- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

A longtime cult fave, Walter Hill’s relentlessly kinetic 1979 pop-mythology action film The Warriors joins the DVD ranks in a fresh “ultimate director’s cut” new from Paramount Home Entertainment ($19.99). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

The movie’s simple but effective premise sees a conclave of New York City youth gangs organized by visionary leader Cyrus (Roger Hill) crumble into chaos when Cyrus is assassinated at the height of his impassioned oration.

The Warriors, a multicultural Coney Island aggregate falsely blamed for the act, are forced to fight their way through vengeful rival gangs and pursuing police in a violent odyssey to return to their home turf.

Set to a rousing rock-and-synthesizer score, the film follows the embattled boys as they encounter such colorful adversaries as the club-wielding Baseball Furies and the girl gang the Lizzies. Rough romance enters the mix when runaway Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) hooks up with initially reluctant Warriors leader Swan (Michael Beck).

A uniformly fine cast of then-mostly-unknown New York actors keeps the film on sure footing, with special kudos owed a charismatic James Remar as Ajax, the Warriors’ most volatile member, and David Patrick Kelly as the crazed assassin. Four informative featurettes ably cover virtually every angle of the production’s history, from its difficult location shooting to the controversy it provoked during its theatrical run.

Veteran fans may be surprised by the addition of onscreen comic-book panels to facilitate scene transitions. We recently asked director Hill about the digital alterations.

“When I was shooting it originally, I very much wanted to do the idea that the thing was a comic book come to life,” he says. “Back then, the studio wouldn’t let me do that. But this is more clearly the film I was trying to make. Had I not had a couple of fights with the studio, this is what it would have looked like.”

With or without those minor changes, “The Warriors” more than holds up as a solid, inventive action piece that’s at once of — and ahead of — its time.

Tele-video

Comedy dominates the week’s TV-on-DVD slate. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment conjures sitcoms past with the 26-episode The Jeffersons: The Complete Fourth Season and the 21-episode Soap: The Complete Fourth Season (three-disc, $29.95 each).

Cartman and the gang resurface in the 17-episode South Park: The Complete Sixth Season (Paramount, three-disc, $49.99), complete with fun mini-commentaries by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment celebrates another cult comedy show via the 18-episode Arrested Development: Season Two (three-disc, $39.98), packed with select audio commentaries, deleted/extended scenes, a blooper reel and more.

Warner Home Video combines dark wit with offbeat derring-do in Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $59.98), starring Kristen Bell as the eponymous West Coast sleuth.

Collectors’ corner

Paramount Home Entertainment goes the Wild West route with a pair of John Wayne winners — 1953’s Hondo and 1963’s McLintock! The discs, tagged at $14.99 each, include an impressive array of extras, from audio commentaries to featurettes.

Meanwhile, Warner Home Video contributes a dream set for quality nightmare-film buffs with its Val Lewton Horror Collection ($59.92), offering five double-feature discs produced by the “King of Quiet Horror,” most of them equipped with film historian audio commentaries:

• Simone Simon in Cat People (1942) and Curse of the Cat People (1943);

• I Walked With a Zombie (1943) and The Body Snatcher (1946), the latter with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi;

• The Leopard Man and The Ghost Ship (both 1943);

• Isle of the Dead (1945) and Bedlam (1946), both starring Boris;

• The 7th Victim (1943) plus the excellent new documentary Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases bowing on DVD, Will Ferrell portrays a crazed soccer dad in an extras-enhanced edition of Kicking & Screaming (Universal, $29.98), while Andrew Gurland stars in the indie Mail Order Bride (Turnstile Entertainment, $24.99).

20th Century Fox lavishes extras galore on Ridley Scott’s Crusader epic Kingdom of Heaven (two-disc, $29.98), including featurettes, interactive components and more.

Martial-arts master Jet Li strikes again in the contemporary action-fest Unleashed (Universal, $29.98), co-starring Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins, while Alexandre Aja’s Gallic gore film High Tension (Lions Gate Home Entertainment, $27.98) arrives in separate R and Unrated editions, both brimming with bonus material.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I love your page in The Washington Times. Do you know of any Nero Wolfe movies made before the ‘70s that are available on tape or DVD?

— Name withheld, via e-mail

So far, only the later Nero Wolfe TV series are available, via A&E; Home Video.

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.video scopemag .com.

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