- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A gripping traditional Western in modern guise, 1957’s The River’s Edge, new from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment ($14.98), works equally well as a sharp psychological character study and a riveting chase film. It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Small-time New Mexico rancher Ben (Anthony Quinn) is having a hard enough time pacifying his restless ex-con missus Meg (Debra Paget) when his situation takes a serious turn for the worse with the arrival of her slimy former partner Nardo (Ray Milland).

Nardo zealously guards a suitcase crammed with a cool million in stolen loot and forces Ben to take him and a more than reluctant Meg across the Mexican border.

With the law in hot pursuit, the three encounter no end of obstacles, including each other, while attempting to make the last leg of the journey on foot across a parched, unforgiving landscape.

Logical lapses occasionally intrude, but director Allan Dwan and writers Harold Jacob Smith and James Leicester manage to maintain a high level of suspense throughout, one greatly abetted by three deft performances (especially from Mr. Milland, seen here at his meanest), tangy dialogue, and vivid mountain and desert locations.

Extras include an audio commentary by film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver, an extensive photo gallery and original theatrical trailer.

Fox further services vintage-film lovers with two additional classics, the 1942 Tyrone Power swashbuckler The Black Swan and the 1944 drama The Keys to the Kingdom, set in China. Each is $14.98 each, and both come equipped with film historians’ commentaries and trailers.

Tele-video

In new TV-on-DVD developments, cult actor and erstwhile “Evil Dead” star Bruce Campbell holds sway in not one but two series — as the eponymous Western hero in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (Warner Home Video, eight-disc, $99.98), packed with bonus material ranging from select audio commentary to documentaries; and as the Daring Dragoon, an American spy out to thwart Napoleon, in the period adventure show Jack of All Trades (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, three-disc, $39.98).

Universal also introduces another pair of backdate shows: the Steven Spielberg-produced mystery series Amazing Stories: The Complete First Season (four-disc, $49.98), arriving with deleted scenes, and Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk: The Complete First Season (four-disc, $39.99), armed with select creator commentary and bonus episodes.

HBO Video weighs in with the 1930s-set Carnivale: The Complete Second Season (six-disc, $99.98), complete with audio commentaries, a panel discussion and documentaries, along with the comedy shows Bill Maher: New Rules and Dennis Miller: All In ($19.97 each).

WGBH Boston Video also revisits the 1930s with the “Masterpiece Theatre” production My Family and Other Animals ($19.95). In other British digital news, Acorn Media introduces the 12-episode miniseries The House of Elliott: Series One (four-disc, $59.99), set in 1920s London; and the police show Murder in Suburbia: Series 1 (two-disc, $39.99). Koch Vision presents the TV mystery movie Bloodlines ($19.98) and debuts the gala six-disc History Channel set Secrets of Archaeology ($89.98).

Elsewhere, Anchor Bay Entertainment has two more Showtime “Masters of Horror” entries, Joe Dante’s hard-hitting Homecoming and Larry Cohen’s Pick Me Up ($16.98 each). 20th Century Fox issues the extras-enhanced The Pretender: The Complete Fourth Season (four-disc, $39.98), and Paramount Home Entertainment unearths Ren & Stimpy: The Lost Episodes (two-disc, $26.99).

The ‘A’ list

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment issues two recent limited-release titles this week, the subterranean chiller The Cavern, equipped with director’s commentary and featurettes; and the crime film Edison Force ($24.95 each), with a high-profile cast including Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Justin Timberlake and LL Cool J.

DreamWorks Home Entertainment supplies the cross-dressing teen sports comedy She’s the Man ($29.95), starring Amanda Bynes. Universal Studios offers the British swimming adventure On a Clear Day ($26.98) and Buena Vista bows Gavin Hood’s South African street gang drama Tsotsi ($29.99), with director’s commentary and other extras.

Collectors’ corner

Warner Home Video celebrates the hardboiled heroes, heroines and heavies of yore in its Tough Guys Collection (six-disc, $59.98). James Cagney stars in City For Conquest (1940), Each Dawn I Die (1939) and G Men (1935), while Edward G. Robinson snarls his way through Bullets or Ballots (1936) and A Slight Case of Murder (1938) and Humphrey Bogart takes center stage in San Quentin (1937). Extras include new featurettes, film historian commentaries, vintage shorts, newsreels, cartoons, and even radio broadcasts.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Trying to find the old short film “Owl Creek Bridge.” Is it on DVD?

— David Salzer, via e-mail

The moody 1961 Civil War fantasy, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, was issued by Monterey Video in 2004 and is available from Amazon.com, among other sources.

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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