- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Noir fans will find dark pleasures aplenty in a trio of fresh black-and-white 1940s titles from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Fox Film Noir series ($14.98 each). They’re our…

DVD picks of the week

The threesome leads off with Henry Hathaway’s fact-based, verite-styled 1945 espionage thriller The House on 92nd Street. William Eythe stars as a young German-American who volunteers to serve as a U.S. double agent, infiltrating a nest of Nazi spies at the titular location and covertly feeding his findings to an FBI team headed by Lloyd Nolan. A tight script, taut pacing, top supporting cast (particularly Signe Hasso as the Axis mastermind) and evocative use of actual New York City locations fuel this streamlined winner. Film noir historian Eddie Muller furnishes a knowledgeable audio commentary.

“Laura” director Otto Preminger and alluring star Gene Tierney re-team for 1949’s Whirlpool, co-scripted by Ben Hecht from Guy Endore’s novel. As the alienated wife of successful psychiatrist Richard Conte, Miss Tierney succumbs to one of noirdom’s weirdest villains, a smug, murderous hypnotist played with arrogant flair by Jose Ferrer. While far-fetched, the film amply delivers the offbeat goods. Critic Richard Schickel ably handles commentary chores.

Director/co-screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz falls short of his near-future “All About Eve” heights with Somewhere in the Night (1946), but the movie still supplies its share of noir entertainment. Amnesic World War II vet John Hodiak searches for an elusive, possibly criminal figure who may hold the key to his lost identity in an unlikely tale salvaged by a shadowy nightmare atmosphere and ace performances from character thesps Lloyd Nolan, Fritz Kortner and Sheldon Leonard. Mr. Muller again provides an informative commentary.

Collectors’ corner

Several other major labels are likewise working overtime to service classic-film fans:

• Universal Studios Home Entertainment pulls out all the stops with lavish, bonus-packed double-disc editions of three celluloid giants — Michael Cimino’s 1978 The Deer Hunter, George Roy Hill’s 1973 Paul Newman/Robert Redford caper The Sting and Alan Pakula’s 1962 Harper Lee adaptation To Kill a Mockingbird ($26.98 each), starring an Oscar-winning Gregory Peck.

• For Garbo buffs, Warner Home Video’s nine-disc Greta Garbo Signature Collection ($99.92) assembles seven 1930s Greta greats — Anna Christie, Anna Karenina, Camille, Grand Hotel, Mata Hari, Ninotchka and Queen Christina — plus two bonus discs, The Garbo Silents and the feature-length documentary Garbo.

• Koch Lorber Films salutes a celebrated Teutonic auteur in The Lina Wertmuller Collection (six-disc, $99.98), gathering Fernando and Carolina, The Nymph, Seven Beauties, Summer Night and Swept Away, along with a bonus disc of extras and a 16-page collector’s booklet.

• Paramount Home Entertainment revives three vintage comedies: Preston Sturges’ 1944 The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, the 1954 Bob Hope romp Casanova’s Big Night and the same year’s Rosemary Clooney showcase Red Garters ($14.99 each).

• Buena Vista Home Entertainment adds to an animated winner’s already considerable fun quotient with its double-disc Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition ($29.99).

Tele-video

Laughs lead the way on the TV on DVD front. Paramount Home Entertainment extends the shelf life of no fewer than four vintage comedy series — The Brady Bunch: The Complete Third Season, Cheers: The Complete Sixth Season, Frasier: The Complete Sixth Season and Taxi: The Complete Third Season (four-disc, $38.99 each).

Anchor Bay Entertainment offers an extras-enhanced Roseanne: The Complete First Season (four-disc, $39.98). Lions Gate Home Entertainment debuts Dabney Coleman as Buffalo Bill: The Complete First and Second Seasons (three-disc, $29.98).

HBO Video counters with Ray Romano in Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Fourth Season (five-disc, $44.98) and multifaceted anarchic Brit farceur Sacha Baron Cohen in Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Second Season (two-disc, $29.98).

Also from across the pond comes the surreal sketch comedy Little Britain: The Complete First Season (BBC Video, two-disc, $29.98).

20th Century Fox spotlights sci-fi with an extras-enriched Millennium: The Complete Third Season (six-disc, $59.98), starring Lance Henriksen. Warner Home Video continues the adventures of young Clark Kent in the 22-episode Smallville: The Complete Fourth Season (six-disc, $59.98), with select commentaries, featurettes and more.

The ‘A’ list

Two recent theatrical comedies arrive on DVD this week in bonus-packed editions: Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon attempt to balance romance and baseball in the Farrelly Brothers’ Fever Pitch (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $29.98), while Sam Rockwell stars in writer Douglas Adams’ cult space oddity The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Touchstone Home Entertainment, $29.99).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’m looking for a cult film with David Carradine and Brad Dourif called “Sonny Boy.”

Ronald Marsh, via e-mail

That rare 1990 parable, originally out on the defunct Media label, has yet to find a digital home.

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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