- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The “Lawrence of Arabia” of spaghetti Westerns (complete with expansive desert setting), Sergio Leone’s 1967 masterpiece The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly rides into area vidstores this week in a rip-roaring, fully restored double-disc special edition from MGM Home Entertainment ($29.98). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

While Clint Eastwood as laconic nominal hero “Blondie” (the Good) and Lee Van Cleef as taciturn villain “Angel Eyes” (the Bad) register strongly, the show ultimately belongs to the Ugly — Eli Wallach’s manic, motormouthed bandito Tuco. All three are violently pursuing the same single-minded goal, a stolen treasure buried in a distant graveyard.

Among the film’s many highlights is a sweeping Civil War combat set piece that underscores the tragedy of that costly conflict while putting our antiheroes’ selfish quest in ironic perspective. And few if any Westerns have topped the pic’s climactic gunfight sequence, a masterful montage of almost excruciating suspense.

A full complement of informative featurettes — one on composer Ennio Morricone’s trailblazing score (a surprise crossover album chart hit) proves especially enlightening — and a commentary track by critic Richard Schickel round out this invaluable edition.

Classic-cinema buffs will also want to capture the same label’s equally extras-enhanced, double-disc presentation of director John Sturges’ 1963 World War II epic The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough ($29.98).

Collectors’ corner

Disney DVD offers four fresh digital time capsules via its latest double-disc Walt Disney Treasures sets ($32.99 each):

• The Chronological Donald Volume One collects 36 original Donald Duck cartoons (1934-1941);

• Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume Two spotlights the iconic rodent’s animated adventures from 1939 through 1953;

• On the Front Lines: The War Years assembles 32 World War II shorts, plus the feature film Victory Through Air Power;

m Tomorrow Land: Disney in Space and Beyond looks to the future.

In other news for collectors, Blue Underground (blue-underground.com) unearths David Cronenberg’s radical change-of-pace racing movie Fast Company ($29.99), starring genre faves John Saxon, William Smith and the late Claudia Jennings, in a 2-DVD edition that also includes the auteur’s more typically offbeat early efforts, Stereo and Crimes of the Future.

Roland Emmerich’s influential 1996 sci-fi blockbuster Independence Day returns in a new “limited edition” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $19.98), with nine minutes of restored footage and fresh filmmaker commentaries.

Tele-video

In TV-to-DVD news, WGBH Boston Video premieres the PBS “Mystery!” series Heat of the Sun (3-DVD, $39.95), starring Trevor Eve as a former Scotland Yard detective who heads a criminal investigation unit in Nairobi.

From Paramount Home Entertainment comes Have Gun, Will Travel: The Complete First Season, with all 39 debut-season episodes of the edgy sagebrush series starring Richard Boone as high-living hired gun Paladin.

Outre TV will be represented this week by the 10-episode, double-disc The Osbornes 21/2 (Miramax Home Entertainment, $29.99) and Sex and the City: Season Six: Part One (HBO Video, 3-DVD, $49.99), the latter containing creator commentaries and a cast symposium.

And for those who can’t get enough, Paramount unleashes Survivor Borneo ($49.99) in a bonus-laden 5-DVD set that tacks on all “Survivor One” series episodes.

HBO Video introduces the original cable movie And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself ($19.97), with Antonio Banderas in the title role.

Video verite

In documentary developments, First Run Features debuts 2003’s Bonhoeffer, a profile of clerical Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and 1996’s A Perfect Candidate($24.95 each), a funny/scary account of Oliver North’s abortive Senatorial campaign.

Elsewhere in the political arena: Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment declassifies Errol Morris’ probing Robert McNamara profile The Fog of War ($26.95), while Docurama releases The Weather Underground ($24.95), with commentary by former Weathermen Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers.

The ‘A’ list

Kurt Russell plays coach Herb Brooks, who led the 1980 U.S. hockey team to an upset Olympic victory, in Miracle, skating into vidstores in an extras-packed double-disc edition from Disney DVD ($29.99).

The action further heats up in the new-school biker flick Torque (Warner Home Video, $27.95), starring Martin Henderson and Ice Cube.

Serial thrillers

VCI Entertainment returns to the thrilling days of yesteryear with three vintage cliffhangers: 1947’s Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy, 1940’s The Green Archer and 1937’s SOS Coast Guard, with a grandly malevolent Bela Lugosi. The discs are tagged at $19.99 each.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Can a rental copy of One Touch of Venus be located?

Herb Borkland, Columbia, Md.

While that 1948 Ava Gardner fable was briefly available on VHS in the 1980s, the title currently rates as a video rarity.

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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