- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

The Louis L'Amour-drawn The Diamond of Jeru , the type of slick, engrossing and exotic adventure that would have played the top half of a double bill back in the Bijou day, was consigned instead to cable TV's USA Network before shuffling off to video. Due March 19 via USA Home Entertainment (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD), it is our …

Video pick of the week
Sort of a scaled-down "Indiana Jones" sans the latter's oft-irritating smarm, the 1956-set "Diamond" stars Billy Zane as Mike Kardec, an expatriate American guide who agrees to lead cranky entrepreneur John Lacklan (Keith Carrradine) and his understandably alienated wife, Helen (Paris Jefferson), on a dangerous trek through the Borneo wilds to find the title jewel.
When John suspects Mike of lusting after his unhappy missis, he reneges on their deal and hires an obviously (to all but him) ill-intentioned local to head the search, which promptly lands the hapless couple in the heart of headhunter country. It's up to Mike and Sabu-like native Raj (Jackson Raine) to bail the pair out of major peril.
Veteran Yank TV director Dick Lowry and his Aussie counterpart, Ian Barry, create a colorful, lushly photographed canvas, piling on all manner of pulpy excess while admirably resisting a smirky tone. The three leads remain steadfastly earnest no matter how far-fetched their predicaments, with Mr. Zane ideally cast as our emotionally damaged but still-dashing hero. For a night of solid old-school adventure, this "Diamond" fairly shines.

The 'A' list
Theatrical films on the A-list joining the home-video ranks during the past few weeks include the World War II romance Captain Corelli's Mandolin , set in Italy and starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz, and the Michael Douglas thriller Don't Say a Word , with Brittany Murphy and Sean Bean.
In a lighter vein, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes reprise their original "Clerks" roles in writer-director Smith's Hollywood send-up, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Dimension Home Video). Their performances are complemented by numerous star cameos from the likes of Ben Affleck, Shannon Elizabeth, Will Ferrell and Chris Rock.
All of the above are priced for rental VHS and also are available in extras-loaded DVD editions, with "Jay and Silent Bob's" two-disc edition racking up more than five hours of bonus material, from deleted scenes to music videos to DVD-ROM features.

Sinister Discs
Sinister Cinema (541/773-6860, sinistercinema.com), one of archival-genre video's true pioneers, joins the DVD movement with more than 50 fresh releases. No-brainer recommendations include the campfests The Manster ,, Teenagers From Outer Space , the Ed Wood classics The Violent Years and The Sinister Urge .
Noir fans should scope out 1947's Fear in the Night , with future "Star Trek" icon DeForest Kelley, and Ida Lupino's harrowing 1952 thriller The Hitch-Hiker , starring Edmond O'Brien, Frank Lovejoy and a super-scary William Talman as a highway psycho.
For horror hounds, Sinister has the eerie 1958 sleeper The Devil's Partner and Mario Bava's 1967 gothic eye-feast Kill, Baby, Kill , along with several 1960s Barbara Steele shriekfests. Sci-fi, sword-and-sandal, Western and exploitation titles are likewise in the eclectic mix. The DVDs are tagged at $16.95 each.

Fans of the cable-TV cult comedy series "Mr. Show," created by and starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, are sure to rejoice over HBO's upcoming Mr. Show: The Complete First and Second Seasons-2-Disc Set ($34.98). The fully loaded discs include all 10 episodes, featuring such guest stars as Jack Black, Julia Sweeney and Ben Stiller, plus a raft of extras, from audio commentaries to clips from "Mr. Show's" original stage origins.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I'm a big fan of film noir. However, some of the greatest films have yet to make it to DVD. What's up with this? For example, the prime movie Laura . It led the way for all others, but it hasn't been made into DVD yet. Is there a film-noir DVD club?
Heidi Ford, Laurel

Don't know of any club, but a good place to begin your noir DVD search is with Movies Unlimited's Video Catalog 2002 Edition ($9.95) or search for individual titles at moviesunlimited.com. Scarecrow Video (scarecrow.com) is also worth checking out, while the smaller outfit Darker Image Videos (P0 Box 479, Medway, ME 04460) specializes in truly hard-to-find noirs, though on VHS only.

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] And check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com

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