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by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE STRANGER

(Film Chest/HD Cinema Classics/Virgil Films & Entertainment)

Paranoia, guilt, fear and suspicion are the elements expertly assembled in this 1946 Hitchcockian thriller, directed by and starring Orson Welles, now available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($15.99 retail).

Welles plays Charles Rankin, a much-respected college professor engaged to Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young), the daughter of a Supreme Court justice (Philip Merivale). There’s just one problem, and it’s big one: Charles is actually Franz Kindler, an escaped Nazi war criminal and a principal architect of the extermination of the Jews during the war.

Top-billed Edward G. Robinson plays the eponymous Mr. Wilson, a field agent for the War Crimes Office who’s come to this sleepy Connecticut town on the trail of one Franz Kindler….

Charles tries desperately to maintain his secret identity while Mary steadfastly believes his lies, even as her seemingly perfect world collapses around her. Meanwhile, Wilson craftily baits Rankin, waiting for the moment when his façade finally crumbles.

The film is fascinating for its historical perspective: It was made just after World War II but before the Nuremberg trials, and only a few years before anti-communist fervor gripped the nation. Reportedly, this was Welles’ least favorite of his own films, yet it was one of his few box-office hits, and earned an Academy Award nomination for best original story.

CARNIVAL MAGIC (Film Chest/CULTRA/ Virgil Films & Entertainment): A carnival magician (Don Stewart) and his talking chimpanzee find fame in this clunky, low-budget 1981 family comedy directed by cult filmmaker Al Adamson, whose “deft” touch is evident. This marked the final film of his actress wife Regina Carrol. The end credits promise a sequel More Carnival Magic, but one’s enough. Rated G.

CONVICTION (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A well-rendered, fact-based legal drama, with Hilary Swank (also an executive producer) as a woman who tirelessly works on behalf of her brother (Sam Rockwell), incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. To date, the best film from actor-turned-director Tony Goldwyn, with a fine supporting cast: Minnie Driver, Peter Gallagher, Melissa Leo and Juliette Lewis. Each actor gets a moment to shine, but it’s the chemistry between Swank and Rockwell that lends the film its urgency. Rated R.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Gemma Arterton plays an heiress abducted by a pair of thugs (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston) in this twisty kidnap thriller that marks the feature debut of writer/producer J. Blakeson. Plenty of twists and turns in this three-hander, and although there are some plot holes, a good try. Rated R.

DUE DATE (Warner Home Video): Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Gallifianakis take a hitor-miss cross-country journey together in director Todd Phillips’ latter-day take on Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis, the RZA, Phillips himself and UNCSA’s own Danny McBride are encountered along the way. Rated R.

FASTER (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment):

Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson gives one of his

best performances in this overlooked action thriller about an ex-con bent on revenge. Marketed as a straightforward shoot-’em-up, this is actually a latter-day film noir — and not a bad one at that, although the ending has maybe a twist or two too many. Billy Bob Thornton, sporting a Justin Bieber toupee(!), plays a grizzled cop on Johnson’s trail. Rated R.

“HOW THE EARTH WAS MADE”: THE COMPLETE SEASON TWO (A&E Home Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2009- ‘10 season of the popular, self-explanatory A&E documentary series are included in this threedisc Blu-ray boxed set ($49.95).

“ICE ROAD TRUCKERS”: THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR! (A&E Home Entertainment): All 16 episodes from the 2010 season of the popular History Channel reality series about the truck drivers who travel the treacherous roads of the Canadian Northwest. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.95, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.95.

“JEFFERSON” (A&E Entertainment): Ted Marcoux narrates this History Channel documentary ($24.95 retail) detailing the life of Thomas Jefferson, one of this nation’s Founding Fathers, author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, and also a complex, sometimes contradictory man.

THE KILLER INSIDE ME (IFC Films): Director Michael Winterbottom’s compelling, cold-blooded adaptation of Jim Thompson’s classic pulp novel stars Casey Affleck (at his glassy-eyed, creepy best) as a Texas lawman who discovers, and revels in, his psychotic side. Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Bill Pullman, Ned Beatty, Simon Baker, Elias Koteas, Tom Bower and Brent Briscoe round out an excellent cast. Not for all tastes, but moments of intensity, combined with pitch-black comedy, make this a distinct cult possibility. Rated R.

LES MISERABLES (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Producer Cameron Mackintosh’s smash, Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel commemorates its 25th anniversary with this live concert recording of the stage production, featuring Lea Salonga and Joe Jonas. The DVD retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray for $39.98.

LOVE KITTENS (First Run Features): A four-film collection ($49.95 retail) of saucy ’60s European sex classics: The Nude Set (1957) was also released as Mademoiselle Strip-Tease(!); The Twilight Girls (1961) marked the film debut of Catherine Deneuve, inarguably one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the screen; and Elke Sommer toplines Daniella by Night (1961) and Sweet Ecstasy (1962), both directed by Max Pecas and both featuring music by Charles Aznavour.

“PUPPETS WHO KILL”: THE BEST OF SEASON 3 AND 4 (Video Service Corp./MVD Visual): A selection of 13 episodes from the award-winning, Canadian-made comedy series (which ran 2002-’06), with Dan Redican as a bumbling social worker assigned to keep tabs on four puppets, each one with criminal tendencies. This isn’t your usual puppet show, that’s for sure — and it‘s definitely not for the kiddies! This two- DVD boxed set retails for $19.95.

THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY LEFAY (National Entertainment Media): Tim Allen, once a boxoffice draw, plays an inveterate ladies’ man whose funeral brings together his daughter (Elisha Cuthbert) and all his ex-wives (Andie MacDowell, Jenna Elfman, Paz Vega, Lindsay Sloane and S. Epatha Merkerson)… only he turns out to be alive. Despite a floundering cast that also includes Chris Klein, Edward Herrmann, Larry Miller, Barbara Barrie and Eric Christian Olsen, and 16 producers (including

Allen), this broad, unkempt screwball comedy bypassed theatrical release. Don’t wonder why. Rated PG-13.

SORORITY GIRLS 3-D (Retromedia Entertainment/Infinity Entertainment Group): A group of sexy hopefuls (including Jassie James, Angela Stone and Penny Flame) is subjected to a series of tasks, all of which doffing their clothes, in a game of Truth or Dare overseen by sorority leader Beverly Lynne. Uninspired lowbudget softcore silliness, filmed on one set (and probably in a single afternoon). Yes, 3-D glasses are included.

SWAT: FIREFIGHT (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A serviceable shoot-’em-up and a follow-up of sorts to the 2003 big-screen version of the ‘70s TV series, in which the members of Detroit’s police tactical team are targeted by a deranged government agent (Robert Patrick) on a rampage. Gabriel Macht, Carly Pope and Giancarlo Esposito are the cops in harm’s way. Flashy and empty-headed, but if it’s action you want…. Rated R.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO PINK FLOYD?

(Sexy Intellectual/MVD Visual): Subtitled “The Strange Case of Waters and Gilmour,” this judicious, evenhanded (but unauthorized) documentary examines the trajectory of the popular rock ‘n’ roll band after hitting superstar status in the 1970s, and the subsequent creative differences that separated Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Interviews with critics and writers are smoothly interspersed with archival interviews with band members.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger

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