- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A pioneering cinephile receives his due in Jacques Richard’s thoroughly compelling documentary homage Henri Langlois: Phantom of the Cinematheque, new from Kino Video ($24.95). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

For more than 40 years, Mr. Langlois ran the Cinematheque Francois in Paris, starting in 1936, a time when vintage film preservation and exhibition proved a daunting, nearly solitary and virtually thankless task.

A larger-than-life figure, the relentlessly obsessive (and increasingly obese) curator not only went on to influence generations of international filmmakers but grappled with both the Nazis during World War II and homegrown bureaucrats thereafter in an endless battle to keep his institution — and all-consuming dream — afloat.

Director Richard intercuts archival clips of the late Mr. Langlois in action — presiding over his cinematic kingdom, ranting with understandable outrage at those who sought to undermine his mission, creating his ultimate movie museum (which even included the model of Norman Bates’ mummified mom from “Psycho”) — with talking-head tributes from such acolyte auteurs as Jean-Luc Godard, Erich Rohmer and Claude Chabrol. The documentary hits nary a dry or pedantic stretch in its formidable 128-minute running time.

Extras are slight but enlightening. “Langlois Monumental” records a posthumous gathering of his many celeb friends and admirers at the dedication of the Langlois Monument in 1991, while “Le Musee du Cinema Henri Langlois” offers a brief appreciation narrated by Alain Delon.

Anyone with the slightest passion for film history will want to add this “Phantom” to his or her digital library.


Comedies dominate the week’s TV-on-DVD slate. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment celebrates sitcoms past with The Flying Nun: The Complete Second Season (four-disc, $29.95) and The Jeffersons: The Complete Fifth Season (three-disc, $29.95).

Warner Home Video revisits the early ‘90s with Full House: The Complete Fourth Season (four-disc, $29.98), Paramount Home Entertainment time-travels to the ‘60s for Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Fourth Season (four-disc, $42.99) and Shout! Factory issues the 1997 The Weird Al Show: The Complete Series (three-disc, $34.98), showcasing Weird Al Yankovic and friends.

In the animation arena, Warner Home Video revives a pair of Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon faves, Hong Kong Phooey: The Complete Series (two-disc, $26.98) and Magilla Gorilla: The Complete Series (four-disc, $44.98), along with the more recent Cartoon Network series The Brak Show: Volume 2 (two-disc, $29.98) and Sealab 2021: Season IV (two-disc, $26.98), while 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment unleashes The Simpsons: Season 8 (four-disc, $49.98).

In an epic vein, HBO Video introduces the 12-episode historical series Rome: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $99.98), equipped with audio commentaries, featurettes and more, while 20th Century Fox concludes the Pierce Brosnan/Stephanie Zimbalist sleuthing series Remington Steele: Seasons Four & Five (five-disc, $49.98).

Collectors’ corner

Three Golden Age stars receive their digital due in new collections ($49.98 each) arriving in vidstores this week. nWarner Home Video’s James Stewart: The Signature Collection assembles six films in a five-disc set: the edgy Anthony Mann Western The Naked Spur (1953), along with The Stratton Story (1949), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957) and The FBI Story (1959), plus a 1960s Western double feature, The Cheyenne Social Club and Firecreek, both co-starring Henry Fonda.

• The same label offers a five-disc set, Ronald Reagan: The Signature Collection, gathering as many films — the sports dramas Knute Rockne, All American (1940) and The Winning Team (1952) plus The Hasty Heart (1949), Kings Row (1942) and Storm Warning (1951). Vintage shorts and cartoons, new featurettes, and select expert commentary complement both sets.

• 20th Century Fox’s three-disc Clark Gable Collection yokes the 1935 Jack London adaptation Call of the Wild with two 1955 vehicles, the adventure Soldier of Fortune, set in China and costarring Susan Hayward; and the Western The Tall Men, complemented by select film historian commentaries, trailers and photo galleries.

The ‘A’ list

Three comedies top the theatrical-to-digital roster — the Robin Williams road romp RV (Sony Pictures, $28.95), the fun spook spoof Scary Movie 4 (Dimension Home Video, $29.95) and the family-friendly Carl Hiassen adaptation Hoot (New Line Home Entertainment, $27.98), all bolstered by bonuses galore, from audio commentaries to featurettes.

Also new this week are the acclaimed French import L’Enfant (“The Child”), the scare sequel I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (both Sony Pictures, $24.96 each) and the political thriller Land of the Blind (Vivendi Visual Entertainment, $26.99), with Donald Sutherland.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is there a VHS or DVD for the 1939 movie “They Made Her a Spy”? It seems it has a final confrontation at the top of the Washington Monument.


Unfortunately, that RKO film, starring Sally Eilers, has yet to join the homevideo ranks.

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.videoscope mag.com.



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