- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The busy archivists at Anchor Bay Entertainment perform a major service for classic fear-film fans with their inspired pairing of two 1940s black-and-white British gems, Dead of Night and The Queen of Spades, in a new double-disc set ($29.95). They’re our…

Video pick of the week

Regarded as a bold experiment in its time (1945), “Dead of Night” employed four noted directors — Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Alberto Cavalcanti and Robert Hamer — to fashion a quartet of eerie vignettes set within a spooky wraparound story involving an architect’s visit to a strange country manor.

The hands-down standout stars Michael Redgrave as a deranged ventriloquist who enjoys a particularly tense and querulous relationship with his supremely creepy dummy, “Hugo.” Still referenced in films today (the ongoing “Nightmare on Elm Street” series, among many others, owes a significant debt), “Dead of Night” is presented here in its original uncut, full-frame U.K. edition.

While adopting a more ambiguous supernatural stance, director Thorold Dickinson’s 1949 adaptation of Aleksandr Pushkin’s dark fable “The Queen of Spades” likewise emerges as a model of febrile menace and highly polished craft. Anton Walbrook lends considerable unstable intensity to his role as an 1806 Russian army captain obsessed with winning at cards, while Edith Evans, then 61, is a marvel as the willful nonagenarian countess who holds the secret to Walbrook’s desires. A climactic funeral sequence rates as one of the legit milestones of quality shock cinema.

While light on bonus material beyond original theatrical trailers, plus poster and still galleries, Anchor Bay’s two-DVD set surfaces as a must for serious fans of the macabre and casual couchside thrill-seekers alike.

The ‘A’ list

Two more contemporary horror hits will also be stalking local video stores. This week marks the debut of the scare sequel Final Destination 2, starring Ali Larter and A.J. Cook, available via New Line Home Entertainment in an elaborate “Infinifilm DVD” edition ($27.99) that incorporates audio commentary, deleted scenes and making-of featurettes galore. Lions Gate Home Entertainment, meanwhile, plans an Aug. 12 launch for rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie’s old-school horror homage House of 1,000 Corpses ($26.99), which likewise arrives in an extras-packed edition, replete with commentary by the redoubtable Mr. Zombie himself.

Viewers looking for lighter fare may want to check out the cross-cultural comedy Bringing Down the House (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, $24.99). Steve Martin and Queen Latifah perform odd-couple chores, while always-welcome “SCTV” alum Eugene Levy supplies able comic support. The DVD includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel, music videos and more. All three titles also will be available on VHS.

Tele-video

A&E Home Video keeps the cult-TV titles coming with the 1976 spy-series revival The New Avengers: Season One ($79.95 a four-DVD set), wherein suave espionage agent John Steed (Patrick Macnee) returns following a seven-year hiatus, joined by mysterious femme colleague Purdey (future “Absolutely Fabulous” icon Joanna Lumley) for a set of fresh international adventures.

The same label also debuts the 1996 crime series Profiler: Season One ($99.95 a six-DVD set), showcasing Ally Walker and Robert Davi as ace FBI crime scene investigators.

Not to be outdone, 20th Century Fox unveils M*A*S*H: The Complete Fourth Season ($29.99), containing all 24 episodes from that 1975-‘76 season. In a more earnest military vein, the History Channel debuts the seven-DVD set The Century of Warfare ($129.95), a 22-hour-plus collection exploring the history of modern conflicts from World War I through the Gulf war.

Hot stuff

MGM Home Entertainment celebrates the summer season by lavishing special edition treatment on a pair of hormonal 1980s hits, due Aug. 5. Val gal Deborah Foreman and punk rocker Nicolas Cage bridge vast cultural boundaries to find true love in Martha Coolidge’s bouncy 1982 cult item Valley Girl, featuring a Coolidge commentary track, new cast and crew interviews, original music videos from Modern English and the Plimsouls, and more.

“This Is Spinal Tap” director Rob Reiner next takes on the road-odyssey romance with 1985’s The Sure Thing, starring John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga, fully loaded with a Reiner commentary, a retrospective featurette, and three behind-the-scenes segments.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I would like to know if these canceled TV series are available: “Jon Sable,” “Superboy,” “The Tick.”

Robert Herbert, via e-mail

At present, only a lone episode of the animated The Tick is available ($13.49 VHS), via 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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