- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The archivists at Blue Underground (blue-underground.com) rescue another gem from undeserved obscurity with their new DVD edition of maverick auteur Larry Cohen’s cutting-edge 1972 black comedy gem Bone.

It’s our …

Video pick of the week

Mr. Cohen, a veteran screenwriter (most recently of “Phone Booth” fame), has his directorial debut with stars Andrew Duggan and Joyce Van Patten as middle-aged Beverly Hills couple Bill and Bernadette. Their posh pad is invaded by black thief Bone (Yaphet Kotto, in a nuanced turn).

An intricate treatise on identity and stereotyping, Mr. Cohen’s clever farce takes its first twist when Bone sends cashless used-car honcho Bill to the bank for a hefty withdrawal while he holds housewife Bernadette hostage.

Bill soon determines he’d rather keep the dough and be rid of his nagging spouse (a plot hook later employed in the better-known 1986 comedy “Ruthless People”). He winds up in an offbeat tryst with kooky professional shoplifter Jeannie Berlin.

Meanwhile, back at the manse, Bone and Bernadette discover that, despite their ethnic and gender differences, they may have more in common than they had originally imagined.

“Bone” is first and foremost a writer’s movie, similar in tone to some of Thomas Berger’s satiric novels (“The Feud,” “Neighbors”). And we mean that as a major compliment.

The movie rates as a must for serious dark comedy buffs. Blue Underground’s DVD includes an insightful audio commentary track by Mr. Cohen shared with fellow director William Lustig, a separate interview with “Bone” producer Jack H. Harris (best known for producing “The Blob”), trailers, poster and still gallery and more.

The label lavishes equally thorough attention on two additional, highly recommended Cohen genre films, the 1976 sniper/alien visitation combo God Told Me To, with Tony Lo Bianco and Sandy Dennis, and the tongue-in-cheek 1982 monster romp Q-The Winged Serpent, starring Michael Moriarty and David Carradine. The discs are tagged at $19.98 each.

The ‘A’ list

Buena Vista Home Entertainment plans a Sept. 9 start for a trio of recent theatrical comedies. Following its unusual summer 2003 rerelease, debuting director George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind arrives in a special edition DVD.

The movie is adapted by surreal-comedy specialist Charlie Kaufman (of “Adaptation” fame) from Chuck Barris’ book of the same name. Mr. Barris, known for the game-show “The Gong Show,” proclaimed he was a government hit man.

The disc comes complete with Mr. Clooney’s audio commentary, 11 deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and more. Sam Rockwell stars as the controversial Barris and receives support from Drew Barrymore, Rutger Hauer and even auteur Clooney in a key cameo.

Also on tap from Buena Vista are director George Gallo’s Eddie Griffin standup showcase Dysfunktional Family and Bruno Barretto’s airline-themed lark View From the Top, featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Candice Bergen, Rob Lowe and Mike Myers. The titles are priced at $29.99 each DVD and will also be available on VHS.

King of horror

MGM Home Entertainment enjoys an early Halloween season celebration with its “Stephen King DVD Collector’s Set” ($58.95). The four-disc collection contains a quartet of King terror tales:

• Brian De Palma’s 1976 scarefest Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek as the eponymous telekinetic teen;

• George A. Romero’s 1992 schizo chiller The Dark Half, with a versatile Timothy Hutton in dual roles as a disturbed horror writer and his own evil doppelganger;

• Rob Reiner’s 1990 Misery, wherein demented fan Kathy Bates holds author James Caan captive; and

• Fraser C. (son of Charlton) Heston’s 1993 Needful Things, with Max von Sydow as a sinister shopkeeper.

The set arrives in stores this week.

Musical notes

Also new to area video stores are a slew of vintage musicals making their DVD debuts:

• Bob Fosse’s 1979 all-singing, all-dancing autobiography All That Jazz, starring Roy Scheider;

• Barbra Streisand as the eponymous Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly!

• Bette Midler as a self-destructive Janis Joplin-styled singer in The Rose; and

• The concert film Simon & Garfunkel: Concert in Central Park.

The discs are priced at $14.98 each.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Two films about Jack the Ripper, one titled The Lodger, starring Laird Cregar, about 1940, and the other a circa-1988 TV movie starring Michael Caine: Are they available on VHS or DVD?

Larry Funk, via e-mail

1944’s excellent “The Lodger” has yet to join the home video ranks. The two-part 1988 Michael Caine miniseries Jack the Ripper did receive a VHS release but is long out of circulation; you might try Video Vault (800/VAULT-66) for the availability of a mail-order rental copy.

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 (www.videoscopemag.com).

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