- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A rare modern chiller that relies more on suggestion and atmosphere than rampant “jump” shocks and gore, The Skeleton Key, new this week from Universal Studios Home Entertainment ($29.98), supplies its welcome share of old-school shivers. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Kate Hudson stars as Caroline, a young hospice worker who accepts an assignment to care for paralyzed Ben Devereaux (John Hurt) in a mansion set in the Louisiana bayou. After Caroline senses the speechless Ben is trying to tell her something, she discovers a possible sinister clue in the attic, the only room her skeleton key wouldn’t initially open. Caroline’s suspicions intensify when her fears are dismissed by Ben’s darkly cheerful wife, Violet, (an excellent Gena Rowlands) and glib estate attorney Luke (Peter Sarsgaard).

Our heroine’s quest ultimately leads her deep into the heart of “hoodoo” or black magic territory as she learns of the house’s reportedly haunted history. To reveal more would run the risk of ruining the spooky surprises “The Skeleton Key” has in store, but the film’s genuinely unnerving denouement will have you rethinking (and rewinding) the eerie events leading up to it.

DVD extras include an audio commentary by the film’s British director Iain Softley, several interesting featurettes (most notably the soundtrack-focused “Blues in the Bayou”) and more. It’s a solid package backing up one of the year’s best fear films.

Tele-video

In fresh TV-on-DVD developments, Paramount Home Entertainment keeps busy on the comedy front with three new sets — the alternately witty and suspenseful Charmed: The Complete Third Season (six-disc, $49.99), Ted Danson and the gang in Cheers: The Complete Seventh Season and Kelsey Grammer and clan in Frasier: The Complete Seventh Season (four-disc, $38.99 each).

Warner Home Video likewise covers the cathode mirth front with extras-enhanced editions of Friends: The Complete 10th Season (four-disc, $44.98) and The Golden Girls: The Complete Third Season (three-disc, $39.99).

Buena Vista Home Entertainment issues Scrubs: The Complete Second Season (three-disc, $39.99), with featurettes, outtakes and more, while 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment offers That ‘70s Show: Season Three (four-disc, $49.98).

Standup holds sway, meanwhile, in P. Diddy Presents The Bad Boys of Comedy: Season One (Paramount, two-disc, $29.99) and Blue Collar TV: Season One, Volume One (Warner Home Video, two-disc, $24.98), starring Jeff Foxworthy and friends.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment concentrates on the macabre with the deluxe limited edition Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection ($199.98). The 40-disc set contains all 144 “Buffy” episodes, along with five featurettes, a cast-and-crew documentary and more. Crime-solving occupies center stage in the same label’s Murder One: The Complete Second Season (five-disc, $59.98).

MGM Home Entertainment sets its sights on the Lost City of the Ancients in Stargate Atlantis: The Complete First Season (five-disc, $59.95), arriving with select audio commentaries, featurettes, photo galleries and more, and revisits the teen-oriented series Fame: The Complete First Season (four-disc, $49.98).

Elsewhere, Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaizecqlcome visitors to Fantasy Island: The Complete First Season (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, four-disc, $49.95), with all 16 Season One episodes and two behind-the-scenes featurettes, while Paramount focuses on all things Oprah with the six-disc, 17-hour The Oprah Winfrey Show: 20th Anniversary Collection ($54.99).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases making their digital debuts, DreamWorks Home Entertainment leads the way with the animated hit Madagascar ($29.95), equipped with the first-ever “penguin commentary,” plus featurettes and interactive games.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment goes the double-disc special-edition route with the aviation adventure Stealth ($28.95), starring Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx, and introduces the German import The Edukators ($29.95). Lions Gate Home Entertainment contributes a bonus-laden edition of Don Roos’ ensemble comedy Happy Endings ($27.98), with Steve Coogan, Laura Dern and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Collectors’ corner

Twentieth Century Fox celebrates the anniversaries of a trio of musical giants with double-disc special editions of 1965’s The Sound of Music, 1955’s Oklahoma and 1945’s State Fair ($26.98 each). All surface with new audio commentaries, featurettes, karaoke subtitles and much more.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s And Now For Something Completely Hilarious Collection (three-disc, $29.99) assembles Monty Python’s And Now For Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and “Python” alum Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I have been looking for a television series on either DVD or VHS —”I’ll Fly Away” or “Fly Away,” starring Sam Waterston.

Kitty Kovarik, Herndon, Va.

Unfortunately, the acclaimed but short-lived early-1990s series “I’ll Fly Away” has yet to join the home video ranks in either format.

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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