- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

An enduring cult classic, Tony Richardson’s 1965 farce The Loved One, makes its long-overdue digital debut via Warner Home Video ($19.97). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Successfully melding Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 novel with screenwriters Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood’s decidedly ‘60s sensibilities, the film casts Robert Morse as Dennis Barlow, a young English poet lost amid the cultural excesses of a contemporaneous L.A., specifically those practiced at the gauche, gaudy Whispering Glades Memorial Park, lavish final resting place for the rich and eccentric.

There, Dennis battles demented chief embalmer Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger) for the affections of brainwashed underling Aimee (Anjanette Comer) while helping to maintain a nearby pet cemetery run by deposed Hollywood agent Harry Glenworthy (Jonathan Winters).

Billed as “the motion picture with something to offend everyone,” “The Loved One” doesn’t limit its satiric thrusts to America’s overkill approach to interment but skewers tangential targets ranging from corporate greed to military profiteering, sexual repression, religious hypocrisy and gluttony (amply represented by Ayllene Gibbons as Mr. Joyboy’s obese mom).

While “The Loved One” has certainly been out-grossed by countless movies and TV shows since, the movie retains a refreshingly unjaded sense of irreverence tinged with genuine outrage.

Star-spotting supplies further fun, with Milton Berle, Tab Hunter, James Coburn and even Liberace surfacing in clever cameos, while Mr. Winters’ performance in dual roles — he hilariously doubles as Whispering Glades’ avaricious owner, the Blessed Reverend — reveals his largely under-tapped talents for brilliant screen comedy.

A fascinating new featurette, “Trying to Offend Everyone,” combining illustrative clips with interviews with the film’s surviving players, rounds out this essential disc.

Warner, meanwhile, contributes an additional quartet of vintage titles: Sean Connery as an irresponsible poet in A Fine Madness (1966), the Jimmy Breslin mob comedy adaptation The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight (1971), Peter Sellers in the psychedelic romp I Love You Alice B. Toklas (1968), and Richard Lester’s complex 1968 romantic drama Petulia ($19.97 each).

Tele-video

In fresh TV-on-DVD developments, BBC Video caps a busy month with this week’s release of Kenneth Clark’s epic documentary project Civilisation: The Complete Series (four-disc, $79.98), complemented by bonus interviews and behind-the-scenes materials.

The label also introduces the English comedy imports Good Neighbors: The Complete Series 4 (two-disc, $29.98), Mulberry: The Complete Series (two-disc, $34.98) and Waiting for God: Season One ($24.98), plus the sci-fi shows Dr. Who: Genesis of the Daleks (two-disc, $34.98) and Revelation of the Daleks ($24.98).

MPI Home Video goes the backdate comedy route with two 1960s series, Brian Keith in the five-disc Family Affair: Season One and Jackie Gleason and Art Carney in the three-disc revival The Color Honeymooners, plus the double-disc 2001 mystery series Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes ($39.98 each).

Universal Studios Home Entertainment likewise emphasizes high-profile sleuths via the Peter Falk vehicle Columbo: The Complete Fifth Season (three-disc, $39.98) and the Tony Shalhoub showcase Monk: The Complete Fourth Season (four-disc, $59.98), along with the reality TV series Fear Factor: The First Season ($29.98).

Paramount Home Entertainment prepares audiences for the upcoming big-screen version by releasing the Amy Sedaris vehicle Strangers With Candy: The Complete Series (six-disc, $54.99), co-starring Stephen Colbert and including on-set interviews, select audio commentaries, the original unaired pilot and much more.

Elsewhere, Genius Products Inc. offers an extras-enriched four-disc edition of the fashion-driven reality TV series Project Runway: The Complete Second Season (four-disc, $39.95), Tracey Ullman occupies center stage in Tracey Takes On: Season Two (HBO Video, three-disc, $34.98), the History Channel presents the documentary series 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America (three-disc, $39.95) and Anchor Bay Entertainment adds Roseanne: Season 4 (four-disc, $39.98).

The ‘A’ list

Several wide-ranging recent theatrical titles make their digital debuts this week. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has Michael Haneke’s Euro suspense exercise Cache ($26.96), Milla Jovovich in the video-game-based vampire smackdown Ultraviolet ($28.95), and the military-industrial-complex expose Why We Fight ($24.96), not to be confused with Frank Capra’s patriotic 1943 documentary of the same name.

20th Century Fox grants a second life to Sidney Lumet’s under-seen fact-based courtroom comedy/drama Find Me Guilty, with Vin Diesel cast against type as a comic mobster, and bows the romantic comedy Imagine Me & You ($27.98 each), starring Piper Perabo and Lena Headey.

Romantic antics also dominate Paramount’s Failure to Launch ($29.99), featuring Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker and bonus material galore, while Tyler Perry proffers seriocomic life lessons in Madea’s Family Reunion (Lions Gate Home Entertainment, $28.98), and James Franco toplines in the military drama Annapolis (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, $29.99).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Looking for an early Sophia Loren film, Two Nights With Cleopatra.

Samuel Bennett, via e-mail

That 1954 Sophia showcase is now available via Fox Lorber ($19.99) at Amazon.com and other outlets.

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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