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.
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).
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).
Keyed to the recent big-screen adaptation "1408," MGM Home Entertainment packages the Stephen King DVD Collector's Set (four-disc, $39.98), assembling the 1976 telekinetic terror classic Carrie; the 1990 hostage thriller Misery, with a brilliant Kathy Bates; 1993's schizo scarefest The Dark Half; and the same year's supernatural chiller Needful Things. The titles are also available individually ($14.98 each).
The 'A' list
Recent indie titles dominate a light theatrical-to-DVD slate, led by three coming-of-age stories — Jay Craven's 1920s rural Maine-set Disappearances (Screen Media Films, $24.98), with Kris Kristofferson; Jeremy Brock's seriocomic Driving Lessons (Sony Pictures, $24.96), starring Laura Linney and Rupert Grint; and Matthew Cole Weiss' post-collegiate romp Standing Still (The Weinstein Company, $19.95).
Elsewhere, Strand Releasing presents the opera-themed romantic comedy Puccini for Beginners ($27.99), with Gretchen Mol, while Kino Video introduces the Toronto-set romance Sabah: A Love Story ($29.95).
In documentary developments, WGBH Boston Video offers the four-part "Nova" set Epidemic: Ebola, Aids, Bird Flu and Typhoid (four-disc, $49.95), while New Video debuts the History Channel profile Nixon: A Presidency Revealed ($24.95) and Docurama contributes The Spaghetti West, celebrating the Italian Westerns of the 1960s and narrated by actor Robert Forster.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment emphasizes musical family fare with Hannah Montana: Pop Star Profile and High School Musical: The Concert ($19.99 each), both arriving with multiple extras.
Dear Phantom: Has the early Mafia film "Black Hand" ever been released on DVD or VHS?
— Peter Stern, via e-mail
While it's aired on cable TV, that atypical 1950 MGM Gene Kelly vehicle has yet to surface on home video.
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