- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

Arguably the best pure drive-in movie to beam down (or, more accurately, crash-land) into American 'plexes in 2001, John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars arrives as a non-stop, over-the-top thrill ride that basically reworks the auteur's 1976 "Assault on Precinct 13" in an outer-space setting. It's our …

Video pick of the week
"Ghosts" (Columbia/TriStar, priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD) bring us to the year 2176 and to a stark Mars colony aswirl with ominous red dust and overseen by a military matriarchy. Here policewomen Natasha Henstridge, Clea Duvall and the always-welcome Pam Grier, along with randy token male Jason Statham (of "Snatch"), search for legendary criminal James "Desolation" Williams (a snarling Ice Cube), believed responsible for a massive slaughter at a remote mining outpost.
Turns out the culprit is a far more sinister force the avenging collective spirit of displaced Martian aborigines who have appropriated the bodies of former miners, transforming them into Marilyn-Mansonoid variations on George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" zombies.
So much for explanations. Mr. Carpenter quickly gets down to the real business at hand extended rapid-fire confrontations between the relentless crazies and the endangered (but heavily armed) humans, complete with narrow escapes, gruesome demises and exciting chase sequences, set to a throbbing heavy metal score co-composed by Mr. Carpenter himself.
While this relatively modestly budgeted throwback to such Carpenter classics as the above-mentioned "Assault," "The Thing," "Escape from New York" and 1997's "Escape from L.A." failed to score with mall audiences conditioned to consume slicker, blander genre fare, action hounds will want to pounce on this wild winner in its video form. We especially recommend the DVD edition, which features a raft of extras, including an entertaining Carpenter commentary, for an evening of breathless escapism with witty subtexts and "old-school" underground edge.

Collectors' corner
Next month, 20th Century Fox reprices nine VHS titles at $9.98 each. Leading the list are Leonardo DiCaprio in the adventure fable The Beach, along with a trio of widely diverse comedies Robin Williams and Sally Field in the winning drag farce Mrs. Doubtfire, the Tom Green showcase Freddy Got Fingered, and the surreal semi-animated fantasy Monkeybone, starring Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda and Chris Kattan.
Also joining the roster: Jeff Goldblum and Anne Heche in the affecting identity-crisis dramatic thriller Beyond Suspicion (a k a "Auggie Rose"); Willem Dafoe in Boondock Saints; James Coburn and Costas Mandylor in the nautical disaster movie Deep Water; Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda and Oliver Platt in the tongue-in-cheek terror tale Lake Placid; and Matt McCoy, Glenn Plummer and Corbin Bernsen in the military actioner Rangers. All of the above titles will also be available on DVD.

Where there's Hope
Classic comedy fans and Bob Hope buffs receive a major boost next month when Universal slices prices on seven Ski-Nose specials. Bob exchanges barbs with W.C. Fields and an all-star supporting cast in The Big Broadcast of 1938, while Bob and Paulette Goddard confront restless spirits in the supernatural romp Ghost Breakers. Then Bob journeys West to hook up with Jane Russell in The Paleface.
Universal also offers four Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour road-movie romps: Road to Morocco, Road to Singapore, Road to Utopia and Road to Zanzibar. The titles are tagged at $9.98 each VHS, while the "Road" quartet is also available as a boxed set ($29.98).

The 'A' list
"A" list titles slated to join the homevideo ranks next month include the animated Disney adventure Atlantis: The Lost Empire; Woody Allen's latest comedy, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (Dreamworks Home Entertainment), co-starring Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd and Charlize Theron; and Tom ("Run, Lola, Run") Tykwer's Teutonic import The Princess and the Warrior, toplining "Lola"'s Franka Potente. All will be priced for rental VHS with the exception of "Atlantis" ($26.99) and also available on DVD.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Have had no luck tracking down an older cult movie called The Honeymoon Killers, with Tony Lo Bianco and Shirley Stoler. Any suggestions?
Tom Friedman, New York City

Leonard Kastle's fact-based 1970 serial-killer thriller was originally out via Vestron Video, before that outfit folded, and is no longer in general circulation. A good bet for a copy of "Honeymoon Killers" (and other hard-to-find cult titles, like 1977's Fight For Your Life) is Cape Copy Center (508/775-6500).

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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