- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2007

A vintage philosophical thriller earns a deserving second life with the digital release of Charles Crichton’s 1964 The Third Secret ($14.98), new from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

When noted psychiatrist Charles Whitset (Peter Copley) is discovered dying from a gunshot wound in his London office, his precocious teenage daughter Catherine (Pamela Franklin) recruits initially reluctant Yank television commentator Alex Stedman (Stephen Boyd), who hosts a cultural/political segment called “The American Page,” to help prove her father didn’t commit suicide.

To uncover a possible perpetrator, Alex investigates each of Dr. Whitset’s erstwhile patients, including insecure Anne (Diane Cilento), with whom he begins a complex affair.

“The Third Secret” is less a standard crime procedural than a brooding probe into the frailty of human nature, as exemplified by the three lead characters, as well as suspects/patients like art dealer/frustrated painter Alfred (deftly interpreted by Richard Attenborough).

Lensed in evocative black-and-white, the film’s deliberate pace and calm surface are occasionally shattered by bursts of emotional violence and surreal nightmare sequences that underscore the fragility of its chief players’ psychic states.

Flawlessly enacted by a top British cast (including a young Judi Dench in a brief appearance), “The Third Secret” weaves a melancholy spell that lingers long after the end credits roll (in this case over a particularly haunting final image).

Extras are slight beyond stills and pressbook galleries and the original theatrical trailer, but the film offers more than ample rewards in its own right.

Tele-video

Universal Studios Home Entertainment kicks off the TV-on-DVD week with two new titles — Robert Conrad as legendary pilot “Pappy” Boyington in the airborne adventure Baa Baa Black Sheep, Vol. 2 and the think-tank comedy Eureka: Season One (three-disc, $39.98 each). Docurama contributes the reality TV show Film School: The Complete Series (three-disc, $29.95), chronicling the progress of a trio of tyro filmmakers.

From across the pond, Acorn Media imports Chancer: Series 1 (four-disc, $59.99), starring Clive Owen as a cunning con man. The same label looks northward with Slings & Arrows: Season 3 (two-disc, $29.99), recording the seriocomic adventures of a fictional Canadian theatre troupe; extras include cast interviews, deleted scenes, bloopers and more.

Shout! Factory journeys back to the ‘60s with the animated mock superhero show Batfink: The Complete Series: Special 40th Anniversary Edition (four-disc, $34.99) and the variety series This Is Tom Jones: Rock ‘n’ Roll Legends (three-disc, $39.99), with performances by Janis Joplin, The Who, Aretha Franklin and many more.

Stand-up stars hold sway in George Lopez: America’s Mexican (HBO Video, $19.97) and White Boyz in the Hood (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, $29.98).

Collectors’ corner

Dragon Dynasty’s The Shaw Brothers Classic Collection serves the cream of the old-school Hong Kong kung-fu crop, leading with the 1978 entry The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, an excellent period piece that emphasizes painstaking martial-arts training. The label also issues bonus-laden editions of King Boxer (Five Fingers of Death), Hui Ying-Hung as a hard-chopping heroine in My Young Auntie and Jimmy Wang Yu as The One-Armed Swordsman ($19.98 each).

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