- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

Still one of the most quietly powerful documentaries ever made, brothers David and Albert Maysles' Salesman stands even taller in its gala new DVD release, courtesy of the Criterion Collection ($39.98). It's our …

Video pick of the week
The 1969 film follows four Bible salesmen, identified chiefly by their nicknames the Rabbit, the Gipper, the Bull and the Badger on their dogged door-to-door rounds in Boston and Opa-Locka, Fla. While each of their personalities is clearly etched, a central story line takes shape in the plight of the Badger (Paul Brennan), something of a real-life Willy Loman, who begins losing his desire and "touch" as the reels roll on.
Speaking directly to the camera as it tracks him through his daily routines, the initially jaunty Irish-American grows increasingly drained and bitter, displaying impatience with reluctant potential customers and his fellow salesmen alike, who gradually distance themselves from Paul's "negative" attitude. By film's end, the Badger seems nothing less than a living symbol of his own fast-vanishing trade.
Criterion's pristine, digitally remastered edition includes running commentary by surviving Maysles brother Albert and film editor Charlotte Zwerin, a particularly telling 1968 television interview with the Maysleses conducted by film critic Jack Kroll, and many other extras. While there is a follow-up January 2000 radio interview with the Rabbit (Jim Baker), the disc misses a beat in not updating us about the fates of his cronies. Still, anyone interested in gritty, poignant, real-life human drama won't want to miss this winner.

Animated antics
In the animation arena, Dreamworks' announced Nov. 2 release of the megahit Shrek ($24.99 VHS, $26.99 DVD), featuring the voices of Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, caps a busy several weeks for the genre: Disney plans an Oct. 9 DVD debut for its classic feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ($29.99), while Warner goes the cult-cartoon route with The Powerpuff Girls Meet the Beat-Alls ($19.98 VHS/DVD), Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase ($19.95 VHS) and The Lord of the Rings ($14.95 VHS).
In somewhat darker developments, two "anime" titles arrive in time for the Halloween season the recent select theatrical release Blood: The Last Vampire ($19.95 VHS, $24.95 DVD) and Vampire Princess Miyu: Volume 1-2, a popular episodic Japanese TV series first broadcast in the late '80s.
Columbia/TriStar, meanwhile, sets an early November date for its sci-fi feature Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD).

Broadway video
Universal's Spotlight Collection brings Broadway to the nation's home theaters with its October DVD edition of Cats ($26.99). Beyond the show itself, the disc offers a new interview with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, cast and crew interviews, and a bonus feature on makeup secrets of "Cats."
The label likewise debuts the concert Andrew Lloyd Webber's Royal Albert Hall Celebration, starring such noted performers as Antonio Banderas, Glenn Close, Sarah Brightman and Donny Osmond. The titles are also available on VHS ($14.98 each) and join three previous presentations, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and the dance spectacular Burn the Floor ($24.98 DVD, $14.98 VHS).
For Michael Flatley fans, Universal slates the terpsichorean concerts Gold: A Celebration of Michael Flatley and Michael Flatley's Feet of Flames ($24.98 DVD, $14.98 VHS each).

Combat cassettes
Touchstone Video plans a Dec. 4 launch for Michael Bay's 2001 blockbuster Pearl Harbor (prices to be announced), to coincide as closely as possible with the infamous event's 60th anniversary. Paramount issues Francis Ford Coppola's re-edited Apocalypse Now Redux ($24.95 VHS, $29.95 DVD), following a select theatrical run, along with Forrest Gump: Special Collector's Edition ($29.95 DVD).
Universal lavishes fresh attention on a pair of high-profile World War II dramas 1977's MacArthur, starring Gregory Peck in the title role, and Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda in 1976's Midway ($19.95 DVD each), the latter including a new interview with Mr. Heston and a featurette on composer John Williams.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Been looking for a flick titled Four Corners of Nowhere. Sundance Channel showed it a few times a few years ago; I've tried all the usual suspects (Movies Unlimited, etc.). Do you have any leads?
Hollis M. Morrow, Jr., via e-mail
That 1995 Australian Generation-X comedy has yet to land a U.S. video release, but with labels like Vanguard Cinema, Winstar Entertainment and World Artists Video, among others, increasing their indie output, there's a fair chance the title will surface in the not-too-distant future.

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