- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

If you count yourself among those who felt that Lawrence Kasdan's "The Big Chill" would have benefited mightily from the presence of killer bugs, you're sure to enjoy the refreshingly corrective Infested, new from Columbia/TriStar (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD). It's our…
Video pick of the week
Writer-director Josh Olson's oft-hilarious merger of smarmy "Big Chill" cliches and creepy-crawly insect-fear antics updates its movie model, with self-absorbed, aging '80s yuppies replacing the original's self-absorbed aging '60s hipsters.
Here, the group including a doughy Zach Galligan (of "Gremlins") in the Tom Berenger TV-star role reassembles for a friend's funeral and sticks around for a weekend of attempted romances, renewed rivalry, and loud public navel-gazing. The party, however, is rudely interrupted by the sudden appearance of mutant killer flies (hence the pic's full title, "Infested: Invasion of the Killer Bugs") that consume our protagonists one by one, transforming them into equally self-absorbed zombies.
In addition to skewering "The Big Chill" and the insects-amok genre, Mr. Olson works in references to "Night of the Living Dead," "The Powerpuff Girls" and "Twin Peaks" (the yups' late friend was found "wrapped in plastic"). The cheesy-looking digital pests and strictly joke-shop horror effects only add to the deliberately tacky fun here. Even viewers not normally drawn to killer-fly flicks, but who appreciate an honestly clever satire, will want to let "Infested" into their homes.
Video Service Corp./411 Video (videoservicecorp.com) retrieves an invaluable cache of early TV treasures with its new series Studio One: The Crown Gem of Television's Golden Age ($19.98 DVD/$14.98 VHS each). Impressively restored from old kinescopes found decaying in a Westinghouse warehouse in 1977, these 1950s theatrical presentations, originally aired live, go a long way toward putting the lie to the medium's erstwhile "vast wasteland" tag.
Volume 1 offers "The Night America Trembled," a dramatic re-enactment of the real-life panic engendered by Orson Welles' notorious 1938 "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast that stars then-unknowns Warren Beatty, Warren Oates and Dennis Hopper, with noted newsman Edward R. Murrow handling narration chores. Another newcomer, James Dean, hones his acting chops in the companion crime drama "Sentence of Death."
Volume 2 pairs two more choice offerings: In 1953's "The Laughmaker," Jackie Gleason plays a scheming comedian who fears being exposed by a journalist, portrayed by none other than JG's longtime "Honeymooners" pal Art Carney. The disc also includes 1954's "The Square Peg," with Orson Bean as a psychologist hired by a mob boss (decades before "The Sopranos" and "Analyze This").
Volume 3 hosts a single two-hour show, 1957's "The Defenders," headlining Ralph Bellamy and William Shatner as attorneys looking to clear accused murderer Steve McQueen. Each DVD edition comes complete with a documentary featurette on the show's history, featuring interviews with frequent live-TV performers Charlton Heston and Jack Klugman and director John Frankenheimer. Let's hope more of these remarkably fresh golden oldies are on their way.
The 'A' list
Water plays a major role in no fewer than four recent theatrical thrillers set to sail into vidstores next month. Nautical terrors await in David ("Pitch Black") Twohy's Below (Dimension Home Video), with Olivia Williams and Bruce Greenwood, and in Steve Beck's Ghost Ship (Warner), starring Julianna Margulies and Gabriel Byrne.
Erica Christensen and Jesse Bradford continue the motif in the high-school suspenser Swimfan (20th Century Fox), while Sean Penn travels to a remote isle to investigate an unsolved murder in The Weight of Water (Studio S). All four titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.
Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Could not find the following two videotapes: Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story and Before Women Had Wings, with Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Barkin.
Melvin Atkins, Washington
Your first title is out of circulation but is available for mail-order rental from Video Library (vlibrary.com, 800/669-7157). "Before Women Had Wings" has yet to land a video release.
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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