- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Two early films by Australian auteur Peter Weir, whose latest, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” opens in theaters tomorrow, make their DVD debuts via Home Vision Entertainment ($29.95). They’re our…

Video picks of the week

In the director’s first feature, 1974’s The Cars That Ate Paris, Mr. Weir combines deadpan car-culture satire with trusty horror-film tropes to tell the creepy tale of the country town of Paris, Australia. Under the supervision of their deceptively cheerful mayor (John Meillon), local citizens rig roadway deathtraps, salvage the twisted vehicles for their parts, and entrust brain-damaged human casualties, or “veggies,” to a nearby hospital head (Kevin Miles) for unorthodox experiments.

Our story ultimately focuses on an uninjured young survivor (Terry Camilleri) who, suffering guilt over his brother’s vehicular demise, permits himself to be “adopted” by Mayor Meillon and family, with the understanding that reporting the town’s illicit activities to authorities could be extremely hazardous to his health. But the mayor soon learns he’s created monsters in his own midst when local youths in customized demolition cars turn on the townspeople.

While rough in spots, “Cars” scores its fair share of trenchant points, while Home Vision’s edition represents a major improvement over the movie’s initial American release, a horrendously re-edited drive-in version retitled “The Cars That Ate People.”

With the disc’s second feature, 1977’s The Plumber, originally produced for Aussie TV, Mr. Weir concocts a darkly comic thriller that chronicles a series of mismatched cat-and-mouse games between pushy young plumber Ivor Kants and shaky academic customer Judy Morris.

While light on extras, Home Vision’s double-feature disc does contain two illuminating interviews with Mr. Weir himself, who supplies the back stories behind both films.

Recommended new releases from Home Vision’s busy Criterion Collection line, meanwhile, include bonus-laden double-disc special editions of Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1970 noir Le Cercle Rouge, with Alain Delon; Steven Soderbergh’s 1996 underground comedy Schizopolis; and Yasujiro Ozu’s acclaimed 1953 drama Tokyo Story ($39.95 each).

The ‘A’ list

Leading this week’s “A” list is Warner Home Video’s two-disc widescreen edition of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines ($29.95), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his “good Terminator” mode. While a been-there, done-that aura surrounds much of the sequel, director Jonathan Mostow amply delivers in the action department, highlighted by an especially impressive Terminator vs. Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken) smack-down sequence. Copious extras include behind-the-scenes segments, a gag reel, a visual effects featurette and much more.

And if that’s not enough Arnold for you, this week HBO Video issues the 1977 documentary that started Mr. Schwarzenegger’s celebhood, Pumping Iron: The 25th Anniversary Special Edition ($19.98). The bodybuilding saga comes further fortified with behind-the-scenes features and a new Arnold interview.

JFK revisited

To mark the 40th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, this week Warner Home Video releases a remastered director’s cut special-edition DVD ($19.95) of Oliver Stone’s 1991 political drama JFK, starring Kevin Costner as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. The double-disc set includes the bonus documentary “Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy,” along with feature-length commentary by writer/director Stone, deleted and extended scenes, production notes and theatrical trailer.

Also this week, Docurama weighs in with a pair of JFK documentaries. Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment captures President Kennedy and his attorney general brother Bobby as they deal with the unfolding events surrounding the planned, and fiercely resisted, 1963 integration of an all-white University of Alabama. Primary presents a cinema-verite account of the 1960 Kennedy presidential campaign during its final week. Among other extras, both discs include commentary by director-producer Robert Drew and other film personnel. The DVDs are tagged at $24.95 each.

You must remember these

Bogie fans have reason to rejoice with Warner Home Video’s latest Humphrey Bogart Collection releases. Bogie teams with Ida Lupino in a pair of noirs by director Raoul Walsh, 1940’s They Drive By Night, co-starring George Raft and Ann Sheridan, and 1941’s High Sierra.

Our hard-boiled hero switches his affections to Lauren Bacall in director Howard Hawks’ 1944 Hemingway-based adventure To Have and Have Not and Delmer Daves’ atmospheric 1947 crime drama Dark Passage. All four discs come complete with making-of featurettes, while the Bogie-Bacall titles arrive with vintage Merrie Melodies cartoons. The DVDs are priced at $19.98 each.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Where can I purchase Deadlier Than the Male?

David Segarra, via e-mail

That 1967 spy thriller, featuring Elke Sommer, can be ordered from Movies Unlimited (moviesunlimited.com, $19.99 DVD, $18.99 VHS).

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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