- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Classic Western fans can give thanks to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for its pristine new DVD debut of the 1943 sagebrush gem The Ox-Bow Incident ($19.98). It’s our…

Video pick of the week

Henry Fonda heads a skilled ensemble cast in director William A. Wellman’s stark tale of frontier injustice, based on Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s best-selling novel. When word reaches a dusty Nevada town that a popular cattleman has been murdered, cowpoke Gil Carter (Fonda) and Art Croft (Harry Morgan) get caught up in a mounting hysteria that leads local citizens on a vengeance-driven hunt for the culprits.

Acting on evidence circumstantial at best, the lawless posse targets a trio of ranch hands for the crime. An intense argument about what to do with them rages among posse members while the fates of the three strangers hang (literally) in the balance. Director Wellman manages to play out his still-powerful indictment of mob violence in a streamlined 75 minutes.

In addition to Fonda, top thesps include Jane Darwell (Henry’s mom in 1940’s “The Grapes of Wrath”), Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn as two of the captive men, and Leigh Whipper as an itinerant preacher who tries to supply the accused what solace he can. The black-and-white, full-screen transfer makes the film look virtually brand-new, adding to its sense of moral urgency.

Bonus features include an informative commentary by Western scholar Dick Eulain and actor William Wellman Jr., a “Biography” episode on Henry Fonda, a still gallery and a restoration comparison segment.

Mr. Fonda returns, 26 years later and in a rare villainous role, in another highly recommended new release, Sergio Leone’s 1969 spaghetti-Western epic Once Upon a Time in the West, co-starring Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson and Jason Robards. Paramount DVD’s double-disc set ($19.98) contains a multi-voice audio commentary (with director-fans John Carpenter and John Milius among those on board), three documentaries, and lots more.

No place like Holmes

Sherlock Holmes fans likewise have ample reason to rejoice, courtesy of MPI Home Video (mpihomevideo.com). This week the label follows its four-title October The Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume One ($59.98) with a fresh quartet of 1940s Conan Doyle-inspired adventures, headlining Basil Rathbone as Sherlock and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson, beautifully restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive: The House of Fear, The Pearl of Death, Sherlock Holmes and the Spiderwoman (all 1944) and The Scarlet Claw (1945). The discs can also be purchased individually ($19.98 each).

The plots further thicken this week when WGBH Boston Video premieres the four-episode, double-disc The Inspector Lynley Mysteries ($39.95), starring Nathaniel Parker and Sharon Small as determined British detectives, plus the four-episode The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries ($29.95), with Diana Rigg as formidable amateur sleuth Mrs. Adela Bradley.

Licensed and Bonded

In other news of British derring-do, MGM Home Entertainment launches its James Bond Volume Two and Volume Three gift sets ($124.96 each), containing 13 of the 007 escapades, including From Russia With Love, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. The sets are available now.

The ‘A’ list

Jim Carrey gets to play God in the wacky farce Bruce Almighty, co-starring Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Aniston. Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s widescreen DVD ($26.98), out this week, includes over 15 deleted scenes, featurettes on Mr. Carrey and director Tom Shadyac, and more.

Tim Allen returns in Santa Clause 2 (Disney DVD, $29.99) in an extras-packed special edition containing featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and audio commentary with director Michael Lembeck.

The mood grows a bit grimmer in Gus Van Sant’s hypnotic exercise in ultra-minimalism, Gerry (Miramax Home Entertainment, $29.99), co-written by and starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck as two buds lost in an unforgiving desert terrain.

Collectors’ corner

Elsewhere, MGM Home Entertainment eyes the holiday season with its fresh double-disc special edition of Ken Hughes’ 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ($29.98). Based on a children’s book by James Bond creator Ian Fleming, the film, starring Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes and the eponymous flying car, lands in video stores with a new documentary, four featurettes, two interactive games, a collectible storybook and many other family-friendly features.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Will the original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers ever be released, without the studio-imposed bogus beginning and ending?

Ken Jacobs, via e-mail

Artisan Entertainment issued a DVD special edition just last year, so it might be a wait before we see a new one that includes the film’s original cut.

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: phanmediaaol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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