by Mark Burger


At last, the quintessential ’70s doomsday thriller and one of the most underrated films of its time makes its home-video debut.Burt Lancaster plays Lawrence Dell, a former Air Force general who takes over a missile silo in Montana and threatens to start World War III unless classified documents pertaining to the Vietnam War are disclosed to the American public. Charles Durning plays President David Stevens, who must decide the proper course of action with the clock ticking.An all-star cast is on hand, and everyone gets a moment to shine:Paul Winfield and Burt Young as Dell’s cohorts, Richard Widmark as his old Air Force nemesis (now charged with taking him down) and Melvyn Douglas, Joseph Cotten, Gerald S. O’Loughlin and William Marshall as members of Stevens’ cabinet. The entire cast is superb, with special mention to Durning in a performance he himself considers his best. (He’s also perhaps the first screen president to swear onscreen — and in his opening scene, no less.)With brilliant use of the split-screen format and a customarily excellent Jerry Goldsmith score, director Robert Aldrich sustains a high-pitched tension throughout. That the entire story unfolds over a few hours enhances its suspense. Some of the political revelations and technology may be dated, but it still crackles with a moral intensity and cynicism. It’s an action movie with a point. Not only is nation’s future at stake but so is its integrity, and at the end of the film the world is a different place than at the beginning.The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.

ACT OF VALOR (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Actual Navy SEALs battle terrorists in this heavy-handed, jingoistic shoot-’em-up. Flashy action sequences and sick visuals are offset by pretentious narration and melodramatic plotting. Heavily advertised and well-promoted enough to make it a box-office hit, but plays more as recruitment propaganda than entertainment — and seems to go on forever. Rated R.

THE CAMPAIGN (Warner Home Video): Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis (both earning producer credits) are wellmatched as adversaries vying for a North Carolina congressional slot in Jay Roach’s farce, which provides outrageous laughs and some pointed observations about contemporary US politics. Star-studded support from Dan Aykroyd, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Dylan McDermott, Jason Sudeikis, Katherine LaNasa, Sarah Baker, an unbilled John Goodman and several real-life political pundits. Rated R.

CLOSE-UP (Alpha Home Entertainment): Location filming enhances this engrossing 1948 programmer with Alan Baxter as a newsman in danger after he unwittingly photographs a Nazi war criminal in midtown Manhattan. A good cast includes Virginia Gilmore (once married to Yul Brynner), Russell Collins, Loring Smith, Philip Huston and radio star Richard Kollmar (in his screen debut), the latter pair providing requisite villainy with relish.

DARK SHADOWS (Warner Home Video): Following the cancellation of the popular ABC Gothic soap opera, producer/director Dan Curtis delivered a pair of feature films: House of Dark Shadows (1970) starred much of the original TV cast (including Jonathan Frid as the vampire Barnabas Collins) and, in an entertaining fashion echoing Britain’s Hammer Films, essentially condensed almost the entire series into feature length; Night of Dark Shadows (1971), which marked Kate Jackson’s screen debut, is primarily a ghost story and isn’t as good, although the twist ending is. Each DVD retails for $14.96, each Blu-ray for $19.98. Both films are rated PG.

“FEDERAL MEN” (American Film Classics/Film Chest): A DVD collection ($24.98 retail) of 16 episodes from the primetime crime drama broadcast from 1950-’55 (first on ABC, then NBC, then back on ABC) based on actual US Treasury cases. Walter Greaza played “The Chief,” and guest stars included Ben Gazzara, Claude Akins, Carolyn Jones and James Dean. Also known as “Treasury Men in Action.”

“THE FIRM”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Entertainment One): Josh Lucas stars as Mitch McDeere, restarting his career as an attorney in Washington DC, in all 22 episodes from the inaugural (and only) season of 2012 season of the prime-time NBC legal drama based on the best-seller by John Grisham (who served as an executive producer). Molly Parker, Callum Keith Rennie and Juliette Lewis also star. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.

“FRIENDS”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Warner Home Video): The Blu-ray boxed set ($279.98 retail) of all 236 episodes from all 10 seasons (1994-’04) of the top-rated NBC sitcom starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow. Among its many Emmy nominations, in 2002 it won for Outstanding Comedy Series. The same year, Aniston won the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. In 1998, Kudrow took home the Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

”GOSSIP GIRL”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): A DVD boxed set ($59.98 retail) of all 24 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of the awardwinning CW Television Network drama series based upon Cecily von Ziegesar’s best-seller. The cast includes Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Chace Crawford, Matthew Settle, Kelly Rutherford, Penn Badgely and Kristen Bell (as the Gossip Girl).

“HART OF DIXIE”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Home Video): A five-DVD boxed set ($59.98 retail) containing all 22 episodes from the inaugural 2011- ’12 season of the CW Television Network comedy/drama, with Rachel Bilson as a displaced doctor who relocates from New York City to a small Alabama town.

“HAVEN”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Entertainment One): FBI agent Emily Rose continues to explore the myriad mysteries found in the title Maine town, in all 13 episodes from the 2011 season of the popular SyFy fantasy series based on Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid. The DVD boxed set retails for $44.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.98.

“HUNG”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEA- SON (HBO Home Entertainment): It’s the end of the line for Thomas Jane’s latter-day American gigolo in all 10 episodes from the 2011 (and final) season of the critically acclaimed HBO comedy series co-starring Anne Heche, Jane Adams and Gregg Henry. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.99.

THE INCREDIBLE MEL BROOKS: AN IR- RESISTIBLE COLLECTION OF UNHINGED COMEDY (Shout! Factory): A five-DVD/ one-CD boxed set ($89.93 retail) of performances, short films, interviews, film clips, TV appearances and more showcasing the unique comedic gifts of Oscar-winning filmmaker and funnyman Mel Brooks.

“MODERN FAMILY”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The trials and tribulations of three (very) different families continues in all 24 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of the top-rated ABC sitcom, which won five Emmy Awards including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Julie Bowen) and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Eric Stonestreet), with an additional nine nominations including Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Outstanding Supporting Actor and Sofia Vergara as Outstanding Supporting Actress, and Greg Kinnear as Outstanding Guest Actor in Comedy Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $49.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $59.99.

THE NEXT OF KIN (Alpha Home Entertainment): Effective, award-winning British-made World War II propaganda, circa 1942, detailing how gossip and innuendo can snowball into betraying a nation’s military secrets, with Mervyn Johns as a German spy. Actual wartime footage is integrated into the narrative. Look for Jack Hawkins and Basil Sydney in smaller roles, as well as J Edgar Hoover’s introduction.

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