- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Warner Home Video delivers anything but a turkey this Thanksgiving week with its four-disc movie menagerie The King Kong Collection ($39.92), collecting the vintage gorilla thrillers “King Kong,” “Son of Kong” (both 1933) and “Mighty Joe Young” (1949). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

We all know the basic “King Kong” arc: The eponymous super-simian’s affections for fragile Fay Wray lead to his imprisonment, abortive show-biz career and literal downfall in one of Hollywood’s truly towering celluloid achievements, crammed with powerful iconic imagery and breakthrough special effects.

Warner’s double-disc edition not only gives us the uncut, newly restored, digitally mastered movie but the full scoop on the film’s intricate backstory.

Disc 1 offers King Kong, with commentary by special-effects aces Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston, interspersed with interview excerpts featuring the late Miss Wray and co-director Merian C. Cooper.



Disc 2 contains a wonderfully exhaustive seven-part documentary, “RKO Production 601: The Making of King Kong: Eighth Wonder of the World,” covering every phase of the film’s genesis, with contributions from the upcoming “King Kong” remake director Peter Jackson. A bonus program, “I’m King Kong! The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper,” illuminates that adventurer/filmmaker’s larger-than-life exploits.

Few frills adorn Son of Kong, the follow-up by Mr. Cooper and “King Kong” co-director Ernest B. Schoedsack. It’s fun, if shockingly shoddy (with the exception of a returning Willis O’Brien’s expert FX).

But the duo’s kinder, gentler giant-ape epic Mighty Joe Young includes commentary by Messrs. Harryhausen and Ralston, along with co-star Terry Moore, two new featurettes and the original theatrical trailer.

Collectors’ corner

Speaking of “King Kong,” the directing team of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, who worked together on that film and its sequel, “Son of Kong,” made a couple of terrific silent docu-dramas. Now Milestone Films & Video issues special editions of those two, 1927’s Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness and 1925’s Grass: A Nation’s Battle For Life ($29.99 each).

And as for major silents, New Line Home Entertainment rolls out the digital red carpet for the eponymous comic genius in The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Vol. 1-3 (seven-disc, $89.99). The set complements several of the gravity-defying funnyman’s seminal feature films — Safety Last!, The Freshman, Speedy — with classic shorts like Haunted Spooks and Never Weaken, multiple featurettes, photo galleries and audio commentaries by movie maven Leonard Maltin, Suzanne Lloyd (Mr. Lloyd’s granddaughter) and others.

Warner Home Video celebrates the season by repackaging three family winners in its Classic Holiday Collection (three-disc, $29.98) — Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney in Boys Town, Reginald Owen in A Christmas Carol (both 1938) and Barbara Stanwyck in 1945’s Christmas in Connecticut.

Somerville House revives the 1978 psycho movie Blackout ($14.98), starring Robert Carradine and Ray Milland, and the 1975 British military mystery Conduct Unbecoming ($19.98), with Stacy Keach and Michael York.

Tele-video

In the TV-on-DVD arena, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment looks to enliven the Thanksgiving weekend with a generous dose of “nothingness” via the 22-episode Seinfeld: Season 5 and the 24-episode Season 6 (four-disc, $49.95 each). Each set contains more than 13 hours of bonus features, from commentaries to deleted scenes to behind-the-scenes footage.

And on the subject of sitcoms, Paramount Home Entertainment reaches deep into the cathode past for Andy Griffith: The Complete Fourth Season (five-disc, $39.98), assembling all 32 Season Four episodes. Universal Studios Home Entertainment debuts Leave It To Beaver: The Complete First Season Limited Edition Gift Set (three-disc, $69.98), with all 39 original episodes, the rare pilot episode, and a Cleaver family photo album packaged in a way-neat lunch box case.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment mines more recent mirthful turf via extras-enhanced editions of The Golden Girls: The Complete Third Season and Home Improvement: The Complete Third Season (three-disc, $39.99 each).

Keyed to the upcoming big-screen live-action version, MTV Home Entertainment launches Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection (three-disc, $38.99), featuring 10 episodes, the original MTV shorts, commentary, featurettes and more.

MPI Home Video keeps the gothic chills coming with Dark Shadows DVD Collection 21 (four-disc, $59.98), compiling 40 episodes plus new cast and crew interviews.

Mystery supplies the focus for CSI: Miami: The Complete Third Season (Paramount, seven-disc, $55.99), arriving with 24 episodes, six audio commentaries and five featurettes, and The X Files: Super Soldiers (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, four-disc, $39.98), armed with 14 Season Eight and Nine episodes, select commentary and more.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases joining the digital ranks this week, DreamWorks Home Entertainment launches the sci-fi blockbuster “War of the Worlds,” with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, in a deluxe, bonus-packed double-disc edition ($29.99), while Warner Home Video accords similar two-disc special edition treatment to the Tom Hanks fantasy showcase “The Polar Express” ($29.95).

Paramount presents a family-friendlier PG version of its Cedric the Entertainer “The Honeymooners” update ($29.95), complete with audio commentary, featurettes and deleted/extended scenes.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Last year my wife and I saw the original “Gojira” (“Godzilla” minus Raymond Burr). At that time there were rumors about a DVD release, but I haven’t seen anything since then.

Tom Zmudzinski, via e-mail

No definitive news so far re a “Gojira” DVD, though Sony Pictures Home Entertainment does plan a mid-December date for 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars.

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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