- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The elusive nature of perfection and the vain pursuit of it supply the central themes in Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia’s very dark, very funny 2004 moral fable The Perfect Crime, new this week from Tartan Video ($22.95). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

As the film opens, boastful, bearded, department-store stud Rafael (Guillermo Toledo) directly addresses the camera as he leads the viewer on a whirlwind tour of his well-ordered life — as a suave ladies man, a slick lingerie salesman and a profane pilgrim in relentless quest of an ever more “elegant” existence.

The next rung on the ladder of Rafael’s perceived success is the vacant manager post at the sprawling Yeyo’s superstore, for which slot he must battle despised rival Don Antonio (Luis Varela).

When said battle takes an unexpectedly literal and lethal turn, Rafael finds himself in the clenched claws of the crime’s sole witness, Lourdes (Monica Cervera), a lowly, homely floor worker who represents everything Rafael fears and loathes — ugliness and mundanity in one fierce, voracious package.

That’s just act one of Mr. de la Iglesia’s inventive comedy, which incorporates stabs at modern dysfunctional-family life (via a hilarious visit to Lourdes’ home), reality-TV shows and even horror-movie tropes. The ironies continue to accumulate as Rafael plans a more carefully premeditated murder to extricate himself from his nightmarish predicament.

While often pitch-black, “The Perfect Crime” is never mean-spirited. Director de la Iglesia’s chief target is the aggressive commercialization of the illusion of perfection, a notion Rafael urgently explains to Lourdes even while trying to plunge her down an elevator shaft.

Films of this anarchic bent frequently paint themselves into a corner, but Mr. de la Iglesia and co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarria conjure a satisfying conclusion for their tale, capped by a brilliantly cruel but true coda. “The Perfect Crime” rates as one of the sanest satires we’ve seen in ages.

Tele-video

In current TV-on-DVD developments, Paramount Home Entertainment dominates the backdate sitcom slate with a pair of vintage series. A young Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari go the reluctant drag route in the 1980s romp Bosom Buddies: The First Season (three-disc, $49.99), while Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz carry on in I Love Lucy: The Final Seasons: 7, 8 & 9 ($42.99), a four-disc set gathering all 13 “Lucy-Desi Comedy Hours,” along with deleted scenes, on-set footage, flubs and much more.

In a more earnest vein, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment presents The Pretender: Movie Edition ($26.98), yoking the feature-length TV thrillers The Pretender 2001 and The Pretender: The Island of the Haunted, while Warner Home Video issues the FBI-focused Without a Trace: The Complete Second Season (six-disc, $49.98).

From across the pond, Acorn Media introduces the Charles Dickens miniseries Hard Times (two-disc, $39.99) and the elaborate Robin Hood adaptation Robin of Sherwood (five-disc, $59.99), starring Michael Praed and Ray Winstone, arriving with select commentaries, three documentaries, outtakes and more.

The ‘A’ list

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s double-disc edition of the latest James Bond adventure, Casino Royale ($28.98), tops the week’s roster of theatrical-to-DVD newcomers, accompanied by multiple featurettes, including a profile of new 007 Daniel Craig, a music video and more.

A pair of fresh terror titles also turn up — the possession-themed German import Requiem (Genius Entertainment, $24.95) and the latest entry in Warner Home Video’s horror-oriented Raw Feed line, Sublime ($24.98), featuring Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs.

First Look Home Entertainment issues a gritty, intense winner in the Brazil-lensed crime drama Journey to the End of the Night ($26.99), starring Brendan Fraser, Scott Glenn and Mos Def.

Elsewhere, BFS Entertainment debuts the culture-clash comedy American Cousins ($24.98), with Dan Hedaya and Danny Nucci as Yank mobsters displaced in Scotland, while Genius Entertainment premieres the Rio de Janeiro-set documentary Favela Rising ($24.95).

Collectors’ corner

20th Century Fox adds a trio of vintage titles to its digital roster — James Caan and Marsha Mason in 1973’s Cinderella Liberty, Susan Sarandon in 1977’s The Other Side of Midnight (both with filmmaker commentaries) and Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow in 1969’s John and Mary ($19.98 each).

Paramount accords “Special Collector’s Edition” treatment to Jerry Zucker’s 1990 Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore supernatural romance Ghost ($14.95), equipped with filmmakers’ commentary, featurettes, photo gallery and more.

HD DVD update

For high-definition DVD devotees, MGM Home Entertainment introduces the 1986 hoops hit Hoosiers, with Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper, while 20th Century Fox contributes the 2001 Johnny Depp Jack the Ripper thriller From Hell ($39.98 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is the Alec Guinness comedy The Man in the White Suit available on DVD yet?

Alan Morris, via e-mail

That 1951 classic is now out via Anchor Bay Entertainment (anchorbayentertainment.com).

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, or e-mail us at [email protected] aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscope mag.com.

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