- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007

Thriller fans are in for a treat with the arrival of the three-disc, 10-episode documentary series The Fearmakers Collection ($29.98), new from Elite Entertainment (elitedisc.com). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Based on John McCarty’s book “The Fearmakers” and directed and narrated by the author, the series employs relevant clips and expert talking-head interviews to profile 10 leading genre directors past and present, from Tod Browning and Roger Corman to Roman Polanski and Robert Wise.

While the half-hour episodes vary in strength, all offer portraits that succeed in being succinct without feeling rushed or superficial. The assembled “witnesses” represent an inspired mix, led by contemporary genre directors Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Joe Dante and Stuart Gordon (who merit future episodes of their own), fright novelist-screenwriter Richard Matheson and scare scholar David J. Skal, all of whom bring considerable insight to the round table.

The segment on gimmick guru William Castle, of “The Tingler” and “House on Haunted Hill” fame, is particular fun, as is the portrait of British horror helmer Terence Fisher, who didn’t hit his career stride until age 52.

While Elite’s set lacks additional bonus material, there’s more than enough here to sate film buffs while also whetting their collective appetite for more installments.

Tele-video

Paramount Home Entertainment leads a busy TV-on-DVD week with three new releases — the remastered 25-episode Mission Impossible: The Second TV Season (seven-disc $54.99), Hogan’s Heroes: The Sixth & Final Season (four-disc, $42.99) and the comedy compilation Best of Chappelle’s Show ($19.99).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment pulls out all the sitcom stops for Seinfeld: Season 8 (four-disc, $49.95), supplementing the remastered episodes with select cast and crew commentaries, behind-the-scenes features, bloopers, deleted scenes and more.

The same label pursues a more earnest path via the Denis Leary firefighter drama Rescue Me: The Complete Third Season (four-disc, $49.95), with featurettes, deleted scenes and more.

Action reigns in CHIPs: The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video, six-disc, $39.98) and The Fall Guy: The Complete First Season (20th Century Fox, six-disc, $29.98), starring Lee Majors as a Hollywood stuntman, both roaring in with bonus featurettes.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment goes the paranormal thriller route with The Dead Zone: The Complete Fifth Season (three-disc, $34.98), complete with select commentaries and featurettes, while Warner’s Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection introduces the vintage animated comedy Wait Till Your Father Gets Home: The Complete First Season (four-disc, $44.98).

Elsewhere, Sony Pictures bows the well-reviewed British supernatural series Hex: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $49.95), while Warner debuts Stephen A. Frears’ 2000 live-TV version of Fail-Safe ($19.98), starring George Clooney, and the 1960s Western spoof F Troop: The Complete Second Season (six-disc, $39.98).

Collectors’ corner

Warner Home Video looks back with its World War II Collection Vol. 2: Heroes Fight for Freedom (six-disc, $59.92). The set assembles a half-dozen war movies — John Garfield in Air Force (1943), Clark Gable in Command Decision (1948), Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity (1960), Sean Connery in Sidney Lumet’s The Hill (1965), Spencer Tracy in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) and James Garner in the espionage thriller 36 Hours (1964) — along with World War II-era shorts, cartoons and featurettes.

20th Century Fox likewise focuses on military themes with fresh double-disc editions ($19.98 each) of three combat classics — Robert Wise’s excellent 1966 China-set epic The Sand Pebbles, starring Steve McQueen; Henry King’s 1949 Twelve O’Clock High, with an Oscar-winning Gregory Peck; and Mark Robson’s 1965 Von Ryan’s Express, featuring Frank Sinatra. Extras include audio commentaries, new and vintage featurettes and more.

Video verite

Annabelle Gurwitch discusses the state of being Fired! (Shout! Factory, $19.98) with everyone from Michigan autoworkers to Hollywood celebs in her new documentary, complete with bonus interviews and outtakes, while New Video supplies nirvana for canine connoisseurs with its double-disc 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: Special Collector’s Edition ($29.95), bolstered by featurettes, a backstage tour and much more.

Digital diamonds

A&E; Home Video appeals to regional baseball buffs with a brace of gala new sets: Baltimore Orioles Legends: Cal Ripken Jr. Collector’s Edition (six-disc, $59.95) presents an exhaustive portrait of the Hall of Famer, including documentaries and five complete classic games. Chicago Cubs Legends: Great Games Collector’s Edition (eight-disc, $79.95) accords similarly extensive treatment to that fabled franchise.

The ‘A’ list

Eddie Murphy in dual roles in the broad romp Norbit (Paramount, $29.99) dominates a slim theatrical-to-DVD week; Sony Pictures counterprograms with the supernatural chiller The Messengers ($28.95).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Haven’t been able to find Cronos, an early film by Guillermo del Toro, anywhere on DVD.

Mark Schaeffer, via e-mail

Lionsgate issued that 1993 vampire fable on disc a few years back, but it’s out of circulation.

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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