- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

As in Patricia Highsmith's twice-filmed novel "The Talented Mr. Ripley," her The Cry of the Owl focuses on a passive-aggressive intruder who makes a major negative impact on a group of strangers. It's our

Video pick of the week
In French suspense master Claude Chabrol's 1987 screen adaptation, new from All Day Entertainment ($24.95 DVD, www.alldayentertainment.com), said intruder depressive, newly divorced illustrator Robert (Christophe Malavoy) appears to be nothing less than a living figure of death.
When Juliette (foxy Mathilda May) spots new neighbor Robert spying on her at her house in Vichy, she finds herself oddly attracted to the forlorn voyeur. Robert amply warns Juliette that he's altogether bad news, but nothing can deter her from her potentially fatal attraction. When Juliette's jealous fiance Patrick (Jacques Penot) vanishes after attacking Robert, the latter becomes the chief suspect in Patrick's presumed murder. Meanwhile, Robert's sadistic ex-wife Veronique (Virginie Thevenet) does all she can to land Robert in incriminating hot water.
"The Cry of the Owl" springs continual surprises as it walks a tense, and intense, high wire between twisty thriller and existential fable. All Day's pristine, subtitled presentation arrives with a couple of frills audio commentary by Chabrol scholar Ric Menello, plus a reprint of the Italian release poster, complete with Juliette's handwritten suicide note gracing its flip side. Cerebral-suspense fans won't want to miss this inventive gem.

Foreign fare
Still on the subject of foreign films, the dedicated archivists at Home Vision/Criterion Collection release a pair of digitally remastered Russian masterworks, Grigori Chukhrai's starkly lyrical 1959 World War II fable Ballad of a Soldier and Mikhail Kalatozov's 1957 drama The Cranes Are Flying, likewise set amidst the turmoil and trauma of WWII ($29.98 each).
Wellspring Media, meanwhile, journeys to Japan with two Akira Kurosawa classics, 1985's Ran, wherein the director transplants "King Lear" to an action-packed samurai-era Japan; and 1992's Madadayo, a drama about a writer's waning years ($24.95 DVD), both making their DVD debuts. The titles are also available on VHS ($19.98 each).
Contemporary director Takashi Ishii offers a much different Japanese vision with his 1996 thriller Gonin 2 (Media Blasters, priced for rental VHS, $29.98 DVD). He tosses in vicious yakuza thugs, a vengeful swordsman and an accidental team of female bank robbers who commit the ultimate crime of opportunity. The action never lets up in Mr. Ishii's wild ride.
Finally, edgy auteur Takashi Miike tests even jaded viewers' endurance with his acclaimed but undeniably grisly art-house horror hit Audition, about a most unusual femme fatale (Eihi Shiina). It's new this week, in an "unrated director's cut," from Ventura Distribution ($29.98 VHS, $24.98 DVD).

The 'A' list
In "A" film developments, Buena Vista announces a June launch for the time-warped romantic comedy Kate and Leopold, starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman as unlikely lovers, along with the weightier, best-seller adaptation The Shipping News, with Kevin Spacey, Joanna Moore, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett.
Universal plans to release Ron Howard's Oscars-laden A Beautiful Mind, headlining Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, next month. Lions Gate Entertainment issues the Australian mystery drama Lantana, featuring Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey, later this month. All of the above will be priced for rental and also available on DVD.

On the TV front, A&E; Video keeps the cult classics coming with two new deluxe "Avengers" DVD sets The Avengers '68 Set 4 and The Avengers '68 Set 5 containing a total of 12 episodes from the spy series' final season, with Linda Thorson joining super-agent Patrick Macnee.
The Saint Set 5 and The Saint Set 6 offer the final 14 shows from that popular 1960s adventure series, starring Roger Moore as author Leslie Charteris' debonair hero Simon Templar. The DVD sets are priced at $39.95 each.
Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I've been searching in vain for a 2000 movie called Chain of Fools, starring Salma Hayek, Steve Zahn and Elijah Wood. Will it be put out on video and/or DVD anytime?
J. Solinas, via e-mail
Though filmed in the United States in English with an American cast, "Chain of Fools" is a Swedish production. Most likely, the movie has not yet landed a Stateside video distribution deal, though with its quality cast and the positive reviews garnered during its select theatrical release, it would seem certain to surface eventually.

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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