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A Sampling of Favorite Cassettes for the Small Screen

January 01, 1988|TERRY ATKINSON

If your eyes aren't blurred over from reading all the best-of-'87 lists, here's one more: for the top videocassettes of the year. Since the year was such a rich and varied one in video, this list represents only a sampling of the favorite tapes of Times writers who reviewed them for the Home Tech column.

MOVIES

"Lady and the Tramp." Walt Disney. This '50s animated classic is no dog on video, though the small screen sometimes snips the puppies' tails.

"The Night of the Hunter." MGM/UA. A dark (and darkly funny) masterpiece about love and fear.

"The Miracle of Morgan's Creek," "The Palm Beach Story" and "The Lady Eve." MCA. Preston Sturges lives!

"Help!" MPI. That other Beatles film--some flaws, much fun. Color and newly digitized hi-fi sound, too.

"Touch of Evil." MCA. The last of the Orson Welles masterpieces.

"Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Radio Days." HBO. Two pre-"September" beauties from Woody Allen.

"La Strada." Embassy. Fellini's early masterpiece--a tear-jerker with immense depth.

"Hiroshima Mon Amour." Embassy. Alain Resnