- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Part of MGM Home Entertainment’s recent “Sidney Poitier Collection” box set, 1971’s The Organization ($14.95) shapes up as a solid policer that finds Mr. Poitier in fine form. It’s our…

Video pick of the week

“The Organization” is Mr. Poitier’s third screen appearance as Lt. Virgil Tibbs, first seen in the Oscar-winning 1967 classic “In the Heat of the Night.” In “The Organization,” a multiethnic team of amateur vigilantes (including a young Raul Julia and “Superfly” star Ron O’Neal) steals $4 million worth of heroin from a crime syndicate’s San Francisco warehouse front, then contacts honest cop Tibbs to aid in their plot to topple the powerful cartel.

Our hero reluctantly sides with the band, setting in motion a tense, tough, unsentimental caper rife with realistic violence and a cynical but unabrasive tone.

Obviously influenced by Peter Yates’ 1968 “Bullitt,” “The Organization” makes similarly atmospheric use of its authentic ‘Frisco locations and even works in a requisite car chase. But unlike many contemporary action auteurs, director Don Medford places story and characters above mere mindless thrills.

In addition to Mr. Poitier, who’s equally believable here as a no-nonsense detective and a kinder, gentler family man, the cast includes a bevy of solid thesps, with Sheree North, Allen Garfield and Daniel J. Travanti turning in especially adroit work. While the Tibbs franchise unfortunately ended with this superior entry, old-school crime-film fans will want to relive the excitement with “The Organization.”

The ‘A’ list

Theatrical films arriving on homevid this week include an extras-laden edition of the David Spade vehicle Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (Paramount, $29.99) and Gary Fleder’s adaptation of the John Grisham courtroom thriller Runaway Jury (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $27.98), starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz. The latter comes equipped with some worthy bonuses, include scene-specific commentary by Mr. Hackman and Mr. Hoffman as well as extensive rehearsal footage of that celebrated duo at work.

In the indie arena, Artisan Entertainment introduces the offbeat romantic comedy Dummy ($26.98), with Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich and Ileana Douglas, while Sundance Channel Home Entertainment unveils the period British drama The Heart of Me ($26.99), starring Helena Bonham Carter.

Collectors’ corner

Three disparate DVD titles spanning as many decades make their digital debuts via Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment, tagged at $24.95 each:

• Rita Hayworth, Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon headline in the 1957 nautical adventure Fire Down Below.

• Humphrey Bogart plays a Yank in postwar Japan in 1949’s Tokyo Joe.

• Jane Fonda and Laurence Harvey star in Edward Dmytryk’s 1962 Nelson Algren adaptation A Walk on the Wild Side, set in New Orleans.

The same label has also returned two longtime fan faves to the homevideo ranks via its double-disc set The Gods Must Be Crazy I & II ($29.95). The 1980s satires, set in Africa and starring the late mono-monikered Nixau, arrive complete with featurettes, trailers and photo galleries.

Universal appeal

Universal Studios Home Entertainment does its bit for vintage-movie lovers with a quartet of fresh releases in its “Franchise Collection” line:

• The Best of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Volume 1 ($24.98) collects eight A&C comedies, including Buck Privates, Pardon My Sarong and Who Done It?.

• The Adventures of Ma & Pa Kettle ($19.98) assembles four rural-themed laughfests, beginning with the debut of the Kettles (Percy Kilbride and Marjorie Main) in 1947’s The Egg and I.

• Airport: Terminal Pack ($24.98) contains the original all-star 1970 Airport plus the sequels Airport 1975, Airport ‘77 and The Concorde: Airport ‘79.

• Imitation of Life ($19.98) packages the 1934 and 1959 screen versions of Fannie Hurst’s popular novel, starring Claudette Colbert and Lana Turner, respectively.

Musical notes

One of the best rock docs we’ve seen, Michael Burlingame’s Nine Hundred Nights (Eagle Vision, $20.98), chronicles the rise and ultimate dissolution of the influential ‘60s San Fran band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Beyond capturing top live performances with Janis Joplin at her zenith, the film, narrated by Rip Torn, features rare recording-studio footage, bonus performances and fascinating interviews with Big Brother’s surviving members.

Eagle Vision also focuses on an entertainer who’s been much in the news of late with Janet Jackson: The Velvet Rope Tour — Live in Concert ($14.98), filmed at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and incorporating such trademark tunes as “Black Cat” and “Control.”

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is the French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg available yet on DVD?

B. Gillespie, via email

That 1964 Jacques Demy film will be joining the digital ranks in April, via Koch Lorber Films ($24.98, kochlorberfilms.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: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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