- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

Puppets and Edgar Allan Poe might seem an odd mix, but puppet master Jurgen Heimann makes that mad marriage work in Puphedz: The Tattle-Tale Heart. It's our…
Video pick of the week
"Puphedz" is new from Elite Entertainment ($9.95 DVD, elitedisc.com). In the spirit of Steve Oederkirk's satirical "thumbation" shorts (e.g., "The Godthumb," "Thumbtanic"), "Puphedz" is a wacky, refreshingly old-school puppet parody of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."
The Puphedz themselves are a troupe of roughly foot-high, literally wooden thespians who travel in a theater-on-wheels arduously pulled by beefy live actor Clayton Martinez. The script, designs and vintage radio-influenced voice acting are all first-rate as Mr. Heimann and crew cleverly tweak Edgar Allan's classic fable of obsession, murder and paranoia.
At a briskly paced 27 minutes, "The Tattle-Tale Heart" never threatens to wear out its welcome (the DVD also includes a slightly longer, even jokier version). "Puphedz" is one disc wherein the inevitable "making-of" documentary actually proves an entertaining revelation, as director/co-writer Heimann and co-creators take us step by step through the painstaking puppet-pic process. If promised future installments supply as much fun as Episode I, "Puphedz" will be deserving of its own regular cable-TV berth.
Elite mines a very different vein via its recent resurrection of the unsung 1979 vampire thriller Thirst, sort of a "Rosemary's Vampire" that sees unwanted recruit Chantal Contouri seek to elude a society of upper-crust bloodsuckers who wish to appoint her their queen. David Hemmings (of "Blow-Up") and Henry Silva co-star in this classy scarefest; the DVD includes commentary by director Rod Hardy and a host of additional features.

Collectors' corner
In bargain news, Artisan Entertainment has sliced DVD prices (to $14.98 each) on an octet of edgy titles, led by two crime yarns starring Terence Stamp: Stephen Frears' existential 1984 gangster film The Hit and Steven Soderbergh's 1999 revenge tale The Limey.
Also showcased are onetime Quentin Tarantino partner Roger Avary's explosive Parisian heist caper Killing Zoe, with Eric Stoltz and Julie Delpy; Alejandro Amenabar's twisty mystery Open Your Eyes (the source for the inferior Tom Cruise vehicle "Vanilla Sky"); Darren Aronofsky's innovative paranoid parable Pi, and the same director's devastating adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.'s Requiem for a Dream, featuring a brilliant Ellen Burstyn.
David Veloz's fact-based drug drama Permanent Midnight, with Ben Stiller and Elizabeth Hurley, and Christopher McQuarrie's violent modern noir The Way of the Gun, starring Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe, complete the package.

The 'A' list
Three femme-driven theatrical films head to homevid shelves next month. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos takes the title role in Brian De Palma's fast-disappearing thriller Femme Fatale. Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger and Robin Wright Penn share starring honors in the best-seller adaptation White Oleander. Both are from Warner Home Video ($26.98 DVD/$22.98 VHS each).
MGM Entertainment likewise goes the sell-through route with Personal Velocity ($26.98 DVD/$27.50 VHS), top-lining indie faves Kyra Sedgwick and Parker Posey.

Animate antics
In the animated arena, Buena Vista debuts the sequel Pokemon 4ever ($29.99 DVD/$19.99 VHS). Warner unleashes Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire ($24.98 DVD/$19.95 VHS).
Good times embarks on a biblical path with the animated Ben Hur ($19.95 DVD/$14.95 VHS), featuring the voice of once and future chariot driver Charlton Heston.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment offers live-action fantasy fun with Jay Russell's Tuck Everlasting ($29.99 DVD/$22.99 VHS), starring William Hurt, Ben Kingsley, Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving. DVD special features include audio commentary with director Russell and cast members, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and "A Visit with Natalie Babbitt," the original novel's author.

Golden silents
Milestone Film & Video (milestonefilms.com) supplies a rare treat for silent-movie and quality-comedy buffs with "The Cook and Other Treasures" ($24.98). The DVD contains two Fatty Arbuckle shorts the legendary "lost" film A Reckless Romeo (1917), co-starring Buster Keaton, along with Fatty and Buster in 1918's The Cook plus the 1920 Harold Lloyd short Number, Please? and many DVD extras, including a unique do-it-yourself film restoration kit.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I'm looking for a DVD copy of Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train. And a copy of Westway to the World, a 1999 documentary on The Clash. The late Joe Strummer appears in both.
Mark L. Solomon, via e-mail
Movies Unlimited (moviesunlimited.com) now carries DVDs of both Jim Jarmusch's 1989 "Mystery Train" ($16.99) and "The Clash: Westway to the World" ($17.99).
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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