- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

With Targets, due next week from Paramount Home Entertainment ($9.99 DVD), debuting director Peter Bogdanovich transforms what could have been a routine exploitation flick into a prescient indie gem that’s just as chilling today as it was during its 1968 release. It’s our…

Video pick of the week

In the film, co-written with then-wife Polly Platt, Mr. Bogdanovich skillfully weaves two separate but thematically linked story lines. The first involves Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff, essentially playing himself and doing so with understated brilliance), an aging horror star who’s threatening retirement because he feels his gothic approach can no longer compete with the all too real terrors of contemporary life.

That contention is frighteningly supported by a nondescript young man named Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly), a character loosely inspired by Charles Whitman, the “Texas Tower sniper” who killed 14 people and wounded 31 firing from the University of Texas tower at Austin on Aug. 1, 1966. Thompson takes out his inarticulate frustrations by launching a deadly sniping spree that spreads to the drive-in theater where Orlok is promoting his latest movie (actually the 1963 Roger Corman quickie “The Terror”).

Mr. Bogdanovich wrings these scenes for grim irony and gut-wrenching suspense, cutting between the relentlessly efficient shooter and the comparatively harmless horror antics unfolding on the drive-in screen.

The DVD’s entertainment value is further enhanced by Mr. Bogdanovich’s candid audio commentary, which provides a handy guide for low-budget filmmakers as well as describing the cinematic serendipity that elevated an intended B-movie into a mini-masterpiece. (He also negatively critiques his own self-conscious onscreen performance as Orlok’s young director.) A Bogdanovich introduction completes the special features on this excellent disc, an essential addition to any serious genre-disc collection.

You must remember this

This week, Warner Home Video lavishes much digital TLC on one of America’s most beloved movie classics with its “Casablanca” Two-Disc Special Edition ($26.99). Disc One offers the exotic wartime romance in a new digital transfer, along with full-length audio commentaries by critic Roger Ebert and film historian Rudy Behlmer, an introduction by Lauren Bacall, and both the original and reissue coming attraction trailers.

On Disc Two, Miss Bacall (the former Mrs. Bogie) returns to host two documentaries, “You Must Remember This: A Tribute to ‘Casablanca’ ” and “Bacall on Bogart.” Other supplements include newly discovered additional scenes and outtakes, the Bugs Bunny homage cartoon “Carrotblanca,” a 1955 episodic TV “Casablanca” remake, the Screen Guild Players’ “Casablanca” radio production (with original stars Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid), production history and more.

Collector’s corner

In other vintage video news, Artisan Entertainment introduces a quartet of 1940s faves to the DVD ranks. James Cagney plays a two-fisted, judo-chopping American newsman in pre-World War II Japan in the 1945 action thriller Blood on the Sun, co-starring Sylvia Sidney. In 1947’s A Double Life, an Oscar-winning Ronald Colman powerfully portrays an unhinged Shakespearean actor.

Joel McCrea, real-life wife Frances Dee and Charles Bickford topline in the literate, low-key 1948 sagebrush saga Four Faces West. Three John Steinbeck stories find their way to the screen in the family drama The Red Pony, with Robert Mitchum and Myrna Loy. The discs, available now, are tagged at $14.98 each.

Video verite

Two acclaimed documentaries also make their DVD debuts. MGM Home Entertainment releases a special edition of maverick Michael Moore’s American gun-culture indictment Bowling for Columbine ($26.98). It’s loaded with over four hours of extras, including featurettes, additional interviews, audio commentary and even Marilyn Manson’s “Fight Song” music video.

Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s riveting 1992 Brother’s Keeper (Docurama, $24.95) presents a detailed look at a murder investigation involving a quartet of backwoods brothers in upstate New York. The disc contains directors’ commentary, deleted scenes, the follow-up featurette “The Wards Take Manhattan,” a photo gallery, trailer and more.

The ‘A’ list

New theatrical releases headed to vidstore shelves this month include the musical adaptation Chicago (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, $29.99), starring Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, in a DVD edition featuring deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and more.

Nick Nolte takes the title role in The Good Thief (20th Century Fox, $27.98), Neil Jordan’s reworking of the 1955 Jean-Pierre Melville heist classic “Bob Le Flambeur”; the disc comes compete with a Jordan audio commentary, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and widescreen/full-screen options. Both titles, due Aug. 19, will also be available on VHS.

Phan mail

Will the United States get the British DVD “The Wire in the Blood”?

P. Forrey, via email

No announcement has yet been made re an imminent domestic DVD release of that acclaimed 2002 crime series.

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. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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