- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Another intense, over-the-top shocker from the 1960s golden age of anxiety joins the digital ranks this week via Paramount Home Entertainment’s welcome release of 1964’s Lady in a Cage ($14.99). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

A combination of middle-age-damsel-in-distress tropes (a la “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”), juvenile-delinquent rampage and down-and-dirty class warfare, “Lady in a Cage” grabs the viewer from the get-go with a jazzy opening-credits sequence crammed with brutal images and jarring freeze frames.

An ideally cast Olivia de Havilland commands center stage as a wealthy widow trapped in a home elevator during a power outage. Her hapless situation worsens dramatically when three punks, led by a young, Marlon Brando-channeling James Caan (in his first major film role), invade her house with mayhem in mind.

While building tension to an almost unbearable pitch, director Walter Grauman and screenwriter Luther Davis also find time to focus on the hostility raging between vicious ex-con Caan and the haughty Miss de Havilland, who, at one point, archly observes, “You’re what so many of my tax dollars go to the care and feeding of.”

Lending able thespian support are Ann Sothern as a predatory prostitute, Jeff Corey as an opportunistic derelict, and Jennifer Billingsley and Rafael Campos as Mr. Caan’s partners in crime.

Although Paramount’s widescreen black-and-white disc arrives sans frills, it compensates with gritty old-school thrills.

Tele-video

British crime fighters lead the way in new TV-on-DVD sets. A&E; Home Video introduces The Saint: The Early Episodes Set 1 (three-disc, $59.95), with the ever-suave Roger Moore as justice-seeking adventurer Simon Templar in all 12 black-and-white 1962 season-one episodes.

In a more contemporary vein, David Jason inhabits dogged detective Inspector Jack Frost in A Touch of Frost — Season 5 (MPI Home Video, three-disc, $49.98).

Angela Lansbury expertly embodies super-sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the triple-disc Murder, She Wrote: The Complete First Season ($49.98), containing all 21 first-season episodes, with guest stars including Joaquin Phoenix and Milton Berle.

TV’s busiest conspiracy busters snoop anew in The Lone Gunmen: The Complete Series (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $39.98), a three-disc set assembling all 13 episodes, along with select audio commentary, featurette and more.

In the supernatural arena, vampire Barnabas Collins bites again in the goth opera Dark Shadows DVD Collection 17 (MPI Home Video, four-disc, $59.98), with fully 40 episodes plus new interviews with actor David Selby and creative personnel.

Paramount presents a pair of contemporary reality-TV shows, the behind-the-scenes America’s Next Top Model — Cycle One and the custom-car series Pimp My Ride (three-disc, $39.98 each).

The ‘A’ list

Four recent theatrical releases debut in vid stores this week:

• Pierce Brosnan, Woody Harrelson, Salma Hayek and Don Cheadle star in an extras-enhanced edition of the heist caper After the Sunset (New Line Home Entertainment, $27.95).

• Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen portray a volatile quartet in Mike Nichols’ Closer (Sony Pictures, $28.95), adapted by Patrick Marber from his play.

• Buena Vista Home Entertainment introduces a double-disc set of the religious period piece The Gospel of John ($29.99), including both the original three-hour theatrical and new two-hour versions, along with featurettes and more.

• Drama, documentary and animation merge in the Marlee Matlin-starring existential inquiry What the #$*! Do We Know!? (20th Century Fox, $29.98).

Collectors’ corner

Space is the place in a pair of new special editions:

• Universal Home Entertainment launches Apollo 13: 10th Anniversary Widescreen Edition ($22.98), a two-disc set offering both the theatrical and Imax versions, along with two audio commentaries (one by director Ron Howard), three featurettes and the original theatrical trailer.

• Paramount Home Entertainment retrofits the sci-fi franchise entry Star Trek: First Contact ($19.99) with a deluxe double-disc Special Collector’s Edition, beaming down with over three hours of special features, from filmmakers’ audio commentaries to a wide range of featurettes.

Animated antics

Tezuka Osamu’s original anime hero flies high in Astro Boy: The Complete Series (Sony Pictures, five-disc, $49.95), collecting all 50 episodes. New-school crime-fighting anime adventures provide the focus for the futuristic Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Vol. 05 (Manga Entertainment, $24.98).

In a more whimsical vein, Kenneth Grahame’s beloved characters Toad, Mole, Rat and Badger embark on 13 enchanted escapades in The Wind in the Willows: The Complete First Series (A&E; Home Video, two-disc, $29.95).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: “Highway to Heaven” TV series: Is it available on DVD?

— Brenda Kliegman, via e-mail

A&E; Home Video answers your digital prayers via its April 26 release of the Michael Landon vehicle Highway to Heaven: Season One (seven-disc, $79.95).

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

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