- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Noir fans can partake of a varied slate of gritty greats with the six-disc, five-movie Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 3 ($59.98), new from Warner Home Video. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Three towering Tinseltown talents — director Nicholas Ray, actor Robert Ryan and composer Bernard Herrmann — join forces to create a moody masterpiece in our fave of the five, 1952’s On Dangerous Ground. The film reverses many of the genre’s traditional gender conventions as a depressed basket-case cop (Mr. Ryan) investigating a murder case in upstate New York finds fresh meaning and resolve via Ida Lupino’s blind but strong character. Though “Ground” was not a major hit in its day, time has been more than kind to this austere, risk-taking gem.

Another winner making its digital debut, 1949’s Border Incident — directed and lensed by the top noir team of Anthony Mann and John Alton, respectively — deals with an enduring hot-button topic, illegal immigration. Ricardo Montalban and future U.S. Sen. George Murphy play undercover cops seeking to bust an especially brutal band of alien-smugglers in a film that pulls few punches in exposing a vicious operation.

Completing the set, Robert Ryan returns as a menacing mob boss who squares off against incorruptible cop Robert Mitchum in 1951’s The Racket; Mr. Mitchum copes with a sultry Jane Russell and a campy Vincent Price in the same year’s His Kind of Woman; and Robert Montgomery portrays Raymond Chandler’s sleuth Philip Marlowe in 1947’s inventive subjective-camera experiment Lady in the Lake. All five films come equipped with film historians’ commentary.

We also recommend the bonus disc “Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light,” a deft clips- and talking-heads-driven exploration of the genre, complemented by five vintage Crime Does Not Pay shorts. All things considered, Warner’s set supplies noir buffs with a ticket to hard-boiled heaven.

Tele-video

In new TV-on-DVD developments, MPI Home Video extends the gothic goings-on with the 40-episode Dark Shadows DVD Collection 25 (four-disc, $59.98). It also continues the transparent adventures of H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man: Season Two (two-disc, $29.98) and travels west for the 20-episode The Rifleman Boxed Set Collection 6 (four-disc, $49.98), starring Chuck Connors.

Warner Home Video issues La Femme Nikita: The Complete Fourth Season in a six-disc set ($99.98) with audio commentaries and deleted scenes, along with Tales From the Crypt: The Complete Fourth Season (three-disc, $39.98).

In the animated arena, the same label debuts The Animaniacs (five-disc, $44.98) and the Steven Spielberg-presented Pinky and the Brain (four-disc, $49.98), both with assorted extras. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment bows The Boondocks: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $49.95), with audio commentaries, deleted scenes and more.

On the sitcom front, Shout! Factory revisits Soleil Moon Frye as Punky Brewster: Season Three (four-disc, $34.98), while Anchor Bay Entertainment harkens back to Three’s Company: Season 7 (four-disc, $29.98).

Paramount Home Entertainment looks to the recent and distant past, respectively, with the service-themed series JAG: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $64.99) and Rawhide: The Complete First Season (seven-disc, $49.99), showcasing a young Clint Eastwood.

Acorn Media appeals to couch-side Anglophiles with a brace of BBC imports, the Charlotte Bronte miniseries Jane Eyre and two full-length mysteries from the crime series Rebus: Set 1 (two-disc, $39.99 each).

Collectors’ corner

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment celebrates a pair of very different 1930s icons. The four-disc Will Rogers Collection ($59.98) assembles a quartet of the wry comic’s screen vehicles — Doubting Thomas, the 1935 In Old Kentucky, Life Begins at 40 and Steamboat ‘Round the Bend — while Shirley Temple receives her due in three individual DVDS, Captain January, Just Around the Corner and Susannah of the Mounties ($14.98 each).

Dark Sky Films looks to darken the mood with three bonus-packed 1970s British terror imports starring Peter Cushing — And Now the Screaming Starts, the anthology Asylum and The Beast Must Die ($14.98 each).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases making their DVD debuts, New Line Home Entertainment pushes the digital envelope with its double-disc interactive edition of the scare sequel Final Destination 3 ($29.98), wherein viewers can control the action.

Also arriving are Robert Towne’s 1930s-set drama Ask the Dust (Paramount Home Entertainment, $29.99), with Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek; the baseball comedy The Benchwarmers (Sony Pictures, $28.95), with Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder; and The Dudesons Movie (Rhino Video, $19.98), chronicling the extreme stunt-driven misadventures of four buddies and their pet pig.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: How about the 1950 film “Captain Carey, USA”? I’d like to obtain it just to hear the Jay Livingston-Ray Evans song “Mona Lisa.”

— Dan Rice, via e-mail

Unfortunately, that Paramount espionage caper with the Oscar-winning song has yet to join the home-video 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] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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