video vault

by Mark Burger

video vault

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): This wistful, mournful elegy to individuality and rebellion, adapted by Dalton Trumbo from Edward Abbey’s novel Brave Cowboy, never found its audience in 1962 but remains a personal favorite of its star, Kirk Douglas (whose company produced the film). Douglas plays Jack Burns, a latter-day cowhand and roustabout with an unerring knack for trouble. A series of circumstances, many his own doing, sees Burns become a fugitive from the law and making a desperate break for Mexico on horseback. It’s not long before the police are in hot pursuit, especially a canny sheriff (Walter Matthau) who recognizes Burns for what he is — a man out of his time — but not without a modicum of admiration. The film is not without a few contrived moments, but it’s very easy to get caught up in it, and in the momentum of the narrative thanks to Philip Lathrop’s exquisite black-andwhite cinematography, a customarily fine Jerry Goldsmith score, attentive direction by David Miller and a supporting cast that includes Gena Rowlands, George Kennedy, Carroll O’Connor and William Schallert. Nevertheless, this is Douglas’ show all the way, and he’s terrific. The special features include a retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Douglas (still going strong at 93), Rowlands, Michael Douglas and Steven Spielberg, himself a fan of the film. ***’½


ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Jon Hall plays the title role in this goofy, intermittently entertaining 1944 Technicolor rendition of the classic adventure story from the Arabian Knights, featuring top-billed Maria Montez, Turhan Bey and Andy Devine as Abdullah (!), perhaps the most unlikely of those 40 thieves. And, yes, saying “Open Sesame” aloud will open secret caves. **’½

BARAKA (MPI Home Video): Director/cinematographer Ron Fricke’s critically-acclaimed, awardwinning 1992 documentary feature, filmed in 70mm in 24 countries on six continents, examines the imagery (both natural and man-made) that makes our planet unique. Available on DVD ($29.98 retail) or Blu-ray ($34.98 retail).

BEAU GESTE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Producer/ director William Wellman’s rousing, action-packed 1939 adaptation of Percival Christopher Wren’s classic adventure novel stars Gary Cooper in the title role, that of the oldest of three brothers (Ray Milland and Robert Preston being the other two) who join the French Foreign Legion and learn the true meaning of honor and heroism in the face of overwhelming odds. Also on hand: Susan Hayward, Broderick Crawford, J. Carrol Naish, Albert Dekker and, best of all, the unforgettable Brian Donlevy as the sadistic Sgt. Markoff. Academy Award nominations for art direction/ set decoration and Donlevy as Best Supporting Actor. That’s young Donald O’Connor playing Beau as a youth. ***’½

THE CELL 2 (New Line Home Entertainment/Warner Home Video): A garish, unnecessary (and in-nameonly) follow-up to the 2000 serialkiller thriller, with Tessie Santiago as a psychic on the trail of a serial killer. Give the cast (also including Chris Bruno, Bart Johnson and Frank Whaley) points for trying, but it’s not nearly enough. Rated R. *

“THE CLEANER” — THE FIRST SEASON (CBS Home Entertainment/ Paramount Home Entertainment): Benjamin Bratt plays the title role, that of recovering addict who does his best to help others help themselves in similar straits, in all 13 episodes from the 2008 season of the top-rated, award-winning, prime-time A&E dramatic series — inspired by an actual story and released to coincide with the second season premiere. This four-disc boxed set retails for $54.99.

DOUBT (Miramax Films/ Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Screenwriter/ director John Patrick Shanley expertly adapts his Pulitzer Prizewinning play to the screen in this award-winning adaptation, depicting the clash of wills that erupts between a progressive young priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the ironwilled principal (Meryl Streep) of a Catholic school in the early 1960s — fueled by suspicions of sexual misconduct. One of last year’s best, and best-acted, films, with five well-deserved Oscar nominations to show for it: Best Actress (Streep, the 15 th nomination of her career), Best Supporting Actor (Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (both Amy Adams and Viola Davis), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Rated PG-13. ***’½

FAITH LIKE POTATOES (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Frank Rautenbach plays Angus Buchan, a real-life farmer in South Africa who gained a new lease on life when he found God, in this sincere and picturesque, but overlong, adaptation of Buchan’s inspirational non-fiction best-seller, adapted for the screen by director Regardt van der Bergh. Rated PG. **

“KATH & KIM” — SEASON 1 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Molly Shannon (she’s “Kath”) and Selma Blair (she’s “Kim”) are a neurotic mother/ daughter duo in all 17 episodes from the 2008-’09 (and only) season of the prime-time NBC-TV situation comedy inspired by a popular Australian sitcom. This specialedition DVD, replete with audio commentaries, deleted scenes and a gag real, retails for $29.98.

