- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

Honchos at 20th Century Fox must have felt that "Auggie Rose" by any other name would smell as sweet the only feasible reason for releasing this original Showtime cable winner under the generic title Beyond Suspicion (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD), a handle employed by no less than three other movies in the 1990s alone.
On the other hand, perhaps that schizzy move befits Matthew Tabak's identity-switch fable: The film stars an understated but riveting Jeff Goldblum as John Nolan, a successful insurance salesman who witnesses the random killing of ex-con store clerk Auggie Rose (Kim Coates) during a deli stickup.
Nolan experiences deep guilt over surviving the incident and, when no comes to claim the body, initiates his own investigation into the virtually anonymous victim's life, eventually going so far as to assume the dead man's identity and concomitant downscale lifestyle.
The plot and emotional turmoil further thicken when the late Auggie's secret pen-pal paramour Lucy (Ann Heche) shows up at his digs for a planned rendezvous she hopes will jump-start a meaningful relationship. "Beyond Suspicion" eschews the usual thriller cliches in favor of haunting human drama as Nolan must decide whether to continue his charade now that another vulnerable soul is involved, especially when genuine romance begins to blossom between the two.
Under debuting writer-director Tabak's supervision, "Beyond Suspicion" is far superior to the majority of routinely dumbed-down, big-budget theatrical films of its ilk. Our only complaint about this thoroughly hypnotic tale is its somewhat unsatisfying conclusion, a critique shared by creator Tabak.
In his DVD commentary, he proves admirably candid about his climactic choices, and the disc includes an alternate ending (which also doesn't quite work). Still, "Beyond Suspicion" rates as an unusually soulful experience that's well worth your time. Look beyond the bland title when you see this at your local video store.

Drive-in deuces

Summer may be well along, but there's still time to enjoy the latest batch of drive-in double features from the genre archivists at Sinister Cinema (541/ 773-6860). Each cassette contains two complete films often titles that screened together during their initial theatrical runs along with classic drive-in intermission spots and coming-attraction trailers. This summer's offerings run the gamut from Euro horror (Christopher Lee in 1963's Horror Castle, paired with the next year's Castle of the Living Dead, marking Donald Sutherland's celluloid debut) to German Edgar Wallace mysteries (The Indian Scarf, Fellowship of the Frog), 1940s noirs (He Walked by Night, Fear in the Night), 1930s chillers (Condemned to Live, Crime of Dr. Crespi, with Erich von Stroheim), Italian sword-and-sandal epics (Gordon Scott in Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World and Rod Flash in Vulcan, Son of Jupiter) and 1950s sci-fi (Devil Girl From Mars, Phantom From Space), among many others.
Our favorite pairing is 1959's beyond-bizarre The Manster, about a Yank journalist in Japan who grows a second head (no brighter than the first, alas), paired with the unsung 1962 doomsday thriller This Is Not a Test (a prime second feature to watch with the recent "Thirteen Days"). The double features, available through Nov. 30, are tagged at $19.95 per tape.

Collector's corner

Later this month, Warner reduces stickers on a slew of more recent, higher-profile titles. Available at $9.95 each VHS will be Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgard and Saffran Burrows in the smarter-than-your-average shark horror Deep Blue Sea; Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Rene Russo, Chris Rock and Jet Li in Lethal Weapon 4; and Will Smith and Kevin Kline in Wild Wild West.
Also reappearing at the same price are the Sly Stallone crime remake Get Carter, the infernal Adam Sandler comedy Little Nicky and Val Kilmer in the space opera Red Planet. The same label's Space Cowboys: Collector's Edition with Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones as cosmic codgers will sell for $13.95 and comes complete with bonus footage.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I have been trying to find Mankillers, with Edy Williams. Do you know where I might be able to get a copy of this movie?
Michael Bancroft
"Mankillers," from 1987, has been out of circulation since its label, AIP Video, folded in the early 1990s. You might try Video Vault (800/VAULT-66) for a rental copy or online auction sites like E-Bay.
Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 send e-mail to at [email protected]

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