime film last summer ($24.95, kino.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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