- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Gambling fever, represented by new titles ranging from “The Cooler” to “Owning Mahowny,” has been raging in theaters and vidstores of late. But few films capture the lifestyle’s roller-coaster mix of thrilling highs and dangerous lows more vividly than Jacques Demy’s 1963 Bay of Angels, making its belated homevideo debut via Wellspring Media ($24.98 DVD/VHS). It’s our…

Video pick of the week

A shimmering Jeanne Moreau, wearing bouncing bleached-blond Marilyn Monroe-style tresses and a succession of suitably slinky dresses, gives a galvanizing central performance as Jackie, a French Riviera casino addict who hooks up with Jean (Claude Mann), a hitherto strait-laced youth who’s recently caught the gambling bug.

A roulette table high-roller, merry divorcee Jackie is at peace with an existence that can shift from luxury hotel suites to train station waiting rooms in the course of a single week, all depending on the spin of the wheel.

Writer/director Demy admirably resists turning “Bay of Angels” (the title refers to one of Jackie’s favorite clubs) into a downbeat, wages-of-sin melodrama or a conventional romance (despite composer Michel Legrand’s occasionally swelling piano score and a semi-Hollywood ending). Jean gradually learns that he’s more likely just the latest in a line of “lucky” lovers, rather than the man of Jackie’s life.

Even more impressively, Mr. Demy requires but a streamlined 79 minutes to tell his riveting tale and rarely resorts to the type of post-modern cinematic trickery that enamored many of his contemporary French new wave peers (although he ably exhibits his filmmaking chops with one breathtaking shot of Jackie running past a series of mirrors).

With its sunny summer South-of-France locales, from Cannes to Monte Carlo, gorgeously lensed in crisp black and white, “Bay of Angels” also arrives as ideal winter viewing. Special features include an excerpt from the documentary “The World of Jacques Demy,” plus the original theatrical trailer.

The ‘A’ list

Sean Connery’s Allan Quatermain joins fellow Victorian luminaries Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and The Invisible Man, among others, in director Stephen Norrington’s graphic-novel-based adventure fantasy The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, new this week from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment ($27.98). The DVD arrives with two commentary tracks, a six-part behind-the-scenes documentary, and 12 deleted/extended scenes.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan play a mother-and-daughter duo who magically switch identities in the hit Disney remake Freaky Friday (Disney DVD, $29.99). The digital edition mixes in a deleted scene, alternate endings, bonus music videos, bloopers and a behind-the-scenes-featurette.

Meanwhile, for the ‘tweener set, Buena Vista Home Entertainment offers Lizzie McGuire: Fashionably Lizzie and Growing Up Lizzie ($19.99 each), with each disc containing four episodes from the TV show starring Hilary Duff as the eponymous teen heroine.

Miramax Home Entertainment introduces the new Project Greenlight feature film The Battle of Shaker Heights and the romantic ensemble indie Love in the Time of Money ($29.99 each). “Love” stars Steve Buscemi, Rosario Dawson and Michael Imperioli (of “The Sopranos”).

Sundance Channel Home Entertainment counters with the social satire Melvin Goes to Dinner ($26.99), directed by Bob Odenkirk, of cable TV’s “Mr. Show” fame, complete with filmmakers and cast audio commentary. All of the above will also be available on VHS.

Collectors’ corner

Patrick’s back and Jennifer’s got him in Artisan Entertainment’s new Dirty Dancing Ultimate Edition ($19.98). Twisting into vidstores in advance of the upcoming theatrical sequel “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” the double-disc set not only replays the immensely popular terpsichorean romance of dancer Patrick Swayze and wide-eyed ingenue Jennifer Grey, but comes equipped with a plethora of extras. The latter include two audio commentary tracks with film personnel, several interviews, a new Jennifer Grey introduction, music videos and more to satisfy that 1987 sleeper hit’s enduring fan base.

Season’s beatings

And for those thoroughly stressed by the holiday season, it’s not too late to order the seasonal chillers Christmas Season Massacre (Sub Rosa Studios, $9.99) and the immortal 1980s double feature Silent Night, Deadly Night and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (Anchor Bay Entertainment, $19.99). In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Do you know if the movie “The Magdalene Sisters” is coming out on DVD? It only played in one theater in my area, and then only for a few days.

Mary, via e-mail

While no official announcement has yet been made, that acclaimed Irish drama should be available in the near future via Miramax Home Entertainment.

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

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