- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Powerfully scripted and scored by veteran rock musician Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat, the limited-release Australian Western The Proposition receives a well-earned second life on DVD this week via First Look Home Entertainment ($26.98). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Set in a scruffy 1880s outback, the film opens with a loud, blistering gun battle that results in the capture of Irish outlaw brothers Charlie and Mike Burns (Guy Pearce, Richard Wilson). Once in lockup, Charlie is approached by lawman Capt. Stanley (Ray Winstone) with the titular offer — freedom for him and Mike in exchange for the termination of their psychotic older brother Arthur (a dynamic Danny Huston).

Charlie reluctantly accepts the fratricidal assignment and begins a trek to Arthur’s hillside hideout for an intended showdown. Along the way, he encounters scabrous bounty hunter Jellon Lamb (a barely recognizable John Hurt), an aboriginal guide (the ever-reliable David Gulpilil) and other gritty frontier characters.

One of the most savage Westerns ever committed to celluloid, Sam Peckinpah’s oeuvre included, “The Proposition” also boasts contrapuntal scenes of unexpected lyricism, both visual (haunting twilight landscapes) and verbal (Arthur’s frequent flights of poetic fancy). And in the midst of this brutal, degrading patch of hell, Capt. Stanley maintains, with genteel wife Martha (Emily Watson), a proper English middle-class home, complete with flowered crockery.

Blending the best elements from classic Clint Eastwood oaters, extreme spaghetti Westerns and such excellent earlier Aussie frontier tales as “Ned Kelly” and “The Tracker,” “The Proposition” offers proof that the genre is not dead but alive and well and living in Australia.


In fresh TV-on-DVD developments, Warner Home Video offers a triple treat for mystery lovers with three new Agatha Christie sets:

• In the Agatha Christie Collection Featuring Helen Hayes, that legendary actress portrays sleuth Miss Jane Marple in the feature-length movies A Caribbean Mystery, Murder With Mirrors and Murder Is Easy (three-disc, $39.98 each).

• The Agatha Christie Collection Featuring Peter Ustinov casts the versatile thesp as Hercule Poirot in Dead Man’s Folly, Murder in Three Acts and Thirteen to Dinner (also three-disc and $39.98 each).

• Both collections are incorporated in the eight-disc mega set the Agatha Christie Classic Mystery Collection ($99.98), also including The Man in the Brown Suit, with Rue McClanahan and Tony Randall, and Sparkling Cyanide, starring Anthony Andrews.

More tele-video

On the comedy front, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment contributes the mystery and mirth combo Hart to Hart: The Complete Second Season (five-disc, $49.95), with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, and Kevin James as The King of Queens: 6th Season (three-disc, $39.98).

HBO Video keeps the laughs coming with the Ray Romano showcase Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Seventh Season (five-disc, $44.98), with audio commentaries and bloopers, and The Chris Rock Show: Seasons 1 & 2 (two-disc, $39.98).

Warner Home Video issues the seriocomic The Gilmore Girls: The Complete Sixth Season (six-disc, $59.98), and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment debuts My Name Is Earl: Season One (four-disc, $49.98), with select commentaries, featurettes and more.

Elsewhere, Universal Studios Home Entertainment goes the fantasy adventure route with the bonus-packed Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 (three-disc, $49.98) and Heath Ledger as a Celtic warrior in Roar: The Complete Series (three-disc, $39.98).

Paramount Home Entertainment gets glitzy with the 8th & Ocean: The Complete First Season, set in South Beach (three-disc, $39.99), and 20th Century Fox premieres the military series The Unit: Season 1 (four-disc, $49.98).

The ‘A’ list

Touchstone Home Entertainment bows two extras-enhanced recent theatrical releases this week. Teens encounter evil forces in the video-game chiller Stay Alive, available in separate original theatrical and unrated director’s cut editions, while young gymnasts train under Jeff Bridges’ tutelage in Stick It ($29.99 each).

In other new arrivals, a vengeful adolescent girl confronts a would-be pedophile in the controversial thriller Hard Candy (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, $27.98), William H. Macy stars in the comic crime caper A Slight Case of Murder (Warner Home Video, $19.97) and James Marsden deals with mafiosi in 10th & Wolf (ThinkFilm, $27.98).

Collectors’ corner

Three disparate films return in all-new, bonus-filled special editions: Ron Howard’s 1991 firefighting drama Backdraft (Universal, two-disc, $19.98); the 1978 musical Grease: Rockin’ Rydell Edition (Paramount, $19.99), complete with cool leather-jacket packaging; and George C. Scott in the 1981 military drama Taps (20th Century Fox, $19.98).

Newly available, keyed to the Sean Penn remake, is Robert Rossen’s 1949 Oscar-winning drama All the King’s Men (Sony Pictures, $19.94), starring Broderick Crawford.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’ve heard good things about the Sam Fuller film “Park Row” but can’t find it on video.

Dan Myers, via e-mail

That 1952 period piece, originally presented by United Artists, has yet to land a homevideo release.

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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