- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

A brilliant John Turturro goes into full paranoid “Barton Fink”-style overdrive as a grief-stricken loner on an all-consuming mission in Nicolas Winding Refn’s quietly intense psychological thriller Fear X, new this week from Lions Gate Home Entertainment ($27.98). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Mr. Turturro plays Harry Caine, a Wisconsin mall security guard determined to learn who fatally shot his wife — and why — during a seemingly random act of violence that also claimed the life of a local police officer.

A solitary Harry ceaselessly studies mall surveillance videotapes of the crime scene until an unexpected clue leads him to a small town in Montana, where he’s bound to solve the mystery — or meet his fate.

Co-written by late novelist Hubert Selby Jr., of “Last Exit to Brooklyn” and “Requiem for a Dream” fame, “Fear X” hauntingly explores a hallucinatory landscape of loneliness and obsession under the guise of a more conventional murder mystery.

Director and co-writer Refn keeps the viewer off balance by frequently framing the action through the fractured prism of Harry’s troubled mind, mining the subtle menace lurking beneath the surface of aseptic malls, underpopulated hotels, barren stretches of wintry highway and other normally neutral locales.

Mr. Turturro carries the film on his slouched shoulders, though he ultimately receives able support from another dependable character actor, James Remar, in a smaller but pivotal role.

Though “Fear X” surely rates as one recent movie worthy of a filmmaker’s commentary and behind-the-scenes elaboration, Lions Gate’s no-frills edition still supplies its share of icy celluloid suspense.

Tele-video

In lighter TV-on-DVD developments, MGM Home Entertainment journeys back to the mid-‘60s with two hit sitcoms: Alan Young and his eponymous equine buddy star in The Best of Mr. Ed: Volume Two, containing 20 episodes, while Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor savor the bucolic joys of Green Acres: The Complete Second Season in all 30 Season 2 shows. The double-disc sets are tagged at $29.98 each.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment graduates a trio of teen-targeted TV series to the digital ranks with Felicity — Season Four: Senior Year, Popular: Second Season (six-disc, $59.99 each), both packed with after-school bonuses galore, and Sweet Valley High — The Complete First Season (three-disc, $49.99).

A sword-slinging Lucy Lawless and crew bid a grand adieu in Xena: Warrior Princess Season Six — The Final Season (Anchor Bay Entertainment, $79.95). The 10-disc mega-set includes all 22 farewell episodes, plus audio commentaries, cast and crew interviews, featurettes, bloopers and much more.

Mystery is the order of the day in Columbo: The Complete Second Season (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, four-disc, $39.98), starring the inimitable Peter Falk as the winningly pesky eponymous detective, grilling guest stars ranging from Leonard Nimoy to Martin Landau.

Collectors’ corner

Sophisticated comedies rule the digital roost in Warner Home Video’s Classic Comedies Collection. Extras-enriched double-disc editions of the Katharine Hepburn-Cary Grant team-ups Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story ($26.99 each) highlight the lineup, which also includes restored editions of the vintage winners Dinner at Eight, Libeled Lady, Stage Door and To Be or Not to Be ($19.97 each). The complete set can be purchased for a bargain-priced $68.98.

The indefatigable archivists at Milestone Film & Video introduce the exotic 1929 Anna May Wong British showcase Piccadilly — an excellent drama sporting one of the most powerfully ironic endings in screen history — in a bonus-laden edition, along with Mary Pickford in 1921’s Little Lord Fauntleroy and, fast-forwarding a few decades, David Rathod’s fun, Bollywood-influenced 1989 culture-clash comedy West Is West ($29.99 each).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases debuting on DVD this week, Touchstone Home Entertainment goes the gala route with Ladder 49 ($29.99), starring John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix as dedicated firefighters. Extras include filmmakers’ audio commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes and a Robbie Robertson music video.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment invites one and all to share Christmas With the Kranks ($28.95) in a disc filled with digital gifts. Lions Gate Home Entertainment welcomes Stage Beauty ($27.98), and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment unleashes Woman, Thou Art Loosed ($29.98).

Elsewhere, Ryan Phillippe struggles with intrigues and amnesia in the limited-release thriller The I Inside (Dimension Home Entertainment, $29.99).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I would like to see the very popular 2004 German film “Das Wunder von Bern,” released by Universal Pictures Germany in 2004. The movie is about the 1954 World Cup.

Roland F. Hirsch, Germantown

No official date has been announced as yet, though hopefully Universal will add the film (aka “The Miracle of Bern”) to its stateside digital roster 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.videoscopemag.com.

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