- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

One of Scare Cinema’s towering auteurs receives his due in the five-disc Mario Bava Collection Volume 1 ($49.95), new from Anchor Bay Entertainment. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Three of the late Italian fright maestro’s greatest chillers highlight the set. Up first is the longtime cinematographer’s directorial debut, 1960’s Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan), a supremely atmospheric black-and-white gothic excursion. Sepulchral seductress Barbara Steele stars as a murdered witch who returns centuries later to exact revenge. The eerie opening execution sequence is worth the price of admission all by its lonesome.

Boris Karloff hosts Mr. Bava’s equally effective 1964 tripartite horror anthology Black Sabbath (aka The Three Faces of Fear) and headlines in the offbeat vampire episode The Wurdalak. Jacqueline Perrieux portrays a nurse pursued by a vengeful spirit in the suspenseful The Drop of Water, while the cat-and-mouse thriller The Telephone adds a deft Hitchcockian note.

Another excellent atmospheric exercise, 1966’s Kill, Baby … Kill! (aka Operation Fear) dramatizes the lethal spell a little girl ghost (with an ominous bouncing ball) casts over the citizenry of a small Transylvanian town circa 1907. A “Seventh Seal”-like hilltop tableau and a murky descent into a cobwebbed crypt supply creepy visual highlights.

Two non-horror titles complete the collection — John Saxon and Leticia Roman in the mystery The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) and Cameron Mitchell in the Viking adventure Knives of the Avenger (1966).

Extras include detailed audio commentaries by Mario Bava biographer Tim Lucas, bonus cast interviews, trailers and more. All things considered, those who’ve seen Mr. Bava’s films only in choppily edited, poorly dubbed video incarnations are in for a reel treat.

Collectors’ corner

Warner Home Video opts for a sunnier set of vintage films with The Doris Day Collection Vol. 2 (six-disc, $59.98). The set assembles a half-dozen of the perky singer’s 1940s and early ‘50s showcases: two with Gordon MacRae, On Moonlight Bay (1951) and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953), another pair with Jack Carson, Romance on the High Seas (1948) and My Dream Is Yours (1951), plus I’ll See You in My Dreams (1951) and Lucky Me (1954).

For baseball buffs, Paramount Home Entertainment fields the diamond romp Major League: Wild Thing Edition ($14.99), with filmmakers’ commentary and featurettes, while MGM reissues Pride of the Yankees, starring Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig, in a fresh 65th Anniversary Edition ($14.98).

Paramount presents a radically re-edited director’s cut of Brian Helgeland’s 1999 Mel Gibson crime thriller Payback ($19.99), while 20th Century Fox resurrects the 1977 comedy Mr. Billion ($14.98), featuring Jackie Gleason and Terence Hill.

Tele-video

Crime shows dominate the new TV on DVD slate, with Paramount debuting a duo of long-running hits: Robert Stack as Eliot Ness in The Untouchables: Season 1 Volume 1, which incorporates the feature-length pilot “The Scarface Mob,” and The Streets of San Francisco: Season 1 Volume 1, complete with bonus interviews with leads Karl Malden and Michael Douglas. The four-disc sets are tagged at $42.99 each.

Acorn Media mines the British police beat with the double-disc Murder in Suburbia Series 2 ($39.99), starring Caroline Catz and Lisa Faulkner, and The Investigator, with Helen Baxendale, while Ray Winstone portrays the eponymous killer in a non-musical version of Sweeney Todd ($24.99 each).

Warner Home Video goes the animated route with a trio of new collections, the superhero series Batman: The Complete Third Season and Teen Titans: The Complete Third Season (two-disc, $19.98 each), along with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?: The Complete Third Season (two-disc, $34.98).

The ‘A’ list

The Weinstein Company tops a light week for recent theatrical releases with Luc Besson’s animated fable Arthur and the Invisibles and Emilio Estevez’s ensemble drama Bobby ($28.95), the latter set on the night of Robert Kennedy’s assassination and featuring a high-profile cast headed by Anthony Hopkins and Demi Moore.

Two indie comedies also arrive, Brooke Burke and Morgan Fairchild in Knuckle Sandwich (Westlake Entertainment, $19.98) and Bobcat Goldthwait in Sleeping Dogs Lie (First Look Entertainment, $24.98).

Video verite

In documentary developments, “Apocalypto” fans will want to check out the double-disc set Lost King of the Maya (WGBH Boston Video, $29.95), which includes the bonus program Maya Lords of the Jungle; both explore ancient Mayan blood rituals and culture.

Elsewhere, PBS Home Video puts out the American Experience documentary Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple ($24.95), while Docurama introduces the voting-scandal expose Hacking Democracy ($26.95).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I recently saw some “Boston Blackie” movies on cable but can’t find them anywhere on video.

Tom Ellis, via e-mail

Those vintage “B” mysteries have yet to receive legit homevideo releases; hopefully, Sony Pictures will issue them in the future.

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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