- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Though largely ignored during its original theatrical release, Peter Fonda’s low-key 1971 sagebrush fable The Hired Hand has rightly gained in respect over the years. The film now receives gala double-disc “Collector’s Edition” treatment ($39.98) from Sundance Channel Home Entertainment, as well as a “standard edition” ($19.98) version. It’s our…

Video pick of the week

In addition to directing, Mr. Fonda assumes the lead role of Harry Collings, a lean, laconic cowpoke who, after seven years on the trail, seeks to resume a relationship with long-abandoned wife Hannah (Verna Bloom). After a burst of sudden violence claims the life of a young saddlemate (Robert Pratt), Harry’s shaken prairie partner, Arch (Warren Oates, excellent as ever here), decides to accompany his pal on his domestic quest. Much of the subsequent action focuses on Harry’s attempts to reclaim Hannah’s affection, working at first as the titular hired hand before graduating to active husband duties.

The leisurely paced film unfolds like a live-action painting in progress, thanks to celebrated cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond’s lush palettes and poetic dissolves, while Bruce Langhorne’s lyrical, laid-back guitar score provides ideal aural support.

Sundance’s “Collector’s Edition” arrives with a plethora of extras, including Mr. Fonda’s audio commentary, a new documentary, deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, TV and radio ads and even special comments from fan Martin Scorsese. Though all the bonus material will be appreciated by buffs, “The Hired Hand” is truly a film that speaks, with quiet eloquence, for itself.

Tele-video: Joy of sets

The ongoing TV-to-DVD boom continues apace with a slate of new releases. Universal Studios Home Entertainment releases two spinoffs from the long-running “Law & Order” series. Law & Order: Criminal Intent: The First Year stars versatile Vincent D’Onofrio as a detective determined to dig inside the minds of New York’s worst criminals. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The First Year focuses on a top law-enforcement team out to solve the city’s most heinous cases, with Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay and Richard Belzer among the group. Each six-DVD set ($59.98 each) contains 22 episodes.

A&E; Home Video (www.aetv .com) likewise weighs in with a brace of crime-related shows. Brooklyn South: The Complete Series, starring James B. Sikking, Yancy Butler and Michael DeLuise, assembles 22 episodes, select audio commentary, an interview with series creator Steven Bochco, and more. The action shifts from Brooklyn to Baltimore in Homicide: Life on the Street: The Complete Season Three, featuring all 20 third-season episodes, select commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette and other extras. The six-DVD sets, available now, are tagged at $99.95 each.

British TV hits are equally well represented: BFS Entertainment and Multimedia (www.bfsent.com) offers seven vintage episodes of the Britcom The Bounder ($39.98 for the two-DVD set), along with the espionage series The Sandbaggers Collection Set 3 ($59.98 for the three-DVD set), toplining Roy Marsden as the leader of an elite spy team.

HBO Video counters with the English import Cracker: Series One ($39.98 for the three-DVD set), starring “Harry Potter” regular Robbie Coltrane as a flawed but brilliant police psychologist, and Prime Suspect 1 ($29.98 for the two-DVD set), with Helen Mirren as a detective chief inspector up against both criminal elements and rampant gender bias.

The ‘A’ list

“Hulk” hounds are in for a double-barreled treat. Last week, 20th Century Fox unleashed Ang Lee’s larger-than-life The Hulk, with Eric Bana as the aggressive comic-book superhero, in an extras-loaded double-disc edition ($26.98). Now Universal Studios Home Entertainment packages The Incredible Hulk: The Television Series Ultimate Collection ($69.98), a triple-disc set supplying 17 episodes from the Lou Ferrigno teleseries.

In lighter fare, Reese Witherspoon and Bruiser, her faithful Chihuahua, return to fight for animal rights in the political comedy sequel Legally Blonde 2: Red White & Blonde, featuring Sally Field and Bob Newhart. MGM Home Entertainment’s Special Edition ($27.98) includes a cast audio commentary, deleted scene, featurette, gag reel and more.

The animated blockbuster Finding Nemo plunges into home-vid waters this week in a two-disc collector’s edition (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, $29.99), packed with bonus material, including filmmakers’ commentary, “making-of” segments, interactive features, full-screen and widescreen viewing options, and much more.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom:# Looking for the “Stagecoach” remake, with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. Is it on video or DVD?

— Carolyn Pugh, via e-mail#

Although the 1939 John Wayne original Stagecoach# is available from Movies Unlimited ($15.99 DVD/$9.99 VHS, www.moviesunlimited.com), the 1966 theatrical release and the 1986 TV remake (the latter starring Willie and the boys) have yet to join the home-video corral.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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