- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

The DVD archivists at Blue Underground (blue-underground.com) rescue another vintage winner from undeserved oblivion with their recent release of the taut 1967 caper movie Grand Slam. It's our
Video pick of the week
In the tradition of "Rififi" and "Topkapi," "Grand Slam" ($24.95) chronicles the step-by-step details behind a major heist, this one set against the colorful backdrop of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival.
A low-key Edward G. Robinson portrays the lucrative plan's unlikely mastermind, Professor James Anders, a retiring Rio-based schoolteacher who knows where a healthy cache of jewels is stashed and how to get it out. Enlisting the aid of his NYC crime kingpin friend Milford (Adolfo Celi), Anders recruits an international team of specialists Brit safecracker Gregg (Georges Rigaud), Italian security expert Agostino (Riccardo Cucciola), German tough guy Erich (Klaus Kinski) and French gigolo Jean-Paul (Robert Hoffman), whose odd job it is to romance vault manager Mary Ann (Janet Leigh) and surreptitiously "borrow" her secret key.
Director Giuliano Montaldo wrings every drop of tension from the plot as the thieves strive to work together despite their often volatile differences. The intricate heist proper likewise supplies genuine suspense and there's more than one twist in store. The cast is first-rate, especially the reliable pro Robinson, who makes the most of his comparatively brief screen time, while Miss Leigh is in fine form in her lengthier role as the resistant Mary Ann. Peerless composer Ennio Morricone contributes a typically terrific, tropical-flavored score.
While light on extras, Blue Underground's pristine DVD yields the max from the film's gorgeous international locales. Let's hope this release will grant "Grand Slam" the attention it's long deserved.
Action update
In new "A" movie developments, Warner Home Video sets a late December date for a pair of action-oriented theatrical features: Clint Eastwood returns as writer and star in Blood Work, a thriller adapted from Michael Connelly's novel and co-starring Jeff Daniels, Wanda de Jesus and Anjelica Huston. Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu play deadly adversaries in the video game-styled Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. Both titles will be tagged at $26.98 DVD, $22.98 VHS.
Columbia/TriStar Home Video counters with the celluloid steroid-fest XXX, showcasing Vin Diesel as a James Bond for the Gen Y set (hates smokers, loves extreme sports) out to crack a nefarious Russian crime ring. Also from Columbia/TriStar comes the serial-killer action suspense Eye See You, marking one-time mega-icon Sylvester Stallone's descent into the direct-to-video ranks; Tom Berenger (who's been there a while) co-stars. Both titles will be priced for rental on VHS and also available on DVD.
Happy trails
Singing cowboy legend Roy Rogers and his galloping gal pal Dale Evans ride the range anew in a trio of remastered 1940s sagebrush faves mixing music, action and the ubiquitous Gabby Hayes: 1940's The Ranger and the Lady, 1942's Sunset Serenade and the more elaborate full-fledged musical, 1944's Song of Nevada.
DVD extras include wraparound featurettes, filmed in 1985 and featuring Roy and Dale, additional musical excerpts and a tour of the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum hosted by Roy "Dusty" Rogers Jr. The DVDs are available now ($19.95 each) from Hollywood's Attic (hollywoodsattic.com).
More 'MST' madness
In welcome cult-TV developments, Rhino Home Video (rhino.com) releases the four-DVD set "The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection" ($49.95), offering the original and "MST3K" versions of the 1961 horror/adventure Bloodlust (starring future "Brady Bunch" dad Robert Reed); former Disney towhead Tommy Kirk in 1967's suitably dreadful Catalina Caper, leading contender for Worst Movie Ever Made honors; The Creeping Terror (one of the "MST3K" gang's funniest shows); and the high-flying 1964 cheesefest The Skydivers. An ideal holiday gift for those bad-movie buffs on your list.
Holiday heat
Rhino Home Video also revives an old-school holiday cathode concept with its Happy Hearth Holiday DVD, a virtual fireplace that comes complete with two sonic options: crackling fire sounds or a music track featuring 23 holiday songs, from "Jingle Bells" to "What Child Is This?" The hour-long disc, available now, is stocking-stuffer priced at $7.95.
Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I remember years ago seeing VHS copies of the animated movie Fritz the Cat, based on the Robert Crumb character, but haven't seen it around lately. Is the movie available on video or DVD?
Greg Larson, via e-mail
Earlier this year, MGM Home Entertainment reissued that cult movie on VHS ($39.98) and DVD ($19.98), available now at stores and online outlets like Critic's Choice Video (ccvideo.com).
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] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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