by Mark Burger



In 1957, just prior to making the definitive Titanic film, A Night to Remember, director Roy (Ward) Baker scored with another fact-based tale, this one about Franz von Werra, the only German prisoner of war to have successfully escaped from England during World War II.

Shot down over the English countryside on a combat mission, von Werra is taken prisoner and makes no secret of his intent to escape. Resourceful and relentless, he makes several unsuccessful attempts, but is undaunted. Hardy Kruger is charismatic and even likable (despite which side he’s on) in the pivotal role, and Baker directs in a seamless, straightforward fashion that maintains credibility throughout.

The Kendall Burt/James Leasor book was an international bestseller and the film a surprise box-office hit, launching Kruger to international stardom. The British contingent includes Colin Gordon, Michael Goodliffe, Alec McCowen and Terence Alexander, but this is Kruger’s film all the way — and it’s a winner. Von Werra’s ultimate avenue of escape back to Germany would prove very ironic, although he would later perish on a practice flight gone wrong.

“9/11: THE DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD” (Smithsonian Channel/Inception Media Group): Martin Sheen narrates this self-explanatory documentary about the events of Sept. 11, 2001. This DVD ($19.95 retail) also includes the documentary “9/11: Stories in Fragments,” about the 9/11 exhibition on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“10 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT” (A&E Networks Home Entertainment): Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler, J Edgar Hoover and Caligula are among the historical figures whose secrets are revealed in this DVD collection ($19.95 retail) of the inaugural 12 episodes from the 2012 season of the History Channel documentary series, hosted by David Eisenbach and seen on the H2 Network.

BARACK OBAMA: FROM HIS CHILD- HOOD TO THE PRESIDENCY (A&E Networks Home Entertainment): A selfexplanatory DVD documentary ($19.95 retail) tracing the life and career of the 44th President of the United States, as broadcast on the History Channel.

BIGFOOT (The Asylum Home Entertainment): Danny Bonaduce and Barry Williams spend as much time battling each other as the title beast in this campy shocker, replete with cheesy CGI effects, that premiered on SyFy. Initially amusing but ultimately repetitious, despite a good-humored cast including Bruce Davison (who also directed), Sherilyn Fenn, Howard Hesseman, Andre Royo and Alice Cooper (as himself). Originally titled Black Hills, with a climax set on Mount Rushmore — although Hitchcock’s North by Northwest still has the edge.

“BORED TO DEATH”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (HBO Home Entertain ment): Jason Schwartzman is back on the case as unlicensed private eye Jonathan Ames, doing his best to crack cases in New York City aided and abetted by Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson, in all eight episodes from the 2011 (and final) season of the award-winning HBO series based on stories by Jonathan Ames. Guest stars include Stacy Keach, Mary Steenburgen (Danson’s real-life wife), Bebe Neuwirth, Olympia Dukakis, Patton Oswalt, Oliver Platt, Chris Elliott and Isla Fisher. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.99.

HIGHLY DANGEROUS (VCI Entertainment): Scientist Margaret Lockwood is enmeshed in international intrigue when she goes behind the Iron Curtain on a secret mission, aided by American newspaperman Dane Clark and threatened by government agent Marius Goring, in this 1950 thriller directed by Roy (Ward) Baker (see above). Uneven Eric Ambler script, with the tone veering from humorous to dramatic, but competently directed by Roy Ward Baker and helped by a cast including Wilfrid Hyde- White, Michael Hordern and (briefly) Anton Diffring.

“HOW TO MAKE IT IN AMERICA”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): The misadventures of aspiring fashion entrepreneurs Bryan Greenberg and Victor Rasuk continue in all eight episodes from the 2011 season of the award-winning HBO comedy series featuring Lake Bell, Eddie Kaye Thomas and the always welcome Luis Guzman, with guest appearances by Joe Pantoliano, Gina Gershon, Eriq LaSalle and real-life fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.99.

“IRT: DEADLIEST ROADS”: SEASON TWO — THE ANDES (A&E Networks Home Entertainment): Hang on tight for all 13 episodes from the 2011 season of the popular History Channel reality series, which follows the travels and travails of truckers traveling treacherous roads along the world’s largest mountain range. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.95.

“THE MAGIC BUS”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Scholastic Media/New Video): The title tells all in this DVD collection ($79.95 retail) of all 52 episodes from the entire run (1994-’98) of the popular PBS children’s educational series, based on the Scholastic Book Series and featuring the voice of Lily Tomlin as Ms. Frizzle. From 1996-’98, the series earned Daytime Emmy nominations as Outstanding Children’s Program, with Tomlin winning one in 1995 as Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program. Scholastic Media/New Video is also releasing “The Magic School Bus: Blast Off! From Sea to Space” and “The Magic School Bus Field Trip Fun and Games,” each containing 12 episodes and each retailing for $24.95.

“NEW HORIZONS TITLES” (CAV Distributing): CAV is releasing almost 200 feature films on DVD originally released by Roger Corman’s Concorde-New Horizons, including comedies (Saturday the 14th , Loose Screws, Munchies, Transylvania Twist), action (Angel Fist, Angel of Destruction, Bloodfist and its sequels), horror (Dracula Rising, To Sleep With a Vampire), suspense (Up Against Amanda, the Body Chemistry films), sci-fi (Nightfall, Unknown Origin), drama (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden), family films (Mary Christmas) and many more. For a complete list of films and retail prices, check out:

“THE ROOKIES”: THE COMPLETE SEC- OND SEASON (Shout! Factory): Michael Ontkean, Georg Stanford Brown and Sam Melville are back on the beat, patrolling the streets of Los Angeles in all 23 episodes from the 1973-’74 season of the popular ABC crime drama. Kate Jackson and Gerald S O’Loughlin round out the regular cast. Guest stars include John Saxon, Claude Akins, Joan Blondell, Jim Nabors, and such up-andcomers as Sissy Spacek, Nick Nolte, John Travolta, Don Johnson and Annette O’Toole. The six-DVD boxed set retails for $44.99.

THE SEEKERS (VCI Entertainment): Jack Hawkins and Glynis Johns forge a new life among the Maori people in 19th century New Zealand in director Ken Annakin’s 1954 adaptation of John Guthrie’s novel. Rather melodramatic, but well-shot by legendary cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (some of it on location) and highlighted by a climactic battle sequence. Released in the US as Land of Fury.

SHARK WEEK (The Asylum Home Entertainment): What hath Jaws wrought after all these years? Strangers marooned on a deserted island are terrorized by vengeful Patrick Bergin, his associate Yancy Butler, and fiendish fish in this thriller directed by Fred Olen Ray’s son Christopher. The DVD and Blu-ray each retail for $14.95.

“STRIKE BACK”: CINEMAX SEASON 1 (HBO Home Entertainment): The fight against international terrorism commences in all 10 episodes from the 2011 season of the award-winning action series, now broadcast on Cinemax. The regular cast includes Philip Winchester, Sullivan Stapleton, Amanda Mealing and Jimi Mistry. The DVD boxed set retails for $49.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $59.96.

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2012, Mark Burger.