- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

While it's been slim pickings for celluloid sagebrush fans for some time now, the eclectic archivists at Blue Underground (blue-underground.com) beef up the home video oater menu a mite this week with a quartet of vintage Italian Westerns, including 1968's excellent Run, Man, Run. It's our
Video pick of the week
Starting with the Guernica-styled Mexican Revolution images running under the credits, in "Run, Man, Run" director and co-writer Sergio Sollima paints a rich Wild West/South of the Border canvas that comes to life with operatic sweep.
Cuban emigre actor Tomas Milian (more recently on view in such American "A" films as "Amistad" and "Traffic") stars as Cuchillo ("The Knife"), a Mexican peasant with impressive self-preservation (and knife-throwing) talents. Cuchillo's life is summed up in the opening scene, when he accidentally wanders into a firing squad, setting in motion the first in a series of tense situations and narrow escapes.
Mr. Sollima proceeds to toss an abundance of primo ingredients into his prairie pasta steely-eyed, Lee Van Cleef-type ex-lawman Cassidy (played by a coolly effective Donald O'Brien), ruthless banditos, revolutionaries led by Santillana (a change-of-pace role for Yank thesp John Ireland), and even the Salvation Army, fancifully represented by shapely blond Linda Veras, all involved in a frantic search for hidden gold.
With its high drama, fiery fight scenes and prolonged chase sequences, "Run, Man, Run" adds up to two hours of grand Italo-Western entertainment, the kind they don't make anymore. One of the DVD extras, "Westerns Italian Style," backs that latter contention, presenting a sometimes raw but fascinating look at the spaghetti-Western industry in its late-'60s heyday, narrated by actor Frank Wolff and incorporating an editing-room session with Mr. Sollima and on-set visits with several other directors. An older Mr. Sollima and Mr. Milian, meanwhile, share their thoughts on "Run, Man, Run" in the more recent featurette "Run, Man, Run: 35 Years Running."
Mr. Milian rides again in the more surreal 1967 adventure Django, KillIf You Live, Shoot!, while Franco Nero takes the title role in the previous year's Django. 1977's Mannaja: A Man Called Blade completes the spaghetti-Western foursome. The discs are available individually ($24.99 each) or as the boxed set "The Spaghetti Western Collection" ($79.99).
The 'A' list
Comedies dominate the upcoming "A" movie slate. Columbia/TriStar sets a late January date for The Banger Sisters, starring Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn as former rock groupies. MGM plans an early February release for the coming-of-age outing Igby Goes Down, with Kieran Culkin as the eponymous Igby, supported by Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and the ubiquitous Susan Sarandon.
Elsewhere, Paramount puts out a pair of recent romps: the Matthew Perry-Elizabeth Hurley romantic comedy Serving Sara, along with Tim Allen, Christian Slater and Richard Dreyfuss in the dark farce Who Is Cletis Tout? All will be priced for rental on VHS and also available on DVD.
Vintage animation
In animation news, Milestone Film & Video (milestonefilms.com) introduces a brace of offbeat animated titles to the DVD ranks. John Canemaker: Marching to a Different Toon collects two decades' worth of cartoons by innovative animator Canemaker, whose work has appeared in a wide range of venues, from TV's "Pee-wee's Playhouse" to the feature film "The World According to Garp," and includes the bonus documentary "Otto Messmer and Felix the Cat."
The 1926 German silent animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed showcases the unique talents of silhouette artist Lotte Reiniger and comes complete with the documentary "Lotte Reiniger: Homage to the Inventor of the Silhouette Film." The discs are tagged at $29.95 each.
Musical notes
Three new DVDs cover far-flung points on the pop-cultural musical map. Rhino Video focuses on surf-rock pioneers The Beach Boys in a twin-bill disc ($14.98) containing the full-length documentaries The Beach Boys: An American Band, a sweeping look at the venerable group's triumphs and travails, replete with over 40 songs; and Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, showcasing the band's troubled mastermind.
In the hip-hop arena, Rhino issues the seminal rap/graffiti indie Wild Style ($19.95). Warner Home Video counters with 1985's Krush Groove" ($19.98), a let's-put-on-a-show musical highlighting emerging rap artists Sheila E., Run-DMC, The Fat Boys and Kurtis Blow.
Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Any chance of finding the cult movie El Topo on DVD?
Tom Willard, via e-mail
Scarecrow Video now has Alejandro Jodorowsky's cult Western on European (PAL) DVD, along with the same director's Holy Mountain. See www.scarecrow.com for further info.

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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