Mike Burger’s DVD Vault

by Mark Burger

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (MGM Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Like most of the “Cannon MovieTales” produced by the ubiquitous team of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, this 1987 adaptation of the classic fairy tale suffers from slow pacing and unmemorable songs, but Rebecca De Mornay and John Savage (in the title roles) both transcend the material and both carry a tune quite well. That counts for something. Filmed in Israel, as were all of the MovieTales. Rated G. **

THE CAINE MUTINY (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Producer Stanley Kramer and director Edward Dmytryk’s sterling 1954 adaptation of Herman Wouk’s best-seller, which earned seven Academy Award nominations including Best Actor for Humphrey Bogart, who stars as Captain Queeg, with excellent support from Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Jose Ferrer, Tom Tully (Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actor) and, in smaller roles, Lee Marvin, EG Marshall, Arthur Franz, Claude Akins, Jerry Paris and Steve Brodie. Additional Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Score and Best Sound Recording – but it went home empty-handed. ***

CIRCLE OF IRON (Blue Underground): A two-DVD special edition of the 1978 martial-arts epic starring David Carradine in four roles. Originally titled The Silent Flute, this was intended as a vehicle for Bruce Lee, who retains a story credit with Stirling Silliphant and James Coburn. To date, the only feature film directed by Richard Moore (who contributes a commentary), with an eclectic supporting cast including Christopher Lee, Roddy McDowall and Eli Wallach. A one of a kind, that’s for sure. Rated R. **

“DIAGNOSIS: MURDER” – THE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): Dick Van Dyke plays doctor – and amateur detective – in the 1994-’95 season of the prime-time CBS series. This marked Scott Baio’s last season with the show. The boxed set retails for $54.99.

FAIL-SAFE (Warner Home Video): The first live television movie broadcast on CBS in nearly 40 years was this 2000 adaptation of the best-selling novel by Harvey Wheeler and Eugene Burdick, in which a computer malfunction brings the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of a nuclear holocaust. Richard Dreyfuss plays the president, with an all-star cast including George Clooney (also the executive producer), Don Cheadle, Harvey Keitel, Hank Azaria, Brian Dennehy, James Cromwell, Sam Elliott, Norman Lloyd and Noah Wyle. Some of the Cold War trappings are dated, but the themes of this film certainly aren’t. Nominated for five Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Direction (Stephen Frears and Martin Pasetta), with wins for Outstanding Lighting Direction and Oustanding Technical Direction. ***

A FINE MADNESS (Warner Home Video): Elliott Baker adapted his own novel for this wildly uneven 1966 adaptation directed by Irvin Kershner, with Sean Connery (in a major departure) as hard-drinking, hard-loving New York poet Samson Shillitoe. Joanne Woodward plays his long-suffering but adoring wife, and an ace supporting cast includes Patrick O’Neal, Jean Seberg, Colleen Dewhurst, Clive Revill, Kay Medford, Renee Taylor, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Jackie Coogan and Richard Castellano. Some inspired moments and performances, but the shrill tone of the comedy may seem dated to some – especially Shillitoe’s evident mistreatment of women, including his wife. **

PRIMEVAL (Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment): Dumb but fast-moving monster mash, with reporters Domonic Purcell and Brooke Langton encountering a very large, very hungry crocodile in Africa. Rated R. **

SUMMER SCHOOL (Paramount Home Entertainment): A “special collector’s edition” of Carl Reiner’s perennially popular – and mighty predictable – 1987 comedy starring Mark Harmon as a laid-back teacher who wins over a classroom full of miscreants. Reiner and Harmon team up for a commentary track. Rated PG-13. **

“THE SWEENEY” (BCI Eclipse): The first season (1975) of the influential, immensely popular British television series following the efforts of London’s “Flying Squad,” headed by Inspector Jack Regan (Jack Thaw) and Sgt. George Carter (Dennis Waterman). This marks the first time that the series is available in the United States on any video format. The boxed set retails for $34.98.

TO CATCH A THIEF (Paramount Home Entertainment): A “special collector’s edition” of Alfred Hitchcock’s glossy 1955 romantic thriller, starring Cary Grant as a retired (or is he?) jewel thief and Grace Kelly as an American heiress he woos. Filmed in Monaco, where Kelly ended up marrying Prince Rainier. Colorful and enjoyable, but hardly among Hitchcock’s best. Robert Burks’ color cinematography won an Academy Award, with additional nominations for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (color) and Edith Head’s costumes. ***

“WALKER, TEXAS RANGER” – THE THIRD SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): Chuck Norris continues to kick butt in the 1994-’95 season of the popular prime-time CBS series, which ran an astonishing nine seasons. The boxed set retails for $54.99.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2007, Mark Burger