- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Gregory Peck gives one of his most textured (and tortured) performances in John Frankenheimer’s excellent, under-publicized 1970 rural fable I Walk the Line, new from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment ($14.94). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Not to be confused with the recent Johnny Cash biopic of nearly the same name (though Mr. Cash contributes five songs to the soundtrack, including the title tune), “I Walk the Line,” drawn from the Madison Jones novel, casts Mr. Peck as Henry Tawes, a Tennessee sheriff who succumbs to forbidden fruit in the form of a fetching backwoods Lolita named Alma (Tuesday Weld), free-spirited daughter of local moonshiner Carl McCain (Ralph Meeker).

Radically endangering both his marriage and job, as well as defying his conscience, Henry addictively pursues the ill-advised affair, even as federal revenue agent Bascomb (Lonny Chapman) and Henry’s own ambitious deputy Wylie (Charles Durning) seek to end McCain’s illegal operation.

Director Frankenheimer succeeds in establishing a vivid sense of time and place in depicting a tight-knit community where the characters continually encounter one another in such ordinary spots as the local church and drive-in theater (the latter scene even incorporates contrapuntal clips from a lighthearted Jerry Lewis romp).

While the film runs a trim 97 minutes, the pace is unhurried, leaving ample room for the entire top-flight cast, including a subtle Estelle Parsons as Henry’s understandably troubled spouse, to lend greater depth to their roles.

Sony’s disc arrives sans extras but with a sharp high-def digital upgrade. For a full evening of 1970s regional filmmaking at its best, pair “I Walk the Line” with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s recent release of Lamont Johnson’s insightful 1973 Southern drama The Last American Hero ($14.98), showcasing a young Jeff Bridges as a real-life moonshine runner turned racing champ.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical titles making their digital debuts, New Line Home Entertainment unleashes A History of Violence ($28.98), with Viggo Mortensen, complemented by an audio commentary by director David Cronenberg, three featurettes, a documentary, a deleted scene and more.

The same label strikes a lighter tone with the romantic comedy How to Lose Your Lover ($19.98), starring Paul Schneider and Jennifer Westfeldt.

Warner Home Video introduces Good Night, and Good Luck ($28.98), actor-director George Clooney’s sharply focused, realistic black-and-white recreation of the 1950s televised battle between journalist Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, arriving with commentary and other extras.

20th Century Fox concentrates on suspense with a pair of thrillers, Stay, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, and The Visitation ($28.98 each), both equipped with bonus material, while Julianne Moore portrays a talented ‘50s mom in the fact-based drama The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (DreamWorks Home Entertainment, $29.99).

Tele-video

Sleuths and spies dominate the week’s TV-on-DVD slate. Universal Studios Home Entertainment contributes Columbo: The Complete Fourth Season (three-disc, $39.98), starring Peter Falk as the dogged eponymous detective, and Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Third Season (three-disc, $49.98), with the ever-capable Angela Lansbury.

Natasha Henstridge heads an undercover trio in MGM Home Entertainment’s She Spies: The Complete First Season (four-disc, $39.98), and Pamela Anderson plays an unlikely bodyguard in Sony Pictures’ VIP: The Complete First Season (five-disc, $49.95).

Elsewhere, Barbara Eden casts her spell in Sony Pictures’ I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete First Season (four-disc, $39.95), and inventive adventurer Richard Dean Anderson returns in Paramount Home Entertainment’s MacGyver: The Complete Fifth Season (six-disc, $39.99).

Collectors’ corner

In vintage DVD news, Universal Studios Home Entertainment salutes a veteran cutting-edge director with its The Spike Lee Joint Collection (three-disc, $26.98), assembling five films — Clockers, Jungle Fever, Do the Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues and Crooklyn.

Comedy fans are in for a treat via Sony Pictures’ Buster Keaton Collection ($24.96), gathering 10 rarely seen early 1940s sound shorts, backed by an audio commentary, a Buster featurette and more.

In other backdate comedy news, Walt Disney Home Entertainment lets the dogs out with 1959’s The Shaggy Dog, starring Fred MacMurray, and the 1976 sequel The Shaggy D.A., with Dean Jones; both include numerous extras.

Video verite

In new documentary developments, Greenhouse Pictures presents Occupation Dreamland ($24.98), an embedded look at American troops stationed in Fallujah in 2004, while Warner Home Video explores a literal sports giant in the basketball-themed Year of the Yao ($26.97).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is either “WKRP in Cincinnati” or “Herman’s Head” available on VHS or DVD?

Jerry Mann, Alexandria

No word as yet of those vintage sitcoms’ scoring an imminent homevideo release, though both would be naturals.

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 phanmedia @aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.video scopemag .com.

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