- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2005

A new trio of top vintage winners from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment ($14.98 each) keep noir fans happy as they make their digital debuts. They’re our …

DVD picks of the week

Lucille Ball proves her hard-boiled mettle as a shrewd receptionist determined to help her private-eye employer (and eventual romantic interest) Mark Stevens out of a complicated jam in the excellent 1946 mystery The Dark Corner. William Bendix lends memorable support as a white-suited thug on our troubled hero’s trail, while director Henry Hathaway evocatively captures New York City life in a film that crosses the entire class spectrum.

While Mr. Hathaway’s 1947 Kiss of Death offers a less complex plot (Victor Mature plays an ex-con who goes undercover to get the goods on the gang that framed him), the film boasts one of the genre’s most menacing and enduring characters in snickering, psychotic hood Tommy Udo, etched by Richard Widmark with brutal brilliance. The notorious sequence in which Tommy pushes a wheelchair-bound woman down a flight of stairs still resonates in pop-culture mythology. (Even “The Daily Show” recently recycled the clip.)

Otto Preminger assumes the directorial reigns for 1950’s Ben Hecht-scripted Where the Sidewalk Ends. A typically taciturn Dana Andrews stars as a violent cop who not only accidentally kills a suspect, but tumbles for his victim’s widow, an ever-radiant Gene Tierney, in a noir as gritty as they come.

Each of Fox’s essential black-and-white discs includes audio commentary by film historians, along with the original trailers.

The ‘A’ list

Comedy dominates the new theatrical-to-DVD slate, starting with the Steve Carell hit The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Universal Studios, $29.98), appearing in separate, equally bonus-stuffed R and unrated editions.

Billy Bob Thornton steps up to the plate as the cantankerous coach of the Bad News Bears (Paramount Home Entertainment, $29.99), sliding into vidstores in an extras-packed edition.

MGM Home Entertainment bows the romantic comedy-drama The Baxter ($24.96); Sony Pictures debuts the dark high school satire Pretty Persuasion ($24.96), starring Evan Rachel Wood; and 20th Century Fox presents the Bow Wow vehicle Roll Bounce ($27.98).

Walt Disney Home Entertainment contributes a pair of animated features, the high-flying family comedy Valiant and Kronk’s New Groove ($29.99 each). Both arrive with interactive games and other extras.

In the adventure arena, DreamWorks offers Michael Bay’s clone epic The Island ($29.99), while Universal Studios Home Entertainment packages the gala documentary set King Kong: Peter Jackson’s Production Diaries ($39.98), an exhaustive, double-disc exploration of all things Kong, 2005-style.

Collectors’ corner

Two genre heavyweights receive their digital due this week. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment salutes the eponymous special-effects pioneer via its Ray Harryhausen Gift Set (three-disc, $49.95), packaging the fantasy master’s 1953 giant-octopus scarefest, It Came From Beneath the Sea; the still-chilling 1956 alien invasion tale Earth vs. the Flying Saucers; and the 1957 Italy-set monster mash 20 Million Miles to Earth.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment issues a trio of cult-movie icon Roger Corman’s signature films in extras-enhanced special editions: Angie Dickinson as the gun-toting Big Bad Mama (1974), David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone in the model B flick Death Race 2000 (1975), and the 1979 Ramones showcase Rock ‘n’ Roll High School ($19.99 each).

Paramount Home Entertainment lands Airplane: ‘Don’t Call Me Shirley!’ Edition ($19.99). Its comic cargo includes a very funny filmmakers’ commentary, deleted scenes, interviews and more. Sony Pictures revives the 1977 satire Fun With Dick and Jane ($19.94), starring George Segal and Jane Fonda.

Tele-video

Warner Home Video continues the adventures of the Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Fifth Season (eight-disc, $39.98) and the Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season (six-disc, $59.98), including select commentary and featurettes. City meets country head-on in MGM Home Entertainment’s Green Acres: The Complete Third Season (four-disc, $29.95).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment likewise looks for laughs with the Reba McEntire showcase Reba: The Complete Second Season (three-disc, $39.98), with select audio commentary, and The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season (four-disc, $49.98).

Elsewhere, Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas protect South Florida from criminal elements in Michael Mann’s Miami Vice: Season Two (three-disc, $59.98), while Michael Biehn and Ron Perlman head the titular gunfighters in The Magnificent Seven: The Complete First Season (two-disc, $29.95).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I wanted to buy the complete fifth-season Walker, Texas Ranger DVD. My video rental store can’t track it down. Help.

— B. Berard, via e-mail

Oddly enough, Paramount Home Entertainment has thus far released only the series’ ninth and final season on DVD (in June 2005); let’s hope the earlier seasons will follow soon.

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 phanmedia @aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscope mag.com.

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