- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr roam the outback in Fred Zinnemann’s excellent 1960 saga The Sundowners, one of a half-dozen films assembled in the Robert Mitchum Signature Collection (six-disc, $59.98), new this week from Warner Home Video. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Based on Jon Cleary’s novel, “The Sundowners” presents an intimate, naturalistic portrait of a 1920s Australian family torn between continuing a nomadic sheepherding life and settling down, a notion embraced by Ida (Miss Kerr) and teenage son Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.) but resisted by restless patriarch Paddy (Mr. Mitchum).

We follow the trio, joined by jovial, educated British drifter Rupe (Peter Ustinov), on an epic drive, with time out for horse races, gambling and even a lengthy sheep-shearing contest that director Zinnemann manages to make both amusing and suspenseful.

Successfully shunning Hollywood sentimentality, “The Sundowners” melds charismatic characters, credible dialogue, flavorful action and exotic scenery in an outing that vividly captures a vanished time and place. Extras include the vintage featurette “On Location with The Sundowners” and the original theatrical trailer.

The Mitchum set also includes Otto Preminger’s atmospheric 1952 noir Angel Face, costarring Jean Simmons, and the tough, taut 1975 Japan-set gangster movie The Yakuza (with commentary by director Sydney Pollack), along with the 1960 Vincente Minnelli drama Home From the Hill, the lesser Josef von Sternberg effort Macao (1952), with Jane Russell, and Burt Kennedy’s 1968 Western action/comedy combo The Good Guys and the Bad Guys.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases making their digital debuts, Buena Vista Home Entertainment introduces the Kevin Costner/Ashton Kutcher rescue adventure The Guardian ($29.99), complete with filmmaker’s commentary, deleted scenes and more. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment focuses on football with the fact-based The Gridiron Gang ($28.95), starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a coach; extras include filmmaker’s commentary and featurettes.

In the indie arena, Screen Media Films presents the Maggie Gyllenhaal showcase Sherrybaby ($27.98), while Red Envelope Entertainment issues Kirby Dick’s fascinating (and appropriately unrated) documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated ($24.95), an examination of the MPAA’s methods and personnel featuring interviews with filmmakers John Waters, Matt Stone, Kimberly Peirce and many more.

In other documentary developments, Magnolia Home Entertainment introduces the 1970s/‘80s crime expose Cocaine Cowboys, set in Miami, and the Christian sect inquiry Jesus Camp ($26.98 each), both with filmmaker’s commentaries and other extras.

Horror occupies center stage in the grisly prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning: Unrated (New Line Home Entertainment, $28.98) and the direct-to-DVD chiller Night Skies (Sony Pictures, $24.96).

Collectors’ corner

Two movie classics arrive in deluxe double-disc editions this week. Ang Lee’s 2005 cowboy love story Brokeback Mountain: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $26.98) lopes in with a wealth of bonus material, from behind-the-scenes featurettes to new retrospectives and collectible postcards.

Norman Jewison’s 1971 Broadway musical adaptation Fiddler on the Roof: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition (MGM Home Entertainment, $26.98), featuring Topol and Molly Picon, comes equipped with audio commentary, multiple featurettes, a deleted song and much more.

On a different musical note, Sony Pictures packages a pair of vintage double features — the 1950s Alan Freed vehicles Don’t Knock the Rock/Rock Around the Clock and the 1960s Chubby Checker showcases Don’t Knock the Twist/Twist Around the Clock ($19.94 each).

Tele-video

In new TV-on-DVD fare, Paramount Home Entertainment unleashes action icon Chuck Norris as Walker, Texas Ranger: The Complete Second Season (seven-disc, $49.99), while Warner Home Video resumes the family saga set in the 1930s, The Waltons: The Complete Fourth Season (five-disc, $39.98).

From across the pond, BBC Video imports a pair of titles, the sci-fi spoof My Hero: Season One ($24.98) and the drama The Queen’s Sister ($19.98), based on the life of Princess Margaret.

Genius Products Inc. offers the animated Hollywood satire Hopeless Pictures: Season One (two-disc, $26.98), featuring the vocal talents of Michael McKean and Paul Dooley.

HD update

More movie titles old and new join the high-definition ranks. Genius Products Inc. adds bonus-packed HD DVD editions of the recent films Clerks II, Lucky Number Slevin and Pulse ($29.95 each), while 20th Century Fox goes the Blu-Ray route with Alien vs. Predator, Courage Under Fire and Men of Honor ($39.98 each).

Foreign fare

On the foreign film front, Koch Lorber Films imports the Spanish Twilight Zone-style fable La Moustache ($29.98) and slain Dutch director Theo van Gogh’s final film, the 2004 political thriller May 6th ($24.95); both arrive with documentaries and other extras.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Hoping you can locate a 1950s sci-fi film, The Man from Planet X.

Ken Peters, via e-mail

MGM released that title in 2001 but it’s currently out of print; you might try online auction sites like EBay for a pre-viewed disc.

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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