- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

Any film fan with even a passing interest in special effects or a fondness for such genre landmarks as "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers," "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" and "Mighty Joe Young" will want to scope out The Harryhausen Chronicles, critic Richard Schickel's sturdy portrait of the FX pioneer Ray Harryhausen. It's our


Video pick of the week
"Harryhausen" is new from Rhino Home Video ($19.98 DVD). In a series of anecdotal interviews, the affable cinemagician describes the life-changing experience of seeing "King Kong" at age 13. With his progressive parents' support, a teenage Ray set up his own homemade FX lab; one of the DVD's more fascinating bonus features presents a sampling of Mr. Harryhausen's early animation, including some impressive prehistoric landscapes populated by the brand of awe-inspiring creatures that would later make their creator synonymous with top-flight film fantasy. Mr. Harryhausen even managed to inject a sense of otherworldly wonder into stop-motion training films he fashioned for the Army during World War II.
"The Harryhausen Chronicles" further benefits from Leonard Nimoy's low-key narration and frequent onscreen visits from another Ray, legendary sci-fi writer and nearly lifelong Harryhausen friend Ray Bradbury. The latter's presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Mr. Harryhausen during an Academy Awards ceremony makes for a particularly poignant moment.
Something of a Ray Harryhausen's greatest hits compilation, the clips themselves, incorporating indelible images from "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," "Jason and the Argonauts," "Clash of the Titans" and dozens of other films, make up the disc's most compelling segments. At a time when expensive but often laughably bogus computer-generated effects have largely pushed stop-motion masters such as Mr. Harryhausen out of the picture, "Chronicles" reminds us just how thrilling his "outmoded" magic could be.


The 'A' list
In theatrical films headed to home video next month, London looms large in a pair of limited-release imports: Michael Caine leads a top-flight ensemble cast that includes Helen Mirren, Bob Hoskins and Tom Courtenay in the acclaimed drama Last Orders (Columbia/TriStar), and outgunned police wage a desperate war against criminal forces in the indie caper 24 Hours in London (First Look).
Closer to home, 1920s Hollywood supplies the setting for Peter Bogdanovich's The Cat's Meow (Lions Gate Home Entertainment), a fact-based, high-glam drama exploring a still unsolved yacht-board tragedy involving such noted celebs as William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann), mistress Marion Davies (a grown-up Kirsten Dunst) and comic superstar Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard).
Time takes precedence over place in the youth-oriented time-travel adventure Clockstoppers (Paramount), starring Jesse Bradford, Paula Garcos and French ("3rd Rock from the Sun") Stewart. All four titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.


Cult TV
A&E; Home Video keeps the cult-TV hits coming with sci-fi pioneer Gerry ("Thunderbirds," "Space: 1999") Anderson's 1972 live-action series UFO, about a team of dedicated agents out to protect our planet from alien invaders. Set 1 ($79.98 per 4-disc set) presents the series' first 13 episodes, with a host of extras, including filmmaker commentary and outtakes. A second set, completing the 26-episode series, is due out later this year.
Anchor Bay Entertainment, meanwhile, issues Jules Bass' popular 1967 puppet-populated "animagic" stop-motion monster mash Mad Monster Party ($19.98 DVD, $9.99 VHS), gathering Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde under one haunted roof and utilizing the vocal talents of Boris Karloff, Phyllis Diller, Gale Garnett and Allen Swift.


Mondo Tarantino
Next month, Miramax Home Entertainment extends the gala DVD treatment to a brace of Quentin Tarantino titles, with double-disc sets of his still-peerless Pulp Fiction, with Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson; and the Elmore Leonard adaptation Jackie Brown, starring Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro and the ubiquitous Mr. Jackson. The sets, tagged at $29.99 each, offer extensive interviews, deleted scenes, theatrical trailers and more.


Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I'm looking for a movie called Scrooge's Rock 'n' Roll Christmas, recorded on Beta only, I think. It stars Jack Elam, Lee Benton, the Beach Boys and the Association. It was released sometime in the late '60s. Thanks.
P.L. "Pee Wee" Reese, via e-mail
Looks like that holiday obscurity, carrying a 1984 release (according to our sources) and indeed starring veteran screen villain Mr. Elam as Scrooge, has yet to receive a VHS release. Unfortunately, Beta tapes are an all but vanished breed, though you may want to try online auction sites such as Ebay.
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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