- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Not one but three primo vintage noirs make their welcome digital debuts this week via 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment ($14.98 each). They’re our…

DVD picks of the week

In Henry Hathaway’s 1948 Call Northside 777, James Stewart plays a determined Chicago reporter who builds a case pointing to convicted killer Richard Conte’s innocence. Authentic location lensing, admirable attention to detail (especially regarding then-state-of-the-art police technology), steady pacing and uniformly fine performances, including Lee J. Cobb as Mr. Stewart’s gruff but supportive editor, highlight this excellent, fact-based suspenser. An audio commentary by film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver, archival Movietone News footage of the pic’s premiere, and theatrical trailer comprise the extras.

Mega-fan favorite Laura needs little introduction. Park Avenue career girl Gene Tierney, hard-boiled detective Dana Andrews and caustic critic Clifton Webb all turn in iconic work in Otto Preminger’s beloved 1944 romantic mystery — presented here in its extended version with alternate opening — whose time-capsule value only adds to the picture’s appeal. Fox goes all out with the bonus material, offering two audio commentaries — one by film historian Rudy Behlmer, the other by composer David Raksin and cinema scholar Jeanne Basinger — “Biography” episodes on Miss Tierney and co-star Vincent Price, a deleted scene, and a trailer.

Elia Kazan’s 1950 Panic in the Streets proffers a fresh twist on the genre as public health doctor Richard Widmark leads a desperate search to corral a criminal (a terrific Jack Palance) infected with the bubonic plague. Like “Call Northside 777,” “Panic” benefits from atmospheric location shooting, in and around New Orleans, to inject further reality into a tense tale. Film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver again provide commentary. Withal, an essential triple feature for crime-film fans.

Tele-video

In TV-on-DVD developments, Shout! Factory leads the way with another super “SCTV” set, SCTV: Volume 3 (five-disc, $89.98), assembling nine 90-minute shows from the series’ early ‘80s NBC run. Highlights include “The People’s Global Golden Choice Awards” (Episode 99), “3D Stake From the Heart” (Episode 100) and one of our faves, “Battle of the PBS Stars” (Episode 103). Future Jiminy Glick Martin Short enjoys his debut with the “SCTV” crew here, introducing a host of twisted new characters. Extras include writers’ commentary on select episodes, the featurettes “That’s Life With John Candy” and “SCTV Remembers, Part 3” and more.

Comedy likewise reigns in Friends: The Complete Ninth Season (Warner Home Video, four-disc, $44.98), arriving with a plethora of viewer-friendly bonuses, from commentaries to gag reel, and the 1960s Bob Crane showcase Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete First Season (Paramount Home Entertainment, five-disc, $38.99).

On the cathode crime scene, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment calls on Starsky and Hutch: The Complete Third Season (five-disc, $49.99), while Anchor Bay Entertainment introduces Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street: The Complete Second Season (six-disc, $44.98).

The macabre holds sway in the 1970s British series Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected: Set 2 (Acorn Media, four-disc, $59.99), containing 23 episodes with guest stars ranging from John Gielgud and Joan Collins to Telly Savalas and Eli Wallach.

The ‘A’ list

Brad Bird’s Pixar blockbuster The Incredibles, about a family of superheroes banished to the ‘burbs, heads the week’s list of new-to-DVD theatrical features. Walt Disney Home Entertainment’s excellent deluxe double-disc edition ($29.99) tacks on filmmakers’ audio commentaries, featurettes, bonus shorts, deleted scenes, outtakes and bloopers, and much more.

Elsewhere, the ever-busy Jude Law stars as a stud about town in the underperforming remake Alfie (Paramount Home Entertainment, $29.99), while Spanish satirist Alex de la Iglesia strikes again with his modern-day spaghetti western comedy 800 Bullets (TLA Releasing, $24.99).

Look also for the thundering documentary NASCAR: The Imax Experience (Warner Home Video, $19.98).

Collectors’ corner

Warner Home Video goes the happy-feet route with special editions of five classic Hollywood musicals, leading with a brace of double-disc sets of the Fred Astaire winners The Band Wagon and Easter Parade ($26.99 each).

Single-disc editions of Bells Are Ringing, with Judy Holliday and Dean Martin; Brigadoon, with Gene Kelly; and the later Fred Astaire showcase Finian’s Rainbow ($19.97 each) complete the toe-tapping titles.

All waltz in with an impressive number of extras, from commentaries to featurettes, and can also be purchased as a complete bargain-priced set The Classic Musicals Collection ($59.92).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Any word on when Becket, starring Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton, will be released on DVD?

John A. Rummans, III, via e-mail

No word when “Becket” might debut on disc; the VHS version is available ($18.99) from Movies Unlimited (moviesunlimited.com).

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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