Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Spaghetti Western legends Franco Nero and Tomas Milian join forces in writer-director Sergio Corbucci’s action-packed 1970 winner Companeros, new from Anchor Bay Entertainment. It’s our…

Video pick of the week

With a promise of a fortune in gold, ultra-cool arms dealer “The Swede” (Mr. Nero) and impulsive Mexican bandito El Vasco (Mr. Milian) set their differences aside to ride across the border, circa 1912, to spring nonviolent revolutionary leader “The Professor” (Fernando Rey) from an Arizona prison.

Along the way, the duo encounter not only deadly outlaws and hostile soldiers but mad, marijuana-smoking mercenary John (a typically over-the-top Jack Palance) and his henchmen, themselves sent to assassinate the Professor.

While “Companeros” doesn’t quite compare with the best of rival director and pasta prairie pioneer Sergio Leone’s ouevre (like the recently released “Once Upon a Time in the West” and the upcoming “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”), Mr. Corbucci creates a solid show for sagebrush buffs, spurred on by another rousing score by frequent Leone composer Ennio Morricone.

The pristine widescreen disc comes complete with insightful and remarkably candid new interviews with Mr. Nero, Mr. Milian and Mr. Morricone, along with the original trailer and English- or Italian-language options (since the cast speaks in at least three different languages, both versions are heavily dubbed).

“Companeros” is available individually ($24.98) or as part of Anchor Bay’s Once Upon a Time in Italy: The Spaghetti Western Collection ($89.98), which also corrals the feature films A Bullet for the General, Four of the Apocalypse, Keoma and Texas, Adios.


The tele-specialists at A&E Home Video supply a treat for mystery lovers this week with The Agatha Christie Collection Megaset ($139.95). The nine-DVD extravaganza assembles nine feature-length Miss Marple movies, with Joan Hickson as the titular sleuth, and four Hercule Poirot adventures, starring David Suchet, along with a lineup of Agatha-oriented extras.

A&E also revives the cult 1969-1970 British paranormal police series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased): Set One ($79.95, four-DVD set), featuring Mike Pratt as a London detective and Kenneth Cope as his late but still active partner.

On the documentary front, the label issues Barbarians ($39.95), a double-disc history of those rampaging Vikings, Goths, Mongols and Huns, plus the single-disc History Channel presentation The Statue of Liberty ($19.95).

Also this week, HBO Video unlocks Oz: The Complete Third Season ($64.98). The three-disc set contains all eight third-season episodes of the gritty prison series, along with audio commentary by “Oz” creator Tom Fontana and director-actor Chazz Palminteri, deleted scenes, Season Two recaps, Season Four previews and more.

The ‘A’ list

In theatrical-to-video news, this week MGM Home Entertainment debuts the musical comedy Camp and the dysfunctional family comedy-drama Pieces of April, starring Katie Holmes and Oliver Platt ($25.98 each), while Warner Home Video unveils the Nicolas Cage caper Matchstick Men ($27.95) in a special edition packed with commentaries and featurettes.

Next week, the latter label introduces director Joe Dante’s live-action/animated comedy combo Looney Tunes: Back in Action ($27.95), with Steve Martin, Brendan Fraser, Bugs Bunny and the entire Looney Tunes gang, in an equally lavish extras-laden edition.

Paramount likewise aims for the funny bone with its hit comedy School of Rock ($19.95), starring Jack Black as a guitarist-turned-teacher. The disc arrives with two audio commentaries, featurettes and more. All of the above titles will also be available on VHS.

Collectors’ corner

Speaking of Anchor Bay, the label has issued a gala Herzog/Kinski Collection ($89.98). The six-DVD set contains five acclaimed collaborations between German auteur Werner Herzog and notoriously eccentric actor Klaus Kinski — Aguirre, The Wrath of God, Cobra Verde, Fitzcarraldo, 1979’s Nosferatu redo and Woyzeck — plus a sixth disc, “My Best Fiend,” a fascinating feature-length documentary exploring the pair’s complex personal and professional relationship.

Also new from Anchor Bay is Time Bandits: Special Edition ($24.98, two-DVD), Terry Gilliam’s whimsical time-travel fantasy co-starring fellow Monty Python John Cleese (as Robin Hood), Sean Connery (as King Agamemnon) and Ian Holm (as Napoleon). Extras include the documentary “The Films of Terry Gilliam,” interviews, theatrical trailers and more.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I need your help to find this film. Setting was the ‘50s. It involved a radioactive meteorite that re-animated the corpse of a gangster …

Steve Wallace, via e-mail

Say no more. That could only be 1977’s The Day It Came to Earth, co-starring erstwhile TV comic George Gobel in his lone horror role. It’s available via Englewood Entertainment (englewd.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: phanmedia@aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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