- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Veteran action auteur Walter Hill, late of the frontier gems “The Long Riders” (1980) and “Wild Bill” (1995), returns to the celluloid saddle with the riveting miniseries Broken Trail, out this week in a double-disc set via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment ($28.98). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Playing a self-confessed variation on his “Lonesome Dove” and “Open Range” characters, Robert Duvall effortlessly commands the screen as Print Ritter, a crusty old cowhand who convinces his laconic nephew Tom Harte (Thomas Haden Church, of “Sideways” fame) to join him on an arduous horse drive.

That mission grows more complicated when Print and Tom assume responsibility for five Chinese girls abandoned by prairie pimp Billy Fender (James Russo).

Director Hill and screenwriter Alan Geoffrion successfully blend old-school Western entertainment with a bit of revisionist “Deadwood”-style grit while steering this four-legged road trip across its 184-minute running time.

In addition to Messrs. Duvall and Church, Greta Scacchi turns in fine work as Nola, a former prostitute with a hankering for Print, while Chris Mulkey impresses as Big Ears, a bad guy determined to make life miserable for our protagonists.

Extras are slight beyond a well-executed behind-the-scenes featurette; a filmmakers’ audio commentary would have been welcome. Still, this widescreen Western is well worth the rental price for quality-starved couchside sagebrush buffs.

Tele-video

In the dramatic TV on DVD arena, Koch Vision imports the family-friendly British miniseries Anne of Avonlea (two-disc, $29.98); Buena Vista Home Entertainment extends the saga of faux U.S. President Geena Davis in Commander in Chief: Inaugural Edition Part 2 (two-disc, $29.99); Sony Pictures unearths the 1970s series Family: The Complete First and Second Seasons (six-disc, $49.95); and HBO Video presents the acclaimed prison-set Oz: The Complete Sixth Season (three-disc, $64.98), armed with cast and creator audio commentaries, deleted scenes and more.

In the comedy field, Koch Vision brings back one of our favorite 1950s series, the low-budget but high-energy Abbott & Costello Show: Season 1 (three-disc, $39.98). Elsewhere, 20th Century Fox revisits the 1970s with The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Fourth Season (three-disc, $29.99), while Lionsgate Home Entertainment journeys to the 1980s with ALF: Season 4 (four-disc, $39.98).

For fans of the supernatural, Warner Home Video introduces the fittingly titled Supernatural: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $59.98), creeping in with select commentary, featurettes, extended scenes and more, while 20th Century Fox supplies the compilation Buffy vs. Tales From the Hellmouth ($29.99) and Buena Vista furnishes the hit series Lost: The Complete Second Season (7-disc, $59.99).

Anchor Bay Entertainment returns to the 1990s with the action show Renegade: Seasons 2 & 3 (six-disc, $49.98), starring Lorenzo Lamas and Kathleen Kinmont, and the thriller Silk Stalkings: The Complete Fifth Season (four-disc, $39.98).

Collectors’ corner

Classic Media offers the double-disc Godzilla/Gojira Deluxe Collector’s Set ($21.98), containing Ishiro Honda’s original 1954 Gojira in a remastered, English-subtitled print plus the 1956 Anglicized version Godzilla, King of the Monsters, with Raymond Burr.

Two featurettes — Making of the Godzilla Suite and Godzilla: Story Development — a film experts’ audio commentary, and a poster gallery complete the long-anticipated set.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment assembles a trio of fantasy adventures in Jim Henson’s Fantasy Film Collection (three-disc, $49.95) — 1983’s The Dark Crystal, David Bowie in 1986’s live-action Labyrinth (scripted by erstwhile “Monty Python” Terry Jones) and the surreal 2005 adventure MirrorMask.

20th Century Fox packages deluxe new editions of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the semi-sequel Shock Treatment: 25th Anniversary Edition ($19.98 each), also available together in a double-disc gift set ($29.98).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical titles arriving on disc, Universal Studios Home Entertainment releases the true story of United 93 ($29.98); Miramax Home Entertainment premieres the offbeat British comedy Kinky Boots ($29.99); Koch Vision furnishes the political documentary Our Brand Is Crisis ($29.98); and Magnolia Home Entertainment imports a pair of thrillers, the hard-hitting British revenge shocker Dead Man’s Shoes and the French futuristic action adventure District B13 ($26.98 each).

Animated antics

Walt Disney Home Entertainment offers the sequel Brother Bear 2 ($29.99), plus the animated series Darkwing Duck Volume 1 and Talespin Volume 1 (three-disc, $34.99 each), while Warner contributes The Flintstones: The Complete 6th Season (four-disc, $44.98).

Video verite

First Run Features releases a trio of disparate new documentaries — the drug-addiction study Methadonia, the art-themed A Model for Matisse and the soccer-centered Real, The Movie ($24.95 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’m trying to find a couple of old-time TV cartoon series on DVD — “Huckleberry Hound” and “Quick Draw McGraw.”

— Alan Travis, via e-mail

Warner Home Video issued The Huckleberry Hound Show: Volume 1 (four-disc, $44.98); hopefully, “Quick Draw” will soon follow suit.

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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