- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A B-movie maestro whose career represented a consistent triumph of talent over budget receives his due in Michael Palm’s documentary feature Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen, out this week via Kino Video ($24.95, kino.com). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

A Jewish-German emigre, Edgar G. Ulmer regularly employed expressionistic touches, spare but evocative set designs and a cultured European sensibility to transform what could have been mere potboilers into works of pulp art, from the truly chilling 1934 Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi face-off “The Black Cat” and the atmospheric 1944 John Carradine thriller “Bluebeard” to his enduring classic, the mega-influential 1945 noir “Detour.”

Lending their insights are fellow filmmakers Joe Dante, Roger Corman (who knows a thing or two about cost-cutting), Wim Wenders, John Landis, and Peter Bogdanovich, whose 1972 audio interview with the then-ailing auteur supplies invaluable first-hand comments.

Said interview also exposes Mr. Ulmer’s unfortunate flair for fabrication, as he goes on record exaggerating his contributions to such earlier German cinema giants as Robert Wiene (“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”) and F.W. Murnau (“The Last Laugh”).

But those warts only add to the texture of Mr. Palm’s painstaking portrait, which skillfully blends the copious talking-head material with illustrative clips from Mr. Ulmer’s celluloid oeuvre. Even those unfamiliar with his films will be encouraged to check them out on home video.

Kino’s disc includes one of those films, the 1943 tropical adventure Isle of Forgotten Sins, not one of Mr. Ulmer’s best but still a fascinating mix of broad melodrama and surreal flourishes. Withal, the DVD provides a compelling evening with the still-estimable Edgar G.


Crime-time television heads the week’s fresh TV-on-DVD roster. Gary Sinise leads his crack forensics team into action in CSI: NY: The Complete Second Season (Paramount Home Entertainment, six-disc, $64.99), while quintessential ‘70s dudes David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser take on the bad guys in Starsky & Hutch: The Complete Fourth Season (Sony Pictures, five-disc, $49.95).

Angela Lansbury sleuths anew in Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Fourth Season (Universal Studios, five-disc, $49.98) and Peta Wilson returns in La Femme Nikita: The Complete Fifth Season (Warner Home Video, three-disc, $39.98).

On a lighter note, Paramount proffers the seriocomic supernatural series Charmed: The Complete Sixth Season (six-disc, $49.99), starring Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan and Holly Marie Combs, and Nick Cannon: Season Two (three-disc, $39.99); 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment counters with That ?70s Show: Season Five (four-disc, $49.98) and The Big Black Comedy Show (five-disc, $39.98).

From across the pond, BBC Video ushers in a pair of British comedy series, Robert Lindsay in My Family: Season 1 ($19.98) and Season 2 (two-disc, $29.98) and David Jason in Only Fools and Horses: The Complete Series 7 (three-disc, $59.98).

WGBH Boston Video bows a brace of Masterpiece Theatre presentations, Peter O’Toole in Casanova ($19.95) plus The Wilkie Collins Set (two-disc, $29.98), yoking the venerable mysteries “The Moonstone” and “The Woman in White.”

A&E Home Video pulls out all the stops for its Pride and Prejudice: 10th Anniversary Limited Collector’s Edition (three-disc, $59.98), which, among other extras, comes complete with a 120-page companion book, while BFS Video journeys to Australia via the miniseries 1915, set in World War I (two-disc, $39.98).

In the dramatic arena, HBO Video debuts the controversial Big Love: The Complete First Season (five-disc, $99.98), starring Bill Paxton and Jeanne Tripplehorn.

The ‘A’ list

Universal Studios introduces two recent comedies in bonus-packed editions, the satire American Dreamz, with Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid and Mandy Moore; and The Break-Up, with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston ($29.98 each).

Horror holds sway in three new releases — the “Project Greenlight” title Feast (Dimension Home Video, $28.95), the 2006 remake of The Omen (20th Century Fox, $29.98) and the first entry in Warner Home Video’s genre-oriented Raw Feed line, Rest Stop ($24.98).

Also new this week are the direct-to-disc combat sequel Behind Enemy Lines 2: Axis of Evil (Fox, $26.98) and the animated romp Over the Hedge (Paramount, $29.99).

Collectors’ corner

20th Century Fox gathers a trio of treats for Michael Caine fans as part of its Cinema Classics Collection: the 1968 thriller Deadfall and the same year’s fable The Magus, along with the 1975 detective spoof Peeper ($19.98 each).

Also receiving bonus-laden updates are Warren Beatty’s 1981 epic Reds: 25th Anniversary Edition (two-disc, $19.99), James Mason in Alan Bridges’ 1984 The Shooting Party (Warner, $29.98) and Peter Bogdanovich’s They All Laughed: 25th Anniversary Edition (HBO Video, $19.98), with Ben Gazzara and Dorothy Stratten.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Looking for a 1970s Western, “The Animals.”

Craig Farrell, via e-mail

That 1971 film is currently available (Pioneer, $5.99) under the alternate title Five Savage Men.

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