- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

What starts as a straightforward supernatural chiller gradually morphs into dark comedy in director and co-writer Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Doppelganger, an ingenious modern-day variation on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” It’s new from Tartan Video ($24.95, tartanfilmsusa.com) and it’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Our story begins on a grim note when the slacker brother of our eventual heroine, Yuka (Hiromi Nagasaku), commits suicide after sighting his double or “doppelganger.”

The focus next shifts to Yuka’s acquaintance Hayasaki (Koji Yakusho), a top-flight medical robotics researcher who, much to his frustration, is in a creative slump that slows his progress on a sophisticated home care wheelchair.

It’s at that point that Hayasaki’s own obnoxious doppelganger (also played by Mr. Yakusho) enters the picture, determined to “right” the problems of his resistant “twin” by any means necessary.

Soon Yuka is caught between the real Hayasaki and his increasingly fractious doppelganger, who, much like Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous schizoid character(s), represent cautious superego and amoral id, respectively.

Secret schemes involving Hayasaki’s thuglike new assistant Kimishima (Yusuke Santamaria) and resentful former collaborator Murakami (Akira Emoto) further complicate the situation as the reel rolls on and the action grows increasingly slapstick. (There’s even a comic homage to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”)

Mr. Yakusho turns in wonderful work as both his repressed bitter and blithe badder halves, while Mr. Kurosawa, late of the twisty serial-killer thriller “Cure,” hits just the right balance between menace and humor. Bonuses include a revealing interview with the insightful auteur and a “making of” featurette.

More from Asia

Elsewhere in the Asian import arena, Home Vision Cinema introduces two intriguing vintage Yakuza (Japanese organized crime) capers from the late Japanese cult director Kinji Fukasaku, Fall Guy and Sympathy for the Underdog ($24.95 each).

The Criterion Collection debuts Seijun Suzuki’s inventive, energetic 1963 gangster yarn Youth of the Beast ($29.95).


Hit sitcoms old and new dominate the week’s TV-on-DVD slate. Paramount Home Entertainment leads the way with no fewer than five farcical box sets: Cheers: The Complete Fourth Season, Frasier: The Complete Fourth Season and Taxi: The Complete Second Season (all four-disc, $38.99 each), along with I Love Lucy: The Complete Third Season (five-disc, $54.99) and Charmed: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $49.99).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment weighs in with Married … With Children: The Complete Third Season (three-disc, $39.95) and Soap: The Complete Third Season (three-disc, $29.95).

Good old boys Tom Wopat and John Schneider rev into high gear in the extras-enhanced The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Second Season (Warner Home Video, four-disc, $38.99) while 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment bows the offbeat Wonderfalls: The Complete Viewer Collection (three-disc, $39.98).

Elsewhere, youth provides the focus for both Degrassi Junior High: Season 1 (WGBH Boston Video, three-disc, $39.95) and One Tree Hill: The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video, six-disc, $59.98), both arriving in bonus-packed editions.

HBO Video sets its sights on the cathode crime scene via The Wire: The Complete Second Season (five-disc, $99.98), complete with select audio commentaries.

The ‘A’ list

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment pulls out all the stops for the superlative Ray Charles musical biopic Ray, offering both the original theatrical and extended DVD versions, plus a veritable symphony of extras, including audio commentary by director Taylor Hackford, 14 additional deleted scenes, featurettes and more.

The same label offers Mira Nair’s William Thackeray-based period drama Vanity Fair ($29.98 each), starring Reese Witherspoon.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has Takashi Shimizu’s moody box-office scare smash The Grudge ($28.95), with Sarah Michelle Gellar, in a bonus-enriched edition along with the controversial Spike Lee comedy She Hate Me ($24.96).

Buena Vista Home Entertainment digs in with the baseball-themed Bernie Mac showcase Mr. 3000, plus Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in the romantic drama Shall We Dance? ($29.99 each).

Animated antics

Animation fans will want to check out a fresh quartet of “Classic Cartoon Favorites” from Walt Disney Home Entertainment: Starring Mickey, Starring Donald, Starring Goofy and Starring Chip ‘n’ Dale. Each contains at least seven vintage animated shorts. The discs are tagged at $14.99 each.

The same label combines the animated “Aladdin” sequels The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves as a double-disc set ($34.99), complete with an array of animated extras.

Video verite

Fresh from its recent TV airing, Ken Burns’ brilliant boxing/race relations documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson is available via PBS Home Video in a striking new double-disc edition ($24.99).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Do you know if the 1960s “National Velvet” television shows are on tape?

— J. Stans, via e-mail

That series has yet to join the home-video ranks.

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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