- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

Aired on television as Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula, Dracula: The Dark Prince new from Artisan Entertainment (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD) arrives on video sans the usual fangs but not in entirely toothless condition. It's our

Video pick of the week

In the film, a brooding Rudolf Martin portrays the "real" Vlad Dracula, the notorious/heroic (take your pick) 15th-century Romanian prince who was known to his enemies as Vlad the Impaler, owing to his penchant for impaling his many foes on long wooden stakes and who later served as partial inspiration for Bram Stoker's famed literary bloodsucker.

This compressed chronicle of Vlad's colorful (mostly crimson) life and crimes seeks to cram a half-century of tumultuous history into an economical 89 minutes and does, all in all, a consistently engrossing job of it. Writer Tom ("Carny," "The Sender") Baum's script covers a kidnapped Vlad's hostage years in Turkey, his subsequent campaigns against the Turks, traitorous nobles within his ranks, and his younger brother Radu (Michael Sutton).

The film also finds time to dramatize Dracula's romance with lovely lady Lidia (Jane March), his serious squabbles with the Church (represented by former "RoboCop" Peter Weller in elderly makeup and grotty goatee), and his abortive alliance with Hungary's King Janos (Who rocker Roger Daltrey a fair distance from his "Tommy" days), among other pivotal events.

While it plays a bit fast and loose with the facts (particularly in depicting Drac's demise), "Dracula: The Dark Prince" comes alive during its sweeping battle scenes, with enough fierce combat to compensate for its absence of vampire thrills. Viewers seeking a fresh portrait of this infamous figure of fact and fiction should deem this "Dracula" worth their while. Artisan's bare-bones DVD offers the original trailer, photo gallery, and director and cast filmographies.


Speaking of "dark," MPI Home Video (800/777-2223, www.mpihomevideo.com) announces a release for its gala Dark Shadows DVD boxed set May 28. The popular Gothic soap opera dealing with the travails of the 175-year-old New England vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), aired from 1966 to 1971 and inspired two feature films. MPI's boxed set ($59.98) contains 40 TV episodes and a raft of extras, including previously unseen cast and crew interviews.

The same label shifts eras and locales with its 'The Rifleman' Boxed Set Collection 1 ($59.98), offering 20 episodes from that top-ranked Western series, starring Chuck Connors as a New Mexico rancher and Johnny Crawford as his young son. Episode guest stars include such luminaries as John Carradine, Michael Landon, Martin Landau and Dennis Hopper.

Rhino Home Video, meanwhile, seeks to satisfy fans of the late, lamented Mystery Science Theater 3000 with a quartet of fresh episodes on DVD. Available are "I Accuse My Parents" and "Red Zone Cuba," with "The Crawling Hand" and the biker campfest "The Hellcats" due next month. The discs are tagged at $19.95 each.

The A-list

Among those recent theatrical releases heading to video store shelves in June, we find Ridley Scott's harrowing, reality-based combat film Black Hawk Down (Columbia/TriStar), starring Josh Hartnett and an impressive ensemble cast as American soldiers trapped behind enemy lines during the Somali civil war.

The critically panned remake Rollerball (MGM), with Chris Klein and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as futuristic extreme-sports warriors, arrives in a re-cut edition purportedly closer to the director's vision.

Paramount lightens the tone a mite with Jake Kasdan's youth comedy Orange County, starring Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Catherine O'Hare and Lily Tomlin. All three titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Art-house video

In the art-house arena, Guiseppe Tornatore ("Cinema Paradiso") returns with the seagoing fable The Legend of 1900 (New Line), starring Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vance and Clarence Williams III. Wellspring Media offers a pair of French films: Catherine Deneuve in the complex dramatic thriller Place Vendome and Emmanuelle Beart in the dysfunctional family comedy La Buche (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I read your review of Brigham City. It sounded great. I tried to rent it but was told by Blockbuster that they won't carry it. Any suggestion where I might obtain it?

Ruth N., via e-mail

If you don't see it locally, you can buy "Brigham City" ($26.99 DVD) via Movies Unlimited (800/4-MOVIES, www.moviesunlimited.com), among other online sources.

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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