- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

One of the earliest films from the civil-rights era, 1961’s The Intruder, receives a belated but welcome digital debut this week via Buena Vista Home Entertainment ($19.99). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Easily the most anomalous — and arguably the most powerful — effort of director-producer Roger Corman’s long, prolific career, “The Intruder” stands high above that low-budget auteur’s previous B-movie output.

Though responsible for many genre gems, from the eerie 1957 alien-invasion chiller “Not of This Earth” to the clever 1959 celluloid sick joke “A Bucket of Blood,” Mr. Corman had never before tackled an incendiary topic with such raw force and authenticity.

Working from frequent “Twilight Zone” writer Charles Beaumont’s brilliant script (adapted from his own novel) and lensed on actual small-town Missouri locations, “The Intruder” stars then-newcomer William Shatner as Adam Cramer, a traveling hatemonger and wannabe demagogue looking to form a power base by fomenting rabid segregationist sentiments.

Cramer’s appearance in a racially divided Southern hamlet about to integrate its local high school stokes an already restive white populace into taking violent action.

As much a portrait of a driven sociopath as a treatise on the racial troubles of the times, “The Intruder” boasts intense performances from Mr. Corman’s core of professional thesps — most notably Mr. Shatner and Leo Gordon as a salesman who’s on to Cramer’s game — and convincing ones from non-professionals, including area residents and author Beaumont in a supporting role as a sympathetic teacher.

While director Corman and actor Shatner contribute separate but equally fascinating new interviews recalling their sometimes harrowing experiences making the film, “The Intruder” cries out for a feature commentary track by the ever-articulate Mr. Corman.

Buena Vista’s print is less than pristine but decent enough not to detract from a gut-punching document that even contemporary viewers might find surprisingly shocking.

Tele-video

No fewer than four disparate comedy series surface on DVD this week. SRO Entertainment imports the Britcom The Catherine Tate Show: The Complete First Season ($29.99), while Anchor Bay has the homegrown Grounded for Life: Season Five ($19.98), Sony Pictures rounds up Kevin James and family for The King of Queens: 9th Season (two-disc, $29.99) and 20th Century Fox continues the misadventures of Jason Lee in My Name Is Earl: Season 2 (four-disc, $49.98). SRO covers the stand-up front with Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005 (four-disc, $39.99).

Warner Home Video leads the way in the animated levity department with the vintage girl-band show Josie and the Pussycats: The Complete Series (two-disc, $26.99) and the feature-length Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure ($14.98), while Paramount Home Entertainment mines a more irreverent vein with the contemporary Comedy Central title Drawn Together Season Two: Uncensored! (two-disc, $26.99).

Crime-fighters prevail in no fewer than three new sets from Paramount: the FBI series Numb3rs: The Third Season (six-disc, $54.99), Karl Malden and Michael Douglas in the 13-episode The Streets of San Francisco: Season 1 Volume 2 and Robert Stack as Eliot Ness in the 14-episode The Untouchables: Season 1 Volume 2 (four-disc, $38.99 each). A young Superman does his bit for truth, justice and the American way in Smallville: The Complete Sixth Season (Warner, six-disc, $59.98), landing with featurettes, deleted scenes and more.

Acorn Media focuses on the British mystery beat with Robbie Coltrane in Cracker: A New Terror: The Final Episode ($24.95) and Midsomer Murders Set Nine (four-disc, $49.99), inspired by the novels of Caroline Graham.

Koch Vision revisits an epic mini-series with its double-disc edition of Masada ($29.98), set in ancient Rome and featuring Peter O’Toole.

The ‘A’ list

Universal Studios tops the week’s theatrical-to-digital roster with Judd Apatow’s comedy blockbuster Knocked Up ($29.98), arriving in a bonus-packed double-disc edition with extended scenes, featurettes, gag reels and more.

Elsewhere, Sony Pictures presents Paul Verhoeven’s WWII Holland-set Black Book ($29.95); Lionsgate unleashes William Friedkin’s intense psychological thriller Bug ($28.98), starring Ashley Judd; Paramount puts out Lee Tamahori’s paranormal outing Next ($29.99), with Nicolas Cage; and Palm Pictures introduces Rolf de Heer’s aboriginal folk adventure Ten Canoes ($24.99).

Collectors’ corner

First Run Features honors one of the documentary form’s greatest achievements with The Up Series (six-disc, $99.95), assembling all seven of Michael Apted’s vital British group portraits, from “Seven Up” to the latest chapter, “49 Up.”

Vintage fiction films receiving the double-disc special edition treatment include Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s 2006 Babel (Paramount, $36.99) and Oliver Stone’s 1987 Wall Street (Fox, $19.98).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Have been unable to find on DVD an old horror film called “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” recently shown on cable.

Carl Reynolds, via e-mail

Warner’s disc of that eerie 1933 chiller is currently out of print, but you might try EBay.com and other online sources for used DVDs.

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 phanmedia@aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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