- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

One of the smoothest low-budget screen expansions of a modestly mounted stage musical we've seen, Hedwig and the Angry Inch delivers as both a rousing rock concert and a surprisingly complex meditation on dualities of all kinds. It's our …

Video pick of the week
In "Hedwig" out this week via New Line Home Video (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD) writer-director-star John Cameron Mitchell lends admirable depth to what could have been a campy character: His Hedwig is a walking (and rocking) contradiction: half-man and half-woman (and not quite either); half-German and half-American; and even half-East and half-West Berlin.
The story intercuts Helga and her band The Angry Inch and their tacky tour of fictional American fast-food franchise Bilgewater's, from Kansas to Miami Beach and finally New York City, with flashbacks to her German childhood, her "marriage" to a G.I (Maurice Dean Wint), and her later love affair with musical protege Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt), who's since gone on to eclipse her as a major rock star.
While "Helga" has its satirical elements, the work is serious at core, and Mr. Mitchell projects genuine pain and pathos as our gender-bent heroine. The film illustrates the often tortured nature of the creative process as she uses her songs (composed by co-star and original show co-creator Stephen Trask) to express her quest for love and understanding. Emily Hubley's inventive animation segments likewise hit just the right note without seeming gimmicky, while "SCTV" fans will enjoy seeing alum Andrea Martin in a small but pivotal role as Hedwig's energetic manager Phyllis Stein.
As much as we enjoyed the movie, we admit to bailing early on Mr. Mitchell's and Mr. Trask's DVD audio commentary, which, like so many others, concentrates more on technical aspects and behind-the-scenes trivia than on the film's intriguing themes. Still, New Line's DVD has other pleasures to offer, including a feature-length documentary and deleted scenes. For music fans looking for a thinking man/woman's "Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" more than fills the bill.
Inveterate "Rocky" buffs, meanwhile, should check out the new documentary A Regular Frankie Fan (Liberty International, $19.98 DVD), a look at regional "Rocky" troupes, fan clubs and conventions, narrated by Paul Williams.

Animated antics
Rhino Home Video plans a January launch for several titles designed to please animation fans, starting with the homevid debut of the popular Fox Kids TV series Beast Wars, chronicling the adventures of rival robotic alien factions that crash-land on Earth ($19.95 per six-episode DVD, $9.95 each per three-episode VHS).
Rhino also updates the Battle of the Planet series with two new double-episode DVDs, Volume 3 and 4 ($19.95 each). Likewise new to DVD is the label's The Three Stooges Cartoon Classics ($14.95), a collection of animated shorts based on the slapstick trio's antics, complete with live-action wraparounds hosted by Moe, Larry and Curly Joe themselves.

The 'A' list
In "A" movie developments, look next month for a trio of recent theatrical comedies: the fast-bursting Bubble Boy (Touchstone Pictures); the all-star treasure-hunt farce Rat Race (Paramount), with Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., Seth Green, Jon Lovitz, Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart; and Tortilla Soup (Columbia/TriStar), starring Elizabeth Pena, Hector Elizondo and Raquel Welch. All three will be priced for rental and also available on DVD.

Cult confidential
MGM goes the gala DVD route with a duo of long-time cult faves. Up first is 1984's The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, a trippy sci-fi-satire-rock musical romp starring Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum and a gleefully over-the-top John Lithgow. The DVD comes complete with a new prologue, director's commentary and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Look also for an equally lavish edition of the 1980 Mel Gibson showcase Mad Max ($19.98 each).

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Do you know if A Hard Day's Night, starring The Beatles, will be coming out on DVD any time soon? Also Help!?
Frank Koziuk, via e-mail
"A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" are officially out of circulation on VHS and DVD (though some individual stores still stock them). The only readily available related title is the behind-the-scenes documentary The Beatles: You Can't Do That: The Making of 'A Hard Day's Night' ($22.49 DVD, $18.99 VHS from Movies Unlimited, 800/4-MOVIES). Perhaps George Harrison's tragic, premature passing will prompt the most recent copyright holders, MPI, to reissue the films on homevideo.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] And check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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