- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Though it’s one flick short of a sixpack, the five-film W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Volume Two, new this week from Universal Studios Home Entertainment (five-disc, $59.98), should easily intoxicate the freely imbibing comic’s legions of loyal fans. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

W.C. excels as the quintessential eccentric, henpecked family man — as oddball inventor Samuel Bisbee and memory expert Ambrose Wolfinger, respectively — in two comedy classics, You’re Telling Me (1934) and Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935). Re-viewing the pair also fosters fresh appreciation for the work of frequent Fieldsian female foil Kathleen Howard, brilliant as a snooty prospective in-law in the former film and as a nagging, long-suffering spouse in the latter.

The versatile Mr. Fields indulges his fondness for period farce as the manager of a peripatetic acting troupe in 1934’s The Old Fashioned Way and as a traveling con man in 1936’s Poppy. The comic is at his most surreally unfettered, though, in his wild final feature showcase Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941), a film whose post-modern movie-within-a-movie antics and sly show-biz satire still seem fresh today.

The set is fairly sparse on extras, beyond an entertaining hour-long 1960s CBC-TV tribute hosted by the comedy team of Wayne and Schuster and brimming with choice Fieldsian clips, but the films themselves, long overdue on disc, prove more than worthy of repeat viewings.

Tele-video

In current TV-on-DVD developments, Paramount Home Entertainment presents a busy slate with shows old and new. From the 1960s comes the imaginative Western The Wild, Wild West: The Second Season (seven-disc, $49.99), starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. More recent fare includes the naval-themed JAG: The Third Season (six-disc, $64.99), the rap-meets-religion show Run’s House: Complete Seasons 1 & 2 (three-disc, $38.99), and the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner: Extended & Uncensored ($19.99).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment goes the comedy route with Bea Arthur as Maude: The Complete First Season (three-disc, $29.95) and Newsradio: The Complete Fifth Season (three-disc, $39.95), the latter arriving with gag reel and deleted scenes.

Shout! Factory introduces Ernest Borgnine in McHale’s Navy: Season One (five-disc, $44.98), complete with a cast reunion special, and the animated The Milton the Monster Show (four-disc, $34.98). Koch Vision looks across the pond for laughs via the BBC series Mile High (four-disc, $49.98).

In the action arena, Universal Studios continues the adventures of tropical cops Crockett (Don Johnson) and Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) in Miami Vice: Season Three and Four (five-disc, $59.98 each), while Showtime Entertainment has the suspense series Sleeper Cell: American Terror: The Complete Second Season (three-disc, $26.98).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment emphasizes period drama with Christy: The Complete Series (four-disc, $39.98), based on the novel by Catherine Marshall and starring Kellie Martin.

Warner Home Video covers the animated front with the superhero series Batman Beyond: Season Three and Justice League Unlimited: Season Two (two-disc, $26.99 each).

The ‘A’ list

In a busy week for high-profile theatrical releases making their digital bows, Warner Home Video contributes Edward Zwick’s Africa-set adventure/expose Blood Diamond, headlining Leonard DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connolly, in separate single- ($28.99) and deluxe double-disc editions ($34.98), the latter armed with director’s commentary, featurettes and more. The same label debuts the religious recreation The Nativity Story ($28.98).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment hosts the romantic comedy The Holiday, with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet and Jude Law, plus Sylvester Stallone’s likely final ring fling Rocky Balboa ($28.95 each), both equipped with filmmaker’s commentaries, featurettes and more.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment offers the elaborate fantasy Eragon, with Jeremy Irons, in both a single disc ($29.99) and a two-disc edition ($34.98) crammed with commentaries, featurettes and “Eragon” lore galore. On the indie front, Genius Products Inc. supplies the Ashley Judd dramatic vehicle Come Early Morning ($29.95).

Collectors’ corner

20th Century Fox celebrates ‘40s gumshoe Lloyd Nolan in the Michael Shayne Mysteries Volume 1 (two-disc, $29.98). The set assembles four of famous shamus Shayne’s capers, Michael Shayne, Private Detective, The Man Who Wouldn’t Die, Sleepers West and Blue, White and Perfect, along with new featurettes and film restoration comparisons.

Camp-classic fans will want to check out VCI Entertainment’s stock-footage jungle double feature The Bride and the Beast (1958), scripted by Ed Wood, paired with 1945’s The White Gorilla ($14.99), further bolstered by fun audio commentaries by genre historian Tom Weaver, gorilla-suit actor Bob Burns and “Beast” costar Charlotte Austin.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is the 1970s series “Marcus Welby, M.D.” on DVD yet?

Linda Yates, via e-mail

We believe Universal Studios currently holds the rights to that long-running Robert Young series but haven’t heard of any imminent release plans.

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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