“PERRY MASON” — SEASON FOUR, VOLUME ONE (CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): The indomitable Raymond Burr (Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Lead Performance by an Actor in a Series) returns as the relentless defense attorney who can’t be beat in the first 16 episodes from the 1960- ’61 season of the long-running, prime-time CBS-TV courtroom series based on the character created by Erle Stanley Gardner. As Perry’s faithful assistant Della Street, Barbara Hale scored an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor or Actress in a Series. This four-disc boxed set retails for $54.99.

PILLOW TALK (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): A 50 th – anniversary special edition of the bubbly 1959 romantic comedy with Rock Hudson and Doris Day (Oscar nominee as Best Actress) playing a duo who unhappily share a party line, but wind up together after he adopts a phony identity to get close to her. Glossy and contrived but irresistible nonetheless, with the Hudson/Day duo in top form, backed by Tony Randall, Nick Adams and Thelma Ritter (Oscar nominee as Best Supporting Actress). Additional Academy Award nominations for art direction/set decoration and Frank De Vol’s score, with a win for original screenplay (besting the likes of North by Northwest, The 400 Blows and Wild Strawberries!). This huge box-office hit was produced by Ross Hunter and Martin Meltzer (Day’s husband). ***

“PULLING” — THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (MPI Home Video): Tanya Franks, Rebekah Stanton and series creator Sharon Horgan portray three twenty-something single friends making their way through the world, in all six episodes of the 2006 season of the bold, bawdy, awardwinning British situation comedy, here making its US debut on DVD ($24.98 retail).

“ROB THOMAS: SOMETHING TO BE TOUR — LIVE AT RED ROCKS” (E1 Entertainment): The title tells all for this special-edition DVD ($19.99 retail) featuring the three-time Grammy Award winner and Matchbox Twenty veteran performing in concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, originally broadcast on PBS’ “Soundstage” in 2007 and now being released in time to coincide with Thomas’ latest album, “cradlesong.”

“THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER” — SEASON TWO (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Molly Ringwald and Shailene Woodley return in all 12 episodes from the 2009 season of the award-winning ABC Family comedy/drama series depicting the trials and tribulations of the teenage years. This boxed set retails for $39.99.

SERIOUS CHARGE (VCI Entertainment): Speaking of Doubt (see above), Terence Young’s 1959 adaptation of a Philip King play stars Anthony Quayle as an unmarried vicar accused of untoward behavior by a neighborhood ruffian (Andrew Ray). Dated in some respects but still quite credible, with good support from Sarah Churchill, Irene Browne and Percy Herbert. In his screen debut, future superstar Cliff Richard contributes a few rock ‘n’ roll tunes. ***

SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT (The Criterion Collection): One of Ingmar Bergman’s most revered and beloved films, this award-winning 1955 romantic comedy depicts an eventful summer evening where Cupid’s arrow strikes — repeatedly and unexpectedly. The ensemble cast includes Gunnar Bjornstrand, Harriet Andersson and Ulla Jacobson. This special-edition DVD, which includes an introduction by Bergman and a retrospective documentary, retails for $29.95.

THE UNBORN (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Writer/director David S. Goyer’s atmospheric but disappointing chiller stars Odette Yustman as a young woman pursued by a malevolent spirit of Hebrew mythology determined to possess her. As a rabbi-turned-exorcist, Gary Oldman tries to help. Better he’d stayed at home. Ditto co-stars Jane Alexander, James Remar, Idris Elba and Carla Gugino — all of whom are wasted. Originally titled Born. Rated PG-13 (although both the DVD and Blu-ray include an unrated version). *’½

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2009, Mark Burger