- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

Tabu, the 1931 collaboration between Robert F. Flaherty ("Nanook of the North") and F.W. Murnau ("Nosferatu," "Sunrise"), receives a glorious DVD restoration courtesy of the dedicated archivists at Milestone Film & Video. It's our

Video pick of the week

"Tabu" ($29.95, www.milestonefilms.com) ranks right up there with Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's 1927 "Chang," set in Thailand, and Flaherty's own 1922 "Nanook." Like its earlier models, the silent "Tabu," filmed in and around Tahiti, is at once an evocation of an exotic culture, a shimmering black-and-white visual tone poem and a stirring romance with indelible characters played to perfection by native non-actors.

"Tabu" focuses on fetching local lass Reri and her strapping fisherman beau, Matahi, whose happy relationship is seriously threatened when Reri is selected, against her will, to serve as a religious "sacred virgin," a woman henceforth "tabu" to all men.

Rather than accept this devastating edict, Reri and Matahi escape to a neighboring French-controlled island, where they suffer the corrosive effects of "civilization." Their bond conquers all obstacles but two the sudden need for cash in a money-run environment and the relentless advance of tribal elder Hitu, who will stop at nothing to reclaim Reri.

Janet Bergstrom, a film professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, supplies a fascinating audio commentary that details not only the filming, but also the funding problems and personality conflicts (chiefly between uneasy partners Flaherty and Murnau) that beset this difficult production. The DVD also includes a still gallery, rare outtake footage (in which we see the native performers growing more professional with each take), original theatrical trailer, and the short film "Reri in New York," about the "Tabu" starlet's semisuccessful stab at a Western show-biz career. One caveat: if you're anything like yours truly, after watching "Tabu" you may well be tempted to hop the next flight to Tahiti.

'Spider-Man' madness

For comic-book fans who have been climbing the walls awaiting their fave superhero, Columbia/TriStar announces a Nov. 2 launch for the summer '02 blockbuster Spider-Man. The two-DVD Special Edition ($28.95, available in both full-frame and widescreen versions) offers audio commentary by director Sam Raimi, co-star Kirsten Dunst and producers Laura Ziskin and Grant Curtis; special-effects commentary by John Dykstra; the featurette "Weaving the Web: Subtitled Factoids"; and a gags-and-outtakes reel.

A Limited Edition Spider-Man Collector's Set ($49.95) includes Stan Lee's "Mutants, Monsters & Marvels" DVD; a collectible reprint of Marvel Comics' Amazing Fantasies No. 15, in whose pages the webbed one made his media debut; lithographic reproductions by artists John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr.; a Raimi-autographed cel and more. The film also will be released on VHS ($24.95).

The A list

Comedies dominate the upcoming video A list, with a pair of recent theatrical releases arriving next month: Tim Allen, Rene Russo and Janeane Garofalo head a high-profile cast in Barry Sonnenfeld's comedy caper Big Trouble (Touchstone Home Entertainment), while Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon and Judi Dench top-line in director Oliver Parker's new take on Oscar Wilde's classic farce The Importance of Being Earnest (Miramax Home Entertainment).

Leslie Nielsen, Paul Gross and Molly Parker, meanwhile, aim to sweep viewers away with the Canadian curling comedy Men With Brooms, due via Artisan Home Entertainment. All three titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

'Rain' men (and women)

Often hailed as Hollywood's greatest musical, Stanley Donen's Singin' in the Rain dances its way into vid stores this week in a lavish two-DVD set ($26.99). Disc 1 of Warner Home Video's 50th Anniversary Edition presents the audiovisually remastered Gene Kelly classic with feature-length commentary by co-director (with Mr. Kelly) Donen, co-stars Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor and Cyd Charisse, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green and even current movie-musical maestro Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge"). Disc 2 contains two documentaries, outtakes, scoring session cues and a stills gallery.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: It seems that The Seventh Victim (1943) is out of print. Any ideas on how to obtain a copy on VHS? Thank you.

Jeff Brown, via e-mail

Formerly out on the defunct RKO Video label, producer Val Lewton's atmospheric chiller, starring the late, great Kim Hunter in an early role, has been long out of circulation. Scarecrow Video (www.scarecrow.com) has mail-order rental copies available, while online auction sites such EBay also would be worth a try. Hopefully, all the withdrawn Lewton classics will be reissued in the near future.

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

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