Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Shout Factory marks a most welcome return to Melonville with its six-disc SCTV Volume 4 ($99.95), celebrating what may well have been the small screen’s best sketch-comedy series. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Containing a dozen choice episodes from the show’s final run on NBC (1982-1983), the collection assembles many priceless skits, with writing and performances so sharp they even compensated for that season’s departure of longtime regulars Catherine O’Hara, Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis, with newcomers Martin Short and Mary Charlotte Wilcox stepping into the breach.

Mr. Short especially impresses here, inhabiting such immortal characters as endearing super-nerd Ed Grimley (“What Ever Happened to Baby Ed?,” “The Nutty Lab Assistant”), talentless show-biz offspring Jackie Rogers Jr., and even Jerry Lewis (in the brilliant Ingmar Bergman parody “Scenes From an Idiot’s Marriage”).

Other inspired highlights include “The Bowery Boys in the Band” (with guest star Robin Williams as a homosexual Leo Gorcey), “Bobby Bitman’s Retirement,” with Eugene Levy as the eponymous ultra-obnoxious Vegas comic, and the 3-D “Midnight Cowboy II,” with John Candy as a German-accented Joe Buck and Mr. Levy as a Lon Chaney Jr.-styled Ratso Rizzo.

But our fave bit casts the entire “SCTV” crew as the mock Brit punk-rock band the Queen Haters, performing their hilarious signature tune “I Hate the Bloody Queen” before an audience of stunned clean-cut American teens.

Extras include an entertainingly candid reminiscence with Mr. Short, the bonus segment “Sammy Maudlin at Second City” — wherein Joe Flaherty offers a live 2004 reprise of his fictional talk-show host — vintage cast and crew home movies and more. “SCTV Volume 4” will not only sate the late, lamented series’ longtime devotees but likely win new converts as well.


Elsewhere on the cathode comedy scene, Buena Vista Home Entertainment offers the bonus-packed, six-disc Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season ($59.99), while Paramount Home Entertainment revives the animated ‘90s cult series The Ren & Stimpy Show: Season Five and Some More of Four (three-disc, $39.98).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment likewise mines a mirthful vein with Ned and Stacey: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $39.95), collecting all 24 Season One episodes pairing unlikely newlyweds Debra Messing (of “Will & Grace”) and Thomas Haden Church (later of “Sideways” fame).

HBO Video looks skyward with the extras-enriched five-disc documentary From the Earth to the Moon ($99.98), while 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment goes the science-fiction route with The Pretender: The Complete Second Season (four-disc, $29.98), assembling 21 episodes, plus select commentary and featurettes.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment launches the new Battlestar Galactica: Season One (five-disc, $59.95), with 13 episodes, the original miniseries and extras galore, ranging from audio commentary to deleted scenes and featurettes.

The same label focuses on more earthbound concerns with Las Vegas: Season Two: Uncut & Uncensored (three-disc, $59.98), starring James Caan.

Collectors’ corner

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment rides the digital range with a six-pack of vintage Westerns ($14.94 each), five starring Randolph Scott: 1955’s A Lawless Street, 1951’s Man in the Saddle, the same year’s entertaining railroad-themed Santa Fe, 1955’s Ten Wanted Men and 1953’s hyperactive The Stranger Wore a Gun, whose wild 3-D effects still amaze even when seen on a flat screen. The Last Frontier (1956), featuring Victor Mature and Anne Bancroft, completes the sagebrush batch.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical films debuting on disc, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Burt Reynolds huddle in the gridiron remake The Longest Yard: Collector’s Edition (Paramount Home Entertainment, $29.95), touching down with featurettes, deleted scenes, a music video and more.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment introduces Robert Rodriguez’s family friendly action film The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, while Dimension Home Video unleashes the killer thriller Mind Hunters ($29.99 each), with Val Kilmer.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment goes the documentary route with Rock School ($24.96), focusing on the actual junior guitar lab that inspired the Jack Black hit “School of Rock.”

Video verite

Speaking of rock documentaries, music lovers will want to pounce on director Martin Scorsese’s riveting double-disc portrait No Direction Home (Paramount, $29.99). Following Bob Dylan from his 1950s Midwest roots through his 1960s international pop stardom, the film incorporates contemporary interviews with that surprisingly candid musical pioneer, along with vintage film clips, classic performances and much more.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: What happened to the 1950s George Reeves’ “Superman” series? It was advertised in a flier months ago.

— R. Bell, via e-mail

Warner Home Video makes good on its promise Oct. 18, when the five-disc The Adventures of Superman: The Complete First Season ($39.98) will fly into a vidstore near you.

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