- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vintage genre-film fans are in for a treat with the four-disc set Monsters and Madmen ($79.95), new from the archivists at Criterion Collection. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Boris Karloff headlines in two effective 1958 chillers, both produced by Richard Gordon and directed by Robert Day. In the loosely fact-inspired Corridors of Blood, the actor excels as a compassionate 19th-century surgeon seeking to perfect an anesthetic. His troubles begin when he gets embroiled with grave-robber Resurrection Joe (a wonderfully sleazy Christopher Lee) and escalate when he becomes addicted to his own narcotic formula. A strong period atmosphere further sells this gritty but compelling affair.

The Haunted Strangler is an atmospheric tale of a Victorian novelist who unconsciously re-enacts the violent crimes of the deceased killer whose exploits he’s been researching; Mr. Karloff is equally convincing as both the good and evil sides of his seriously split personality in this deft “Jekyll and Hyde” variation.

The focus shifts to science fiction in Spencer G. Bennet’s 1959 Atomic Submarine, a low-budget but suspenseful encounter with a conquest-minded underwater alien, powered by a veteran cast that includes Dick Foran, Joi Lansing and Bob Steele.

Mr. Day again takes the directorial reigns for The First Man into Space (1959). The film is basically a rehash of the superior 1956 “Prof. Quatermass” entry “The Creeping Unknown” but good for a few frights in its own right as an irradiated astronaut (Bill Edwards) returns to Earth as a marauding mutant.

Extras include fascinating interviews with director Day and many of the movies’ players, who describe their on-set experiences, along with commentaries by producer Gordon and genre scholar Tom Weaver and a booklet containing new essays by film critics Bruce Eder and Maitland McDonagh. “Monsters and Madness” furnishes a fun fear-movie marathon.

Tele-video

Comedy dominates the week’s TV-on-DVD slate, with a special emphasis on famous funnypersons old and new. A&E Home Video honors a venerable British comic icon via Benny Hill: Complete and Unadulterated: Set 6 — The Hill’s Angels Years 1986-1989 (three-disc, $49.95), while MPI Home Video assembles choice cathode-clip collections highlighting comic legends Phyllis Diller: Not Just Another Pretty Face and Tim Conway: Timeless Comedy ($14.98 each).

In a more contemporary vein, standup comedienne Kate Clinton holds forth in the eponymous Kate Clinton (Genius Entertainment, $19.95); Louis C.K. carries on in the working-class sitcom Lucky Louie: The Complete First Season (HBO Video, two-disc, $29.98), complete with audio commentaries, a making-of featurette and bonus episode; and four frequently fractious friends share a chaotic standup tour in The Comedians of Comedy (Anchor Bay Entertainment, $19.98).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, meanwhile, digs deep into the 1960s to retrieve the Barbara Eden/Larry Hagman sitcom I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete Third Season (four-disc, $39.95).

Acorn Media contributes to the merriment with the Leonard Rossiter Britcom Rising Damp Series 3 ($24.99) while also offering the fact-drawn literary drama The Chatterley Affair ($24.99), the Balzac-based “Masterpiece Theatre” miniseries Cousin Bette and Kenneth More as G.K. Chesterton’s clerical sleuth in Father Brown Set 1 (both two-disc, $39.99 each).

20th Century Fox re-creates the Old West in the Barbara Stanwyck series The Big Valley: Season 2, Volume 1 (three-disc, $39.98), while the multiple plots thicken in Warner Home Video’s Dallas: The Complete Sixth Season (five-disc, $39.98).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases making their digital debuts, Sony Pictures bows two family-friendly films, the football fable Facing the Giants ($26.96) and the animated woodland adventure Open Season ($28.95), the latter featuring the vocal talents of Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher; both discs arrive with copious extras, from commentaries to featurettes.

Elsewhere, Buena Vista Home Entertainment presents the World War I aviation combat drama Flyboys ($29.99), 20th Century Fox unleashes John Cena in the vengeance-driven action exercise The Marine, while Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif lend veteran expertise to the same label’s biblical saga One Night With the King ($29.98 each).

Collectors’ corner

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment celebrates Doris Day with a troika of 1960s titles: the romantic comedies Do Not Disturb (1965), co-starring Rod Taylor, and Move Over, Darling (1963), with James Garner, plus the less felicitous 1967 spy caper Caprice, featuring Richard Harris. The extras-enhanced editions are tagged at $19.98 each.

MGM Home Entertainment revisits one of the scariest films of the ‘90s with its double-disc The Silence of the Lambs Collector’s Edition ($26.98), sporting all-new behind-the-scenes documentaries, 22 deleted scenes and much more.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Cannot find a DVD, VHS or any format of the movie “Crazy Joe” (Peter Boyle).

Damian Begley, via e-mail

Unfortunately, that 1974 crime-kingpin biopic 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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