- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

The best pure horror film we have seen on video since Bill Paxton's "Frailty," writer-director Neil Marshall's ultraintense Dog Soldiers, locks the viewer's spine in its icy grip from the get-go and doesn't let go till final fade-out. It's our

Video pick of the week

Something of a British "Southern Comfort" meets "Predator," "Dog Soldiers" is new from Artisan Entertainment (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD). It concentrates on a squad of six British soldiers on seemingly routine maneuvers in a remote patch of rural Scotland. When a distress flare lights the night sky, the soldiers hie to a nearby special-ops camp, where the sole survivor of a mysterious massacre malevolent officer Ryan (Liam Cunningham) vows that all will die unless they vacate the area. The film switches into high "Night of the Living Dead" fear gear as the soldiers, accompanied by a young female motorist (Emma Cleasby), hole up in an abandoned farmhouse, where they strive to stave off relentless attacks by a peckish pack of 7-foot werewolves.

Mr. Marshall creates unusually credible characters, and the excellent cast brings them to vivid screen life. Sean Pertwee lends great grit to his role as the squad leader, Sgt. Wells, a combat vet who places his men's safety above all else. Mr. Cunningham shines as his opposite number, the icily evil company man Ryan, and Kevin McKidd ("Trainspotting") impresses as a brave rebel. The werewolf attacks are shot with breathless ferocity and enough gore to satisfy the most demanding fright fans.

Why "Dog Soldiers" didn't score at least a select Stateside theatrical release (it was a big hit in England) remains a mystery, but this supremely visceral winner is sure to lure discerning renters on home-vid. Artisan's DVD offers widescreen and full-frame options and includes a deftly executed behind-the-scenes featurette, producer's audio commentary and both the UK and international trailers.

Blimp lives

For a much different view of Old Blighty, we also recommend the Criterion Collection's gorgeous Technicolor restoration of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp ($39.95, homevision.com), Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's then-controversial 1943 portrait of a career British officer (deucedly well-played by Roger Livesy) from the Boer War to World War II. Co-director Powell and fan Martin Scorsese supply fascinating audio commentary, while behind-the-scenes documentaries reveal the film's complex backstory. A must for quality-film buffs.

Anchor Bay update

The archivists at Anchor Bay Entertainment (www.anchorbayentertainment.com) keep busy with an eclectic new slate. The nine-disc set Highlander Season One ($89.98) contains all 22 episodes from the premiere season of that enduring sword-and-sorcery series, along with a wealth of extras, including bloopers and cast interviews. The label journeys to Hong Kong for its four-DVD Mad Mission (aka "Aces Go Places") box set ($59.98), offering a quartet of zany, action-packed Asian adventures featuring pop star Sam Hui, Karl Maka and Sylvia Chang.

Anchor Bay also jets to England to exhume a pair of 1970s Hammer horrors: Jackie Collins and Peter Cushing in Fear in the Night and Christopher Lee, Richard Widmark and Nastassja Kinski in To the Devila Daughter ($19.98 DVD/$14.98 VHS each).

The 'A' list

Among recent theatrical releases heading to home video, Paramount plans an early December launch for Kathryn Bigelow's loosely fact-based Russian submarine thriller K-19: The Widowmaker, with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, while Robert Duvall, Michael Keaton and Brian Cox star in the little-seen Scottish soccer drama A Shot at Glory (Studio S). Both titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

"Rings" fans, meantime, can plan on setting aside a week or so to absorb the newly released four-DVD The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Warner, $29.95), featuring extended scenes, four feature-length commentaries and 17 original documentaries.

Golden silents

Silent-film classics continue to proliferate on DVD. Kino Video (www.kino.com) releases Fritz Lang's complete five-hour 1924 epic Die Nibelungen in a lavish two-DVD set ($39.95) loaded with extras. Flicker Alley debuts Lewis Milestone's restored 1928 romantic comedy The Garden of Eden ($24.95) in an equally gala edition packed with special features.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I have been looking for Manila Calling, a B movie made by RKO back in the early 1940s just after the fall of the Philippine Islands. Is it on video?

Earle Jackson, Churchton, Md.

Unfortunately, that World War II combat film starring Lloyd Nolan, long a television staple, has yet to join the home-video ranks.

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: phanmedia@aol.com. Also check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.


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