- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

One of the brightest stars in the film noir firmament, Louis Malle’s 1957 thriller Elevator to the Gallows, joins the digital ranks in a new deluxe double-disc edition ($39.95) via the Criterion Collection. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

As the movie opens, illicit lovers Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and Julien (Maurice Ronet) conspire to slay her corrupt corporate arms-dealer husband Simon (Jean Wall) and arrange it to look like a suicide. While that part of the plot proceeds fairly smoothly, killer Julien soon finds himself trapped in the office building’s elevator, leaving an anxious Florence to ponder his whereabouts.

Next, a thrill-seeking teenage couple, Louis (Georges Poujoly) and Veronique (Yori Bertin), steal Julien’s waiting getaway car for a joy ride to disaster. And that’s only the beginning of the ironic complications in store in the then-24-year-old auteur’s relentlessly tense and inventive suspense classic.

Mr. Malle and his talented cast receive further assistance from Henri Decae’s evocative black-and-white cinematography, one that brings the Parisian locations to vivid screen life, and Miles Davis’ pitch-perfect jazz score. Criterion’s high-definition digital transfer fully restores the film to its original pristine glory.

Among the generous extras are new and archival interviews, including a terrific later Cannes-set dialogue with actress Moreau and director Malle, Mr. Malle’s student film “Crazeologie,” a collectible booklet and, perhaps most remarkably, considering its pre-video era, primo footage of the original Davis film-scoring session.

All things considered, “Elevator to the Gallows” offers a full evening of peerless vintage entertainment.

Tele-video

In TV-on-DVD developments, fans of cathode comedy old and new have plenty to choose from this week. For devotees of ‘50s fare, Paramount Home Entertainment issues I Love Lucy: The Complete Sixth Season (four-disc, $39.99), brimming with bonus material, while Universal Studios Home Entertainment revisits the Cleaver family via Leave It to Beaver: Season 2 (three-disc, $49.98).

Universal also makes an ‘80s stop for Kate & Allie: Season One ($29.98); the disc includes new interviews, a gag reel and more. Then it’s on to the ‘90s for the Fran Drescher showcase The Nanny: The Complete Second Season (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, three-disc, $39.95) and the alien romp 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 4 (Anchor Bay Entertainment, four-disc, $39.98), with bloopers, new interviews and a collectible booklet.

Moving to the present millennium, 20th Century Fox updates the Hill family’s misadventures in Mike Judge’s animated satire King of the Hill: The Complete Sixth Season (three-disc, $39.98).

Elsewhere, A&E Home Video resurrects The Avengers ‘62 (four-disc, $59.95), collecting 14 black-and-white Season Two episodes of the seminal espionage series starring Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman.

Likewise arriving from across the pond, via Koch Vision, are the 1979 double-disc Charles Dickens miniseries Nicholas Nickleby ($29.98), the TV-movie collection Dick Francis Mysteries ($24.98) and the suspense thriller Lie With Me ($29.98).

MPI Home Video introduces David Jason as the eponymous sleuth in the British import A Touch of Frost: Seasons 9 and 10 (three-disc, $39.98), along with the 20-episode The Rifleman Collection Volume 5 (four-disc, $49.98).

Collectors’ corner

Warner Home Video pulls out all the stops for its gala seven-disc Tennessee Williams Film Collection ($68.92), assembling the screen adaptations Baby Doll, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Night of the Iguana, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, A Streetcar Named Desire and Sweet Bird of Youth in a set overflowing with extras, from audio commentaries to new featurettes, vintage outtakes and more.

Zeitgeist Video salutes idiosyncratic English auteur Peter Greenaway with Greenaway: The Early Films (two-disc, $39.99), collecting seven 1970s shorts and his 1980 feature debut The Falls.

Koch Vision offers three fresh Lina Wertmuller titles — Ferdinando and Carolina, The Nymph and Summer Night ($24.98 each) — plus the new drama Nathalie ($29.98), with Emmanuelle Beart and Gerard Depardieu.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases joining the digital ranks, Genius Products Inc. introduces the animated comedy Hoodwinked and the Pierce Brosnan caper The Matador ($29.95 each), both in extras-enriched editions.

Diane Keaton surfaces in not one but two new titles, the bonus-packed culture-clash comedy The Family Stone (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $29.98) and the mob farce Plan B (Warner Home Video, $19.97).

Queen Latifah lives and laughs it up in Last Holiday (Paramount Home Entertainment, $29.95), in a special edition incorporating featurettes, deleted scenes and more.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’ve been looking for years for a home release of “Norman Corwin Presents,” a short-lived 1970s anthology TV series. Any pointers as to where I might find copies?

B. Calvin, via e-mail

Unfortunately, looks like that vintage show has yet to land a homevideo release.

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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