- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

One of filmdom’s most powerful literary adaptations enjoys its digital debut with the arrival of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd (1962), new this week from Warner Home Video ($19.97). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

An Oscar-nominated Terence Stamp turns in brilliantly earnest work as the eponymous character, a guileless young merchant seaman impressed in 1797 to serve aboard the British frigate Avenger in perilous, French-patrolled waters.

The handsome youth’s natural innocence soon makes him a target for the sadistic impulses of sociopathic master-at-arms John Claggart, played to spiritually diseased perfection by a sneering Robert Ryan.

Tension mounts as the tandem’s battle of good vs. evil riles Billy’s already restless crewmates and troubles the ship’s outnumbered officers, led by deeply conflicted Capt. Vere (an excellent Peter Ustinov, who also produced, directed and co-scripted this nautical classic).

As the drama plays out, the Avenger becomes nothing less than a fragile, floating microcosm of the human condition.

Mr. Stamp, joined by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (who directed the actor in his 1999 crime caper “The Limey”), supplies a fascinating, intimate behind-the-scenes audio commentary, the disc’s only significant extra but one well worth a listen.

“Billy Budd” is available individually and as part of Warner’s five-disc Literary Classics Collection ($59.92), also assembling Captain Horatio Hornblower (1952), Madame Bovary (1949), The Three Musketeers (1948) and a double feature with both the 1937 and 1952 versions of The Prisoner of Zenda.

Collectors’ corner

And on the topic of literary adaptations, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment introduces the five-disc Hemingway Classics ($69.98), gathering Adventures of a Young Man (1962), A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises (both 1957), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) and the hitherto elusive John Garfield vehicle Under My Skin (1950), based on Ernest Hemingway’s “My Old Man.”

Auteur Oliver Stone returns to the distant past with Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut (Warner Home Video, two-disc, $24.98), the complete unrated 214-minute version of his historical epic starring Colin Farrell as conqueror Alexander the Great.

In a lighter vein, Walt Disney Home Entertainment issues a restored double-disc Platinum Edition of its enduring 1953 animated fable Peter Pan ($29.99), complete with alternate opening, deleted song, interactive games and more.

20th Century Fox services nostalgic nerds with the four-disc Revenge of the Nerds: The Atomic Wedgie Collection ($29.98), reviving Revenge of the Nerds 1 through 4, and rewards British comedy buffs with the two-disc The Full Monty: Fully Exposed Edition ($19.98).


In the TV-on-DVD comedy arena, Paramount Home Entertainment contributes Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (four-disc, $42.99) and South Park: The Complete Ninth Season (three-disc, $49.99), the latter with entertaining new mini-commentaries by series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Elsewhere, 20th Century Fox has the office comedy The Loop: Season 1 ($19.98), Lionsgate Home Entertainment offers Moonlighting: Season Five: The Final Season (three-disc, $29.98) and Universal Studios thaws out Northern Exposure: Season 6 (five-disc, $59.98).

On the sci-fi front, BBC Video introduces Dr. Who — The Invasion (two-disc, $34.98) and Dr. Who: The Sontaran Experiment ($14.98), while MGM Home Entertainment likewise looks skyward with Stargate Atlantis: Season Two (five-disc, $49.98), landing with commentary and featurettes.

Universal Studios covers the action scene with Hawaii Five-0: The First Season (seven-disc, $54.99), starring Jack Lord and James MacArthur, accompanied by a series retrospective.

In the documentary department, WGBH Boston Video presents the “Nova” profile Percy Julian: Forgotten Genius ($19.95), a portrait of the pioneering black American scientist.

The ‘A’ list

Comedies dominate the new theatrical-to-digital slate. Sacha Baron Cohen’s wild man from Kazakhstan pratfalls into area vidstores in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (20th Century Fox, $29.99), armed with deleted scenes and bonus spoof segments, while the same label launches Richard Linklater’s literally biting satire Fast Food Nation ($27.98), with filmmakers’ commentary, featurette and flash animation shorts.

New Line Home Entertainment introduces the rock romp Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny ($27.98), headlining Jack Black, while Will Arnett stars in the unrated version of Let’s Go to Prison (Universal Studios, $29.98) and Gina Gershon and Matthew Modine pair off in the romantic comedy Kettle of Fish (Screen Media Films, $24.96).

Foreign fare

Kino Video extends deluxe treatment to a brace of vintage Russian classics, packaging Sergei Gerasimov’s 1957 epic Quiet Flows the Don in a three-disc edition ($39.95) and Aleksandr Askoldov’s 1967 war film Commissar in a double-disc affair ($29.95), both packed with extras.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Do you know where I can obtain “Northwest Passage” with Spencer Tracy, on DVD or VHS?

Dawn, via e-mail

Formerly available on VHS, the title is currently out of print; hopefully, it will resurface on DVD.

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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