- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

Though the killer's identity is only briefly in doubt, the 1946 British mystery Wanted for Murder, new from All Day Entertainment ($24.95 DVD, www.alldayentertainment.com), remains rich in suspense, as well as wealthy in wit. It is our

Video pick of the week

"Wanted for Murder" is co-written by Emeric Pressburger best known for his productive partnership with director Michael Powell ("Tales of Hoffman," "The Red Shoes") and concerns Scotland Yard's search for a modern Bluebeard responsible for the strangling deaths of six young London women. More murders are promised in brash, taunting notes the perp posts to Yard Inspector Conway (Roland Culver). Outwardly suave Victor Colebrooke (Eric Portman), a successful businessman with a grim family past, soon emerges as the chief suspect as he wines and dines increasingly endangered working girl Anne (Dulcie Gray).

Originally and more evocatively titled "A Voice in the Night," after a recurring song heard in the film, "Wanted for Murder" offers a number of striking noir flourishes, including an eerie nocturnal scene in a London park and a spooky visit to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum (where Wilfred Hyde-White appears as an appropriately morbid tour guide). A murder that takes place at a crowded amusement park, meanwhile, prefigures a more famous sequence in Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train," arriving five years later.

Unlike many of its Hollywood counterparts (Hitch usually excepted), "Wanted for Murder" is leavened with droll humor, much of it supplied by Conway's somewhat obtuse assistant Sergeant Sullivan (Stanley Holloway), without descending into low comic relief. Class issues likewise rear their persistent, peculiarly British heads in this complex, literate affair. For entertainment that's simultaneously tense, thought-provoking and satisfyingly escapist, "Wanted for Murder" rates as a solid rental bet.

Animated antics

In the busy animation biz, Buena Vista announces a mid-September push for its mega-hit Monsters, Inc. ($24.99 VHS/$29.99 DVD), showcasing the comic vocal talents of John Goodman and Billy Crystal. The label also slices prices ($14.95 VHS/$19.95 DVD each) on a quartet of earlier animated winners A Bug's Life, Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.

Two TV-spawned animated features join the home-video ranks this week when Paramount presents the MTV-drawn Daria: Is It College Yet? and Warner unleashes Scooby-Doo Meets Batman, wherein the ever-peckish pooch and pals partner with Batman and Robin to battle the Joker and the Penguin. The titles are tagged at $14.95 VHS, $19.95 DVD each.

Also this week, Manga Entertainment releases three fresh volumes (Nos. 4-6) of the anime pioneer and Saturday-morning perennial Astro Boy ($19.95 each, VHS only), with each tape containing five vintage episodes. Already in stores is the 1989 22-episode collection The Simpsons: Season Two ($49.98).

Foreign fare

On the foreign-film front, Columbia/TriStar leads the way with a quartet of international releases octogenarian auteur Eric Rohmer's historical drama The Lady and the Duke, starring Lucy Russell and Jean-Claude Dreyfus; the South American con-game thriller Nine Queens, with Ricardo Darin, who also stars in the Spanish import Son of the Bride; and the character-driven Belgian drama Pauline & Paulette.

Elsewhere, Universal issues the acclaimed Indian import Monsoon Wedding, while New Yorker Video follows its recent release of Nagisa Oshima's samurai epic Taboo, featuring cult actor/director Takeshi Kitano, with director Abbas Kiarostami's acclaimed Iranian drama The Wind Will Carry Us. All of the above will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Elvis eternal

Elvis addicts who want to keep the house rockin' past the present memorial season should check out Rhino Home Video's newly arrived Elvis: The Great Performances ($49.99), a three-disc boxed set containing more that 40 El showstoppers, along with rare interviews and video clips. The discs "Volume 1: Center Stage," "Volume II: The Man and His Music" and "Volume III: From the Waist Up" (narrated by U2's Bono) are also available individually at $19.99 each.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Looking for three videos that I have not been able to find: Baby Doll (1950s), The Lunatic (1990, made in Jamaica), Call Her Savage, starring Clara Bow.

Any suggestions?

Rick McBride, via e-mail

The 1956 Tennessee Williams-based "Baby Doll," with Carroll Baker, is, remarkably enough, out of circulation; Video Library (www.vlibrary.com) has it for mail-order rental. "The Lunatic" is available ($16.96 VHS) from Critic's Choice Video (www.ccvideo.com). "Call Her Savage" (1932) has yet to land a release, though Kino Video (www.kino.com) carries earlier Bow titles.

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

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