- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

Noir buffs and Sean Connery fans alike will want to scope out director John Lemont's The Frightened City, a movie that demonstrates the Brits could be every bit as hard-boiled as their Yank counterparts when it came to producing gritty crime films. It's our
Video pick of the week
Lensed a year before Mr. Connery's breakthrough James Bond debut, "Dr. No," 1961's "The Frightened City" is new from Anchor Bay Entertainment (anchorbayentertainment.com, $19.98 DVD, $14.98 VHS).
It casts a rugged Sean as a two-fisted man of action (he even takes ju-jitsu classes) with a soft spot for major babes (embodied here by foxy Yvonne Romain). Though that character profile may sound familiar, this time Mr. Connery is on the opposite side of the legal fence.
As mob enforcer Paddy Damion, Mr. Connery finds himself the victim of a double cross after "legitimate" entrepreneur Waldo Zhernikov (Herbert Lom in a showy villainous turn) organizes London's hitherto rival gangs into a single viciously efficient syndicate. Mr. Connery exhibits charisma to spare, lending texture to what could have been a far simpler thug role through his stubborn allegiance to his own code and his tender loyalty to a handicapped ex-partner.
With its seedy Soho and Piccadilly nocturnes and cool electric guitar-driven score, "The Frightened City" offers atmosphere galore to go with its fine performances and realistic violence (though gunplay remains a last resort here, even for hardened gangsters).
Anchor Bay's DVD arrives sans extras save for the original theatrical trailer and a poster and still gallery, but its pristine widescreen transfer is well worth the price of admission all by its lonesome.
In cathode-to-disc news, A&E; Home Video keeps the vintage cult-TV fare coming with a pair of new boxed sets. The two-DVD Avengers '68, Set 5 ($39.95) contains the seven final episodes of that British spy series, starring Patrick Macnee as suave agent John Steed and Linda Thorson as his final femme fatale partner, Tara King.
Gerry Anderson's four-DVD UFO, Set 2 ($79.95) continues the futuristic adventures of Earth's embattled S.H.A.D.O. team and its ongoing struggle against pernicious alien abductors here to harvest our precious bodily organs.
The same label commemorates Black History Month with the documentary The Underground Railroad ($24.95 DVD, $19.95 VHS), wherein actress Alfre Woodard hosts an extensively researched look at abolitionists' efforts to help Southern slaves to freedom. The DVD also contains the A&E; "Biography" episode on Frederick Douglass.
Elsewhere, HBO Video issues Oz: The Complete Second Season ($64.99), a three-DVD set containing all eight hard-hitting episodes of the HBO prison drama, complete with a raft of extras, ranging from a roundtable discussion with several cast and crew members and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
The 'A' list
A trio of imported actors heads the upcoming 'A' video list. Spanish thesp Antonio Banderas reprises his original espionage role in Robert Rodriguez's family-oriented sequel Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. Longtime Asian icon Jackie Chan hies to Hollywood and teams with Jennifer Love Hewitt in the action comedy The Tuxedo (Dreamworks). Frenchman Jean Reno (of "The Professional" and "Ronin") returns to robust action form in the Luc Besson-scripted Wasabi (Columbia/TriStar).
American Kevin Spacey reverses the trend by portraying a larger-than-life Irish thief based on Martin Cahill (earlier the inspiration for John Boorman's "The General") in Ordinary Decent Criminal (Miramax), co-starring fellow screen ex-pat Linda Fiorentino. All of the above will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.
Foreign fare
In foreign-film developments, First Run Features debuts French suspense master Claude Chabrol's rare verite foray Eye on Vichy ($29.95), a telling compilation of long-forgotten propaganda films and newsreels produced by the Nazis and their French collaborators during World War II; the DVD includes "Inside the Third Reich A Photographic Tour." The label also journeys to the Far East for Ryu Murakami's erotic thriller Tokyo Decadence ($24.95).
Golden silent
In major silent-film news, Kino Video (kino.com) releases the restored uncut edition of Fritz Lang's visionary sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis ($29.95 DVD), complete with the original 1927 orchestral score (no Giorgio Moroder). Special features including a "making-of" documentary, a digital restoration featurette, rare photo galleries and audio commentary by film historian Enno Patalas.
Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Happy New Year, oh Mighty Phantom! Please tell me when Fame will be out on DVD.
Ken Howard, via e-mail
No word yet regarding that 1980 film is joining the DVD ranks, but it is available on VHS ($13.49) from Movies Unlimited (moviesunlimited.com).

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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