- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

If you enjoy veteran British thesp Christopher Lee as the evil Saruman in Peter Jackson's epic "Lord of the Rings," you might want to check out his 1971 "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"-inspired showcase I, Monster. It's our …

Video pick of the week
Recently released on VHS by the archivists at Sinister Cinema ($16.95, 541/773-6860) "I, Monster" gives us an intense Lee who stars as the nominally good Dr. Marlowe (though Robert Louis Stevenson receives an opening credit, his characters' names have been changed for reasons unexplained).
The good doctor is a student of Freud obsessed with the nature of good and evil (or, more precisely, the id, the ego and the superego) and the possibility of their separation within an individual. He first tests his secret formula on his cat, who throws a subsequent hissy fit nasty enough to prompt Marlowe to fell the feline with a handy poker.
Despite this apparent lesson, Marlowe is soon injecting the drug into his own system and transforming himself into the night-crawling Blake, who haunts London's seedier sectors to satisfy his illicit, oft-violent desires. Screenwriter Milton Subotsky adds a neat Dorian Gray touch as Marlowe/Blake mutates ever further into a physical monster ("as the pleasures increase," Marlowe observes, "the face grows uglier").
While by no means the best "J&H;" screen translation, "I, Monster" benefits from a terrific performance by the alternately meditative, mischievous (a phase Mr. Lee registers with wonderfully sinister whimsy) and finally monstrous scientist; solid supporting work by the ever-reliable Peter Cushing as a suspicious colleague; an appropriately dissonant music score; and Victorian set direction that's unusually detailed for a modestly budgeted production.
Sinister Cinema's somewhat worn, color-faded print adds to the vintage drive-in feel, though a future pristine DVD release of this solid shocker would also be appreciated.

Mondo anglo
And speaking of Old Blighty, A&E; Home Video (800/423-1212) provides a plethora of treats for Anglophiles with its early January release slate.
First up are sets 3 and 4 of The Saint, containing seven episodes that complete the 1966-67 season of that popular TV espionage series starring future James Bond Roger Moore as novelist Leslie Charteris's ultra-suave gentleman adventurer Simon Templar. The DVD set ($39.95) includes a wealth of extras, from the original broadcast trailers to a complete history of "The Saint." Six of the episodes will also be available in a VHS 3-pack ($29.95).
Monty Pythonite and medieval expert Terry Jones, meanwhile, adopts an at-once witty and scholarly approach to The Crusades, a double-disc DVD ($39.95) examination of that long-running historical adventure.
Also due from A&E;: Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, Set 2 ($49.95 for the three-disc DVD), Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete Third Season ($39.95 for the two-disc set) and Upstairs Downstairs: The Complete Second Season ($79.95 for the four-disc set).

Midnight madness
In cult-movie news, MGM adds several fresh vintage titles to its "Midnite Movies" DVD line ($14.95 each), including the 1960 Mars landing sci-fi horror The Angry Red Planet, filmed in the fun "Cinemagic" process and starring Gerald Mohr, Nora Hayden and the formidable batratspidercrab"; and the truly eerie 1958 cemetery-set chiller I Bury the Living, with Richard Boone and Theodore Bikel.
The label likewise intros the 1976 Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation At the Earth's Core, starring Doug McClure, Peter Cushing and Caroline Munro; and the 1965 underwater sci-fi fantasy War Gods of the Deep, very loosely based on an Edgar Allan Poe tale and starring Vincent Price, Tab Hunter and Susan Hart. The DVDs are available now.

The 'A' list
In upcoming A list action, look for the acrobatic Jet Li showcase Kiss of the Dragon (20th Century Fox), co-starring Bridget Fonda; and the '80s youth-comedy spoof Wet Hot American Summer (USA Home Entertainment), with Janeane Garofalo.
Look too for a trio of indies: Nastassja Kinski, Tony Goldwyn and Scarlett Johansson in Eva Gardos' American Rhapsody (Paramount); Ben Gazzara and Rita Moreno in John Gallagher's Blue Moon; and Brad Renfro in Larry Clark's Bully. All will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Your "Phantom of the Movies" column is great. Can you tell me anything about the availability of the movie Blood Sisters? Thank you.
Peter A. Bookman, Arlington, Va.

Thanks for the kind words. While briefly available on video, Roberta Findlay's 1987 chiller is no longer in circulation. Best bet for a rental copy would be Video Vault (800/VAULT-66). For purchase, on-line sites like www.ebay.com and www.half.com would be worth checking out.

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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