- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

The fact that Brigham City, new this week from Spartan Home Entertainment, is set deep in the heart of Mormon country and was created by a Mormon filmmaker might turn off some viewers. That would be a big mistake, because "Brigham City" rates with the greatest modern indie noirs (e.g., the Coen Brothers' "Blood Simple," John Dahl's "Red Rock West") shot during the last two decades. It's our

Video pick of the week
Richard Dutcher, writer-director of "Brigham City" (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD), also takes the lead role of Wes Clayton, chief temporal (as sheriff) and spiritual (as church bishop) protector of idyllic, sheltered Brigham, Utah. But Wes is no shining hero; he's a damaged soul with a tragic history (wife and son killed in a mysterious road mishap that left Wes with a permanent limp and haunted heart) and a major blind spot a reluctance to acknowledge the "outside" (i.e., non-Mormon) world. As he tersely tells young deputy Terry (Matthew A. Brown) about violent crime, "It doesn't happen. Not here. Here's all I care about." No sooner are those words out of Wes' tight-lipped mouth than the lawmen stumble upon the body of a slain woman in a deserted barn.
The victim is identified as an out-of-state traveler, so Wes is only too happy to turn over the investigation to Salt Lake City FBI agents led by Scully-like Meredith Cole (Tayva Patch). But when pretty, innocent "Miss Brigham 2001" (Jacque Gray) becomes the unknown killer's next bludgeoned victim, Wes is forced to admit that it's indeed an "inside" problem and quite possibly even an inside job.
Like such vintage moral noirs as Nicholas Ray's 1952 "On Dangerous Ground," "Brigham City" is a model of artistic economy wherein every detail serves the story, with nary a wasted word or glance to be found in its swiftly paced 115 minutes. Auteur Dutcher explores his main themes outsiders vs. insiders, self-destructive denial vs. self-protective guile while delivering a taut, tense, at times emotionally devastating thriller that will keep you guessing to the end. Anything but a proselytizing Christian film, "Brigham City" is a must for anyone in the mood for a terrific, textured suspenser that will echo long after the end credits roll.

Collectors' corner: Mondo Monroe
Marilyn Monroe fans will find reason to rejoice next month when 20th Century Fox presents "The Diamond Collection: Volume II," spotlighting five Monroe movies making their DVD debuts ($19.98 each): The late actress stretches in a pair of early 1950s psychological thrillers as an unstable baby sitter in Roy Ward Baker's underrated Don't Bother to Knock , co-starring Richard Widmark; and as a scheming wife in Henry Hathaway's beautifully shot Niagara , with Joseph Cotten as her intended victim.
She goes the romantic comedy route opposite Yves Montand in Let's Make Love and Cary Grant in Howard Hawks' Monkey Business . Otto Preminger's flavorful 1954 Western River of No Return , wherein the actress risks raging rapids with rugged Robert Mitchum, completes the MM quintet.
The titles will also be available on VHS ($9.98 each).

For committed "Friends" freaks, next week Warner Home Video premieres Friends: The Complete First Season, featuring 24 uncut episodes, plus previously unseen extra footage, audio commentary, cast profiles and more ($39.95 VHS/$59.95 DVD).
In mid-May, 20th Century Fox counter-programs with The X-Files: The Complete Fifth Season, containing 20 episodes in widescreen format, along with loads of eerie extras ($149.98 per 6-disc DVD set).

Where there's a Will
Alien-amok lovers impatient for "Men in Black II"'s summer multiplex arrival should check out Columbia/TriStar's Men in Black: Deluxe Edition ($24.95). The double-disc DVD not only contains special agents Tommy Lee Jones and Mr. Smith's original adventures but offers, among other extras, a teaser trailer for "MIB II." The title is also available on VHS ($9.95).
Mr. Smith, meanwhile, is also on view in Michael Mann's lavish boxing biopic Ali, out next week through Columbia/Tri-Star (priced for rental VHS, $24.95 DVD). The film offers a sweeping visual canvas and a standout performance by Mr. Smith as the defiant young Muhammad Ali.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Is the movie Fatal Attraction going to be available on DVD?
M.W., via e-mail
As a matter of fact, the deluxe DVD came out last week and is available ($24.99) via Movies Unlimited (800/4-MOVIES, www.moviesunlimited.com), among other sources.

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

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