- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Several years after its UCLA Film Archives restoration, 1956’s Seven Men From Now — the first, and one of the best, of seven sagebrush collaborations between director Budd Boetticher and star Randolph Scott — gallops into the digital corral courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment ($14.99). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

A figure of dusty regality, the tall, taciturn Mr. Scott is in top tormented form as former sheriff Ben Stride, hard on the vengeance trail in a determined bid to terminate the seven outlaws who killed his wife during a Wells Fargo robbery.

After drilling the first two culprits (in a terrific claustrophobic, rain-pelted night scene), Stride rides upon a traveling couple, amiable but weak John Greer (Walter Reed) and his attractive wife Annie (Gail Russell), and helps extricate their covered wagon from a muddy creek.

Two tough hombres descend on the group — the drolly menacing Bill Masters (a scene-stealing Lee Marvin) and his laconic sidekick Clete (Donald Barry) — with the intent of accompanying Stride to the stolen loot’s whereabouts. The final showdown unfolds near the border town of Flora Vista, Ariz., where the remaining desperadoes are roosting.

While complex relationships and subtexts abound, director Boetticher and screenwriter Burt Kennedy tell their edgy, gritty, richly written tale in a natural, unmannered style, making “Seven Men From Now” a model of artistic economy and a template for future outdoor auteurs from Sam Peckinpah to Sergio Leone.

For some reason, Paramount letterboxes the full-screen film, actually diminishing the image a mite. But the affordable disc more than compensates with excellent extras, including the documentary “Budd Boetticher — An American Original,” commentary by film historian James Kitses, featurettes and a trailer, for a full evening of old-school thrills.

The ‘A’ list

Genre titles top the week’s theatrical-to-DVD roster. Universal Studios Home Entertainment unleashes the extras-packed, serial-killer thriller Cry Wolf, available in separate R and unrated versions, and writer-director Joss Whedon’s entertaining space adventure Serenity ($29.98 each).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment introduces the chiller The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($28.95), while Buena Vista Home Entertainment presents Terry Gilliam’s offbeat take on The Brothers Grimm ($29.99), with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the eponymous siblings. Mark Wahlberg looks for justice in the action item Four Brothers (Paramount, $29.99).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video corner the week’s mirth market with the Martin Lawrence vehicle Rebound ($27.98) and the romantic comedy Must Love Dogs ($28.98), respectively, while Buena Vista releases the fact-based World War II combat drama The Great Raid ($29.99).

In import news, Sony Pictures bows the 2004 Japanese theatrical release Godzilla: Final Wars ($24.96), the wildest “Big G” epic to date, with both dubbed and English-subtitle options.

Collectors’ corner

Dimension Home Video pulls out all the stops for its double-disc Sin City: Recut & Extended Edition ($39.99), with two versions of Robert Rodriguez’s surreal pulp extravaganza, new commentaries, multiple featurettes and much more, while Miramax Home Entertainment piles on the extras for its reissue of James Gray’s hard-boiled drama The Yards ($19.99), starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron.

Walt Disney Home Entertainment releases a quartet of double-disc Walt Disney Treasures sets packaged in handsome silver cases: the animated Donald Duck collection The Chronological Donald Volume Two: 1942-1946, Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts: 1920s-1960s, Elfego Baca/The Swamp Fox and The Adventures of Spin and Marty ($32.99 each).

Buena Vista Home Entertainment goes the musical route with lavish new special editions of Chicago (two-disc, $29.99), starring Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere, and the comic fairy tale Once Upon a Mattress ($19.99), with Carol Burnett, Tracey Ullman and Zooey Deschanel.

Tele-video

In fresh TV on DVD developments, Paramount Home Entertainment extends the reality-TV competition with The Amazing Race: The Seventh Season (four-disc, $39.99), with 12 episodes and over three hours of previously unseen scenes.

Elsewhere, the interstellar adventures continue in the 10-episode Battlestar Galactica Season 2.0 (Universal Studios, three-disc, $49.98), complete with deleted scenes.

Warner Home Video releases ER: The Complete Fourth Season (six-disc, $49.98), augmented by deleted scenes and gag reel, while Jennifer Love Hewitt, Neve Campbell and friends return in Party of Five: The Complete Second Season (Sony Pictures, five-disc, $49.95), with cast and crew commentaries.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: There are two Sterling Hayden war movies from 1955 I would love to see again, “Battle Taxi” and “The Eternal Sea.” Any chance they will ever be released on DVD or VHS?

Murray Welsh, via e-mail

Neither of the producing companies, United Artists and Republic Pictures, respectively, currently has an active home video arm, which may account for the films’ continued MIA status.

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.videoscopemag.com.

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