- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

After spending more than three decades trapped in legal limbo due to an ongoing wrangle with film producer Allen Klein, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fabled midnight movie El Topo at last sees the digital light of day via Anchor Bay Entertainment ($24.98). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

In the 1970 film, writer-director Jodorowsky also doubles as the title character, a feared Mexican gunslinger whose quest for top-gun status ultimately morphs into an unexpected spiritual odyssey. Mr. Jodorowsky melds violent spaghetti Western tropes (pasta prairie maestro Sergio Leone counted himself an “El Topo” fan) with allegory, satire, mysticism and rampant surrealism, resulting in a film so singular that it continues to defy categorization.

Though it’s been much imitated since (even by Mr. Jodorowsky), “El Topo” (aka “The Mole”) not only retains its freshness but looks better than ever in Anchor Bay’s pristine, digitally restored edition, one that wisely resists letterboxing the film’s original full-screen 1:33:1 aspect ratio. Extras include an enlightening audio commentary by Mr. Jodorowsky, an on-camera interview with the filmmaker, a photo gallery and theatrical trailer.

For completists, “El Topo” is also available as part of the same label’s six-disc The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky collection ($49.98), joined by the director’s debut feature Fando y Lis (1968), the irreverent fable The Holy Mountain (1975), the 1957 short La Cravate and the 90-minute biographical documentary La Constellation, along with separate “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain” soundtrack discs, further audio commentaries and more.

Collectors’ corner

Speaking of Westerns, Clint Eastwood rides again in the three-disc Clint Eastwood Collection ($19.98), assembling the allegorical oater High Plains Drifter (1973) — something of an “El Topo” Lite — along with Joe Kidd (1972) and Don Siegel’s Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), co-starring Shirley MacLaine as an unusual nun.

Elsewhere in a busy week for reissued classics, Sony Pictures goes the extras-enhanced collector’s edition route with an eclectic quartet — Humphrey Bogart in Edward Dmytryk’s excellent 1954 Herman Wouk adaptation The Caine Mutiny ($24.96), Gregory Peck in J. Lee Thompson’s 1961 all-star World War II adventure The Guns of Navarone (two-disc, $24.96), Johnny Depp and Al Pacino in Mike Newell’s powerful fact-based 1997 mob expose Donnie Brasco, and Kevin Costner and Anthony Quinn in Tony Scott’s campy 1990 melodrama Revenge ($19.94 each).

Paramount Home Entertainment lavishes considerable TLC on the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock caper To Catch a Thief ($14.99), starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly; the disc includes commentary by Peter Bogdanovich and Laurent Bouzereau, four featurettes and the original trailer.

20th Century Fox issues double-disc extended cuts of two Tom Hanks comedies, 1988’s Big and 1996’s That Thing You Do! ($19.98 each), both bolstered by multiple featurettes, music videos and much more.

Zeitgeist Video offers the hauntingly surreal animated collection Phantom Museums: The Short Films of the Quay Brothers (two-disc, $34.99).

Tele-video

In TV-on-DVD developments, two enduring sitcoms continue their digital runs: Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Eighth Season (HBO Video, five-disc, $44.99), with deleted scenes and blooper reel, and That ‘70s Show: Season Six (20th Century Fox, four-disc, $49.98), with select audio commentaries and featurettes.

Femme detectives Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly make their digital debut in Cagney & Lacey: The Complete First Season (MGM Home Entertainment, four-disc, $39.98), armed with a two-part featurette, while missing persons reappear in the sci-fi series The 4400: The Third Season (Paramount, four-disc, $42.99), with audio commentaries, featurettes and more.

Rural dramas hold sway with the Australian import McLeod’s Daughters (Koch Entertainment, six-disc, $59.98) and The Waltons: The Complete 5th Season (Warner Home Video, five-disc, $39.98).

The ‘A’ list

Dramas dominate the recent theatrical-to-DVD slate, leading with Jude Law in Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering (Weinstein Company, $28.95), Jennifer Garner in Catch & Release (Sony Pictures, $28.95), Nicole Kidman in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (New Line, $27.98), Naomi Watts and Edward Norton in the W. Somerset Maugham adaptation The Painted Veil (Warner Home Video, $27.98), and Sarah Polley and Tim Robbins in The Secret Life of Words (Universal Studios, $29.98).

Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore carry the comedic load in the family farce Because I Said So (Universal, $29.98).

Foreign fare

Koch Lorber Films debuts a pair of fact-based titles from veteran French suspense master Claude Chabrol, both starring Isabelle Huppert — as a criminally troubled teen in 1978’s Violette ($24.98) and as a tenacious magistrate in pursuit of corporate cheats in 2005’s Comedy of Power ($29.98), the latter arriving with a making-of featurette.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I would like to obtain a DVD of “War Paint,” a 1953 Western starring Robert Stack.

John Simms, via e-mail

Unfortunately, that excellent Western has yet to join the homevideo ranks.

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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