- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

A complex, edgy 1972 thriller makes its overdue home-video debut via Anchor Bay Entertainment ($19.98 DVD) with the release of Peter Collinson's Straight On Till Morning. It's our

Video pick of the week

In "Straight On," acclaimed dramatic actress Rita ("A Taste of Honey") Tushingham, in a rare genre appearance, gives an achingly believable performance as Wendy. She's a shy, whimsical working-class Liverpool lass determined to locate her Prince Charming in swinging London. Her "prince" materializes in the form of androgynous stranger Peter (Shane Briant), a woman-hating murderer who welcomes the lamb into his lupine den.

A prestige production for the normally straight-ahead horror-oriented Hammer Films, "Straight On Till Morning" wickedly alludes to "Peter Pan" (the title echoes a line from James M. Barrie's children's fable) while exploring its central theme of outer beauty versus inner corruption. Director Collinson employs intricate but unobtrusive cutting techniques to propel his narrative and relies on horrific sound effects rather than gore to up the goose-bump level.

Although the entire cast, from the slithery Mr. Briant to American jazz chanteuse Annie Ross as one of his earlier victims, turns in sharp work, it's Miss Tushingham's shaded performance that helps immensely in hoisting "Straight" high above your standard fear fare. Miss Tushingham, abetted by British film critic Jonathan Sothcott, also delivers one of the more entertaining and incisive DVD audio commentaries we've heard of late. While not light viewing, "Straight On Till Morning" shapes up as a rewarding experience.

In other Anchor Bay archival news, the label releases a two-disc set of Werner Herzog's haunting 1979 Nosferatu, ($29.98), shot simultaneously in German and English, and starring Klaus Kinski as the Dracula-inspired title vampire and Isabelle Adjani as his understandably reluctant love object, Lucy. The set includes both the English and German editions, presented in widescreen format, along with audio commentary by director Herzog and film scholar Norman Hill, the featurette "The Making of Nosferatu," original theatrical trailers and more.

Video verite

In fresh documentary developments, Home Vision Entertainment offers a trio of titles from pop-culture specialist Ron Mann. Poetry in Motion (1982) captures 24 flamboyant poets in action, ranging from Charles Bukowski and Beat icon William S. Burroughs to Ntozake Shange and singer Tom Waits.

The filmmaker's 1989 graphics-world exploration Comic Book Confidential ($19.98 DVD/VHS each) covers the underground comics scene as seen through the decidedly unorthodox eyes of such visual innovators as Lynda Barry, Robert Crumb, Bill ("Zippy the Pinhead") Griffith, Harvey Kurtzman, Stan ("Spider-Man") Lee and Art ("Maus") Spiegelman; the DVD edition comes with a new introduction by irreverent writer-director (and noted comic book buff) Kevin ("Clerks") Smith.

1993's Twist ($29.98 DVD only), meanwhile, traces the rise of the eponymous, enormously influential early '60s cross-cultural dance craze, with vintage performances by, and more recent interviews with, such musical movers and shakers as Twist creator Hank Ballard, Chubby Checker and Joey Dee. All three DVD versions include new interviews with filmmaker Mann.

The 'A' list

On the upcoming comedy front, "Malcolm in the Middle" star Frankie Munoz seeks to settle the score with duplicitous Hollywood producer Paul Giamatti in Big Fat Liar (Universal). Andie MacDowell looks for love in the British romantic comedy Crush (Columbia/TriStar). Rival comic book store owners literally kill to get their hands on a priceless collection in the black comedy/thriller Comic Book Villains (Lions Gate Home Entertainment), with Cary Elwes, Michael Rapaport, Donal Logue and Natasha Lyonne.

In a somewhat more earnest vein, Paramount sets an early September date for the intense moral drama Changing Lanes, wherein Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson turn from strangers to fierce adversaries following a fateful fender-bender. All four titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I've been trying to find a commercial source to buy three old movies on home video: Eagle Squadron, made in the '40s, starred Robert Stack; Oh, What a Lovely War, '60s, all-star cast; Our Man in Havana, '60s, starred Alec Guinness. I haven't had any luck, and would appreciate any suggestions you may have for locating copies either VHS or DVD format would do.

"Bookbear," via e-mail

Unfortunately, like too many vintage films, the above titles are not available on home video. Hopefully, the burgeoning DVD market will find room for these and other classics.

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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