- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

From the talented pen of playwright and scenarist Anthony Shaffer of “Sleuth” fame comes the original 1973 The Wicker Man — a subtle yet devastating chiller more recently reworked by director Neil LaBute — in a new double-disc Collector’s Edition ($19.98) via Anchor Bay Entertainment. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Future “Equalizer” TV star Edward Woodward portrays Officer Howie, an earnest, devoutly Christian “copper” summoned to the remote Scottish island of Summerislet to investigate reports of a missing girl. Mr. Shaffer and director Robin Hardy perfectly capture the predicament of a somewhat odd stranger in an extremely strange land as Officer Howie’s dealings with the colorful but not very forthcoming locals inexorably lead him into a web of danger.

Under the supervision of the suave Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee in one of his juiciest roles), the natives practice an arcane but all-consuming “heathen” religion to please the gods who have granted them a yearly bumper crop of world-famous apples.

Straitlaced Officer Howie is properly shocked by the pagan rites, promiscuity and joyful blasphemy he witnesses in all strata of Summerisle society as the locals gear up for their major annual holiday, May Day, at which ceremony our innocent public servant is slated to play a pivotal role.

Over a dozen songs are seamlessly woven into Mr. Shaffer’s narrative, but both they and the mostly alfresco daylight lensing add rather than detract from the film’s increasingly ominous ambience.

Anchor Bay’s new edition includes both the original 88-minute theatrical release and a superior extended cut, featuring an additional 11 minutes, along with a revelatory new audio commentary with Messrs. Lee, Hardy and Woodward, and bonus interviews with the principals exploring how a critically acclaimed film could be basically buried by its own studio, only to become an enduring cult classic.

Collectors’ corner

In other vintage digital developments, MGM Home Entertainment grants the red-carpet treatment to 007 with two new James Bond: Ultimate Edition sets (10-disc, $89.98 each). Volume 3 gathers From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (George Lazenby’s only turn as the super spy), Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only and Golden Eye.

Volume 4 collects the first JB entry, 1962’s Dr. No, along with You Only Live Twice, Moonraker, Octopussy and Tomorrow Never Dies. Both include all manner of audiovisual accessories, from commentaries to featurettes.

For art-house fans, Anchor Bay has The Wim Wenders Collection, Vol. 2 (eight-disc, $89.98). The set presents eight of the wide-ranging Teutonic director’s films: Dennis Hopper in The American Friend (1977), Lightning Over Water (a 1980 nonfiction collaboration with filmmaker Nicholas Ray), Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989), Room 666 (1982), The Scarlet Letter (1973), A Trick of the Light (1995), Tokyo-Ga (1985) and Wrong Move (1975). Wenders commentaries, featurettes and deleted scenes supplement the set.

The ‘A’ list

Among the recent theatrical titles making their DVD debuts this holiday week are the Brian De Palma thriller The Black Dahlia (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $29.98), with Josh Hartnett and Scarlet Johannsson; the horror shocker The Descent (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, $28.98), arriving in separate bonus-packed full-screen theatrical and widescreen unrated editions; the limited-release caper flick Haven (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $27.98), starring Bill Paxton, Orlando Bloom and Zoe Saldana; and the stunt-driven reality romp Jackass Number Two: Unrated (Paramount Home Entertainment, $29.99).

Other recent limited releases include Danny Aiello and Jane Curtin in the drama Brooklyn Lobster (Hart Sharp Video, $24.98), Peter Falk in the comedy Checking Out (Allumination Filmworks, $29.99), the import House of Sand and the offbeat romance Mozart and the Whale (both Sony Pictures, $29.98, $24.96, respectively), starring Josh Hartnett and Radha Mitchell.

Tele-video

In a light week for new TV on DVD releases, Universal Studios Home Entertainment continues the aerial adventures of Airwolf: Season 2 (five-disc, $39.98), starring Jan-Michael Vincent, 20th Century Fox presents the reality TV romp The Simple Life: Season 4 (two-disc, $19.98), Paramount puts out Two-A-Days: Hoover High: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $39.99) and HBO Video debuts Dane Cook’s Tourgasm ($24.99).

Hot Waters

Once and future Baltimore bijou bad boy John Waters returns in the exclusive Netflix/Red Envelope Entertainment release of his one-man show This Filthy World (rental only), wherein the witty auteur-turned-raconteur holds his own — at his profane, sane and ultimately humane best — for nearly 90 minutes of movie-centric stand-up.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I was trying to find a copy (VHS or DVD) of “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.” I believe Frank Langella stars. Any help would be most appreciated.

Les Rowe, via e-mail

Unfortunately, that filmed stage musical has yet to join the home video ranks in either format.

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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