- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A harrowing but compassionate portrait of a young man’s descent into schizophrenia, writer-director Tim McCann’s Revolution #9, released in 2001 and new from Wellspring Media ($24.98 DVD and VHS), represents low-budget indie filmmaking at its best. It’s our …

Video pick of the week

Refreshingly, Mr. McCann avoids the psycho-killer histrionics often associated with this subject matter. His nonviolent, painstakingly researched, nearly verite-styled tale instead explores the inexorable decline undergone by James Jackson (powerfully interpreted by Michael Risley), a newly engaged young writer trying to make his way in New York City.

James’ delusions, fairly amorphous at first, increasingly focus on an MTV-style perfume ad he’s convinced is sending him secret destructive messages. The attempts of his waitress-fiancee (Adrienne Shelly) to help him bog down in an often well-intentioned but ineffectual health-system bureaucracy. James systematically tracks down the commercial’s smarmy creator (monologist Spalding Gray in a spot-on performance). Their extremely uncomfortable encounter supplies “Revolution #9” with one of its strongest scenes.

“Revolution #9” may not qualify as a feel-good experience, but it’s bracing to see its serious topic treated with the gravity and humanity it deserves. On an audio commentary track shared with actors Risley and Shelly, filmmaker McCann candidly criticizes his own work; it may well be that very honesty, though, that helped bring such an uncompromising vision to the screen. In addition to the commentary, the widescreen DVD comes equipped with two earlier short films directed by Mr. McCann.

For another worthy, if slightly bloodier, variation on a mental-illness theme, we likewise recommend filmmaker Zachary Hansen’s inventive, flawlessly acted indie Killer Me, available now via Vanguard Cinema ($29.99 DVD, priced for rental VHS).

Family fare

In a somewhat cheerier vein, last week Disney DVD issued the animated epic The Lion King: 2-Disc Special Edition ($29.99). The gala set includes both the original release and a fresh version with an all-new song, along with bonus animated features, deleted scenes, music videos (including “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” performed by Elton John), interactive features and more.

MGM Home Entertainment gets a head start on the Christmas season with a quartet of animated titles. Christmas Carol: The Movie, based on the Charles Dickens classic, features the vocal talents of Nicolas Cage, Kate Winslet and Simon Callow.

It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie gathers Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppet gang for a feature-length yuletide celebration featuring celebrity cameos by Whoopi Goldberg, David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy and many more. The titles are tagged at $19.98 DVD, $9.94 VHS each.

The holiday fun continues with two additional MGM animated entries, A Freezerburnt Christmas and Second Star to the Left: A Christmas Tale ($14.95 DVD, $9.94 VHS each).

The ‘A’ list

In multiplex-to-vidstore developments, fighting femmes Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu return for Round 2 in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, due next week from Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment ($27.95 DVD). The same label releases the more modest movie Owning Mahowny, a character-driven compulsive-gambling drama starring the ever-versatile Philip Seymour Hoffman and Minnie Driver.

MGM Home Entertainment counter-programs with the comedy It Runs in the Family ($25.98 DVD), starring three generations of Douglases — patriarch Kirk, son Michael and grandson Cameron. All three titles will also be available on VHS.

Sinister surprises

The dedicated archivists at Sinister Cinema (www.sinistercinema.com, 541/773-6860) have added several intriguing new titles to their Halloween horror roster, leading with the long-elusive 1959 Italo chiller Caltiki, the Immortal Monster, with atmospheric photography courtesy of future fright maestro Mario Bava.

Other arrivals include Fred Olen Ray’s 1978 campfest The Brain Leeches, George Zucco and J. Carrol Naish in the 1942 shocker Dr. Renault’s Secret, the 1932 French mystery Fantomas, the 1970 Japanese giant-monster duke-out Gamera vs. Monster X, and Donald Pleasence and Michael Dunn in 1973’s The Mutations. The chillers are priced at $16.95 each (DVD or VHS).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I hope you can help me find two movies on video. The first one is called “The Well,” early 1950s, about a race riot in a small town. The other film is also from the early ‘50s and is called “Five,” about five survivors after a nuclear attack on an American city.

Darrel Coach, via e-mail

1951’s The Well ($19.99 VHS), starring Richard Rober and Harry Morgan, is available from VCI Entertainment (800/331-4077). The same year’s “Five,” unfortunately, has yet to land a home-video release.

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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