- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

If you love rock ‘n’ roll — or even like it just a little — you won’t want to miss Festival Express, a double-disc set fresh from New Line Home Entertainment ($24.98). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Back in the summer of 1970, promoters looking to board the “Woodstock” bandwagon made a splash by booking a private train to take big-name rock-stars across Canada for a series of concerts. The concerts, marred by protests from fans who thought the ticket prices too stiff, ultimately may have proven a financial disaster, but the footage that survived the economic wreckage is utterly priceless.

Unlike the oft-droning “Woodstock,” “Festival Express” is a swiftly edited joyride that captures the likes of Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, Buddy Guy and many more whiling away the hours on the train with spontaneous, oft-inebriated jam sessions. (One highlight sees the train making an unscheduled stop at a boonies liquor store after the musicians noticed they were getting low on hooch.)

Both the onboard sessions and the fest performances themselves are superbly captured here. Highlights include Ms. Joplin, backed by the Full-Tilt Boogie Band, belting out “Cry, Baby,” the Buddy Guy Blues Band putting a funky spin on “Money,” and The Band’s flawless renditions of the Little Richard chestnut “Slippin’ and Slidin’ ” and Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”

DVD extras include “Derailed: The Making of ‘Festival Express,’ ” detailing director Bob Smeaton’s determined efforts to salvage and shape the long-shelved, decades-old footage, plus extended musician interviews, bonus performances, a photo gallery and more. Anything but a dusty retrospective, “Festival Express” rocks as hard today as it did back in 1970.

Collectors’ corner

In vintage news, Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment retools two celluloid greats. Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 black comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb arrives in a double-disc “40th Anniversary Special Edition” ($34.95), with two new documentaries tracing the film’s fascinatingly circuitous but mega-successful trip from page to screen.

No extras adorn the label’s new “Superbit Collection” version of The Guns of Navarone ($26.95), but that grand 1961 World War II adventure, starring Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn, never looked or sounded better than in this high-definition transfer.

Elsewhere, Paramount Home Entertainment issues four backdate action films: Charlton Heston in the 1953 frontier adventure Arrowhead and the 1954 thriller The Naked Jungle, set in South America and co-starring Eleanor Parker and lots of killer red ants, along with the 1968 Eli Wallach spaghetti Western Ace High and the excellent 1959 Kirk Douglas vehicle Last Train From Gun Hill. The discs are tagged at $14.99 each.

The ‘A’ list

Two widely varying theatrical star showcases hit the shelves this week. Vin Diesel pulls out all the macho stops in “Pitch Black” director David Twohy’s sci-fi semi-sequel The Chronicles of Riddick: Unrated Director’s Cut (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, $29.98), packed with extras, from cast and crew commentaries to elaborate interactive components.

A decidedly less testosterone-fueled Will Ferrell takes the title role in Jon Favreau’s lively holiday hit Elf (New Line Home Entertainment, $29.95), sliding down your digital chimney in a bonus-laden double-disc “Infinifilm” edition.

In other holiday-related developments, writer/director Jonathan Kesselman sends up the ethnic action genre with The Hebrew Hammer (Paramount, $19.99), featuring Adam Goldberg as a Jewish crime-fighter who battles a psycho Santa (Andy Dick) out to destroy Hanukkah, while the Lifetime Original Movie Comfort and Joy (Warner Home Video, $19.98), starring Nancy McKeown, adopts a kinder, gentler romantic-comedy approach to the season.

Tele-video

On the TV-to-DVD front, Paramount Home Entertainment goes the old and new comedy routes with two sets debuting this week. The four-disc The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete First Season ($39.98) transports viewers back to Mayberry, N.C., for all 32 premiere-season episodes. Fast-forwarding a few decades, Kelsey Grammer and friends bid adieu in Frasier: The Complete Final Season ($59.98), a four-disc set featuring 23 sign-off episodes, along with behind-the-scenes segments.

Elsewhere, Sarah Michelle Geller is up to her trademark bloodsucker bashing as the eponymous Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Seventh Season (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $59.98). The six-disc set incorporates all 22 Season 7 episodes, plus select audio commentary, four featurettes, outtakes and DVD-ROM content.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Where can I find a VHS of former football star Bernie Casey in “Hit Man”?

Larry Calhoun, Capitol Heights, Md.

Unfortunately, that 1972 action film has yet to join the homevideo ranks; hopefully, it will in the near future.

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]aol .com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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