- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2007

A classic World War II combat drama with an added ethnic subtext, Rachid Bouchareb’s Academy Award-nominated 2006 Days of Glory (aka “Indigenes”) makes its digital debut via the Weinstein Company ($28.95). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

The film focuses on a quartet of North African men who volunteer to fight for France in dangerous European missions while being consistently subjected to inferior treatment by their Gallic officers.

The soldiers exhibit conflicting emotions, with some, like ambitious corporal Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila), seeking to overcome their second-class status by proving their worth in battle, and others, like the proud Messaoud (Roschdy Zem), barely able to contain their growing resentment.

Under the leadership of French North African Sergeant Martinez (Bernard Blancan), himself harboring a tightly kept secret, the squad ultimately finds itself up against overwhelming odds while attempting to stave off a Nazi attack on a besieged French village.

Seamlessly inhabited by a topflight cast, the main characters deepen as the reels roll on, with the diminutive, illiterate but uncompromising Said (Jamel Debbouze) emerging as an especially sympathetic figure.

While “Days of Glory” resists wallowing in battlefield gore, the clashes are appropriately harrowing and generate genuine suspense. DVD extras include a making-of featurette and a bonus short film, “The Colonial Friend.”

Mr. Bouchareb’s intense military entry can take its rightful place beside such strong WWII fare as Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” and Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

Collectors’ corner

In vintage news, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment salutes a deserving thespian via its three-disc Pacino: An Actor’s Vision collection ($34.98), assembling a trio of projects generated by and starring Mr. Pacino: the indie drama Chinese Coffee (2001), the London-set short feature The Local Stigmatic (1990) and the behind-the-scenes Shakespearean inquiry Looking for Richard (1996). The set also incorporates the career retrospective Babbleonia: A Documentary.

Keyed to the big-screen sequel “Live Free or Die Hard,” the above label also offers the Bruce Willis Die Hard Collection (four-disc, $39.98), lining up Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Die Hard with a Vengeance, augmented by audio commentaries and a bonus disc with a new “Die Hard” documentary.

Warner Home Video celebrates an enduring screen comedienne with its Lucille Ball Film Collection (five-disc, $49.92), gathering three 1940s vehicles — Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), The Big Street (1942) and Du Barry Was a Lady (1943) — with the later showcases Critic’s Choice (1963) and Mame (1974).

Lionsgate Home Entertainment revives a brace of 1970s thrillers, Charles Bronson and Alain Delon in Honor Among Thieves and Marlon Brando in The Nightcomers ($14.98 each).

Tele-video

In fresh TV-on-DVD developments, 20th Century Fox Home debuts a 1990s cult fave, the offbeat seriocomic series Picket Fences: Season One (six-disc, $59.98), starring Tom Skerritt and arriving with a retrospective featurette with creator David E. Kelley and cast.

The same label continues the underwater sci-fi adventures with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season Three, Volume One (three-disc, $39.98), complete with an interview with costar David Hedison.

Elsewhere, Raymond Burr returns as the eponymous attorney in Paramount Home Entertainment’s Perry Mason: Season 2, Volume 1 (four-disc, $42.99) and Ricky Schroder stars in the Sony Pictures sitcom Silver Spoons: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $29.95).

BBC Video contributes the British imports Robin Hood: Season One (five-disc, $79.98), armed with an audio commentary and featurettes, and the comedy series Waiting for God: Season 2 (two-disc, $34.98).

Animated antics

In the animation arena, Warner Home Video has the Cartoon Network superhero spoof The Powerpuff Girls: Complete Season 1 (two-disc, $26.99), while MGM Home Entertainment releases a deluxe double-disc edition of The Secret of NIMH ($19.98), with filmmaker commentary, featurette and interactive games, and Walt Disney Home Entertainment issues The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh ($29.99).

First Run Features furnishes two volumes of animator Michael Sporn’s The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen: The Emperor’s New Clothes/Nightingale and The Red Shoes/The Little Match Girl. They’re tagged at $14.95 each.

The ‘A’ list

Whimsy rules in a pair of recent theatrical features making their digital bows: the elaborate family-oriented fantasy Bridge to Terabithia (Walt Disney, $29.99), packed with commentaries and featurettes, and Renee Zellweger as renowned children’s author Beatrix Potter in the romantic biopic Miss Potter (The Weinstein Company, $28.95), likewise brimming with bonus material.

On grittier turf, Lionsgate unlocks the limited-release haunted-house chiller The Abandoned ($28.98), while the country’s zaniest cops wreak raucous tropical havoc in 20th Century Fox’s Reno 911: Miami ($29.98).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Looking for a black-and-white horror film that used to be on TV — “Hand of the Devil.”

Alan Tracy, via e-mail

That’s likely The Devil’s Hand, available via Alpha Video ($7.98, www.oldies.com).

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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