- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Arguably the greatest gangster film of the modern era (at least since Bogie and Cags hung up their gats), Brian De Palma’s 1983 Scarface receives a lavish “Two-Disc Anniversary Edition” makeover ($26.98), courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. It’s our…

Video pick of the week

Al Pacino turns in what may be his finest work (and that’s going some) as tightly wired Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who becomes an eager student of the sleazy side of Yankee capitalism. Director De Palma and screenwriter Oliver Stone chart Tony’s violent rise to the top of the Miami cocaine trade with a blistering realism further spiced with bold operatic flourishes, all set to a pulsing Giorgio Moroder score.

Add vivid cinematography (John A. Alonzo), exotic South Florida locales, top supporting performances — notably by Steven Bauer as Tony’s best bud, Michelle Pfeiffer as his resentful trophy wife, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as his “pure” younger sister — inspired dialogue and sharp wit, and you have a reel winner. After two decades, “Scarface” not only holds up but, in its new digital state, looks and sounds better than ever.

While lacking an audio commentary, Universal’s edition compensates with several featurettes that add substance rather than fluff, guiding viewers through every phase of the film’s creation, with Mr. Pacino, Mr. Stone, Mr. De Palma and producer Martin Bregman sharing their considerable insights on the project’s fascinating backstory.

For true “Scarface” fanatics, Universal also introduces a Special Gift Set Edition ($59.98) that, beyond the above extras, comes complete with the original 1932 Paul Muni “Scarface,” a set of collectible lobby cards, and even a gold money clip. Both sets arrive this week.

Collector’s corner

On the subject of milestone movies, Warner Home Video grants similarly grand “Two-Disc Special Edition” treatment this week to a trio of classics from Hollywood’s golden age ($26.99 each):

• John Huston’s 1948 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, from the pen of mysterious author B. Traven, stars Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston (John’s father) and Tim Holt as prospectors who learn a harsh lesson in greed in 1920s rural Mexico. The set comes complete with a gold mine of extras, including documentaries on the production and John Huston’s lengthy career, a “Treasure” radio adaptation, and more;

• 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, featuring Errol Flynn, Olivia De Havilland and Basil Rathbone, with more than four hours of bonus features;

• The 1942 musical extravaganza Yankee Doodle Dandy, starring James Cagney as George M. Cohan, with another four hours of bonus features.

The ‘A’ list

In theatrical-to-video news, this week 20th Century Fox debuts the British feel-good comedy-drama Bend It Like Beckham ($27.98), about a young Indian girl determined to follow her soccer-stardom dreams. The disc incorporates filmmaker audio commentary, 10 deleted scenes, “making-of” featurettes, outtakes and more.

Home Room (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment, $24.95), inspired by the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, offers a more sober view of high-school life, with Busy Pilipps and Erika Christensen as traumatized students who form an unexpected bond.

Next week, the emphasis is on action, with the 2003 remake of the 1969 Michael Caine heist caper The Italian Job (Paramount Home Entertainment, $19.95), headlining Edward Norton and Mark Wahlberg, and the cop comedy box-office flop Hollywood Homicide ($27.95), pairing Harrison Ford with Josh Hartnett. All four titles will also be available on VHS.


In TV-to-DVD developments, A&E Home Video (aetv.com) showcases two very different but equally popular characters. Jane Seymour takes the lead role in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman: The Complete Season Two ($109.95), a seven-disc collection containing all 24 episodes, along with a featurette and select commentary by co-star Joe Lando. Rowan Atkinson presents his animated doppelganger in Mr. Bean: The Animated Series ($29.95), a two-DVD set that includes 18 episodes, along with a making-of featurette. Both sets hit vidstores this week.

Mystery buffs, meanwhile, may want to check out the Masterpiece Theatre presentation “The Blackheath Poisonings” ($19.95), new from WGBH Boston Video. Judy Parfitt and Patrick Malahide topline in this lethal tale, drawn from Julian Symons’ novel, about a Victorian family with a house full of dark secrets.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: What’s the title of that late ‘70s or early ‘80s rock opera that was loosely based on the “Phantom of the Opera”?

Nate Leigh, via e-mail

Sounds like Brian De Palma’s 1974 Phantom of the Paradise. It’s available ($9.99 VHS, $12.74 DVD) from 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: phanmedia @aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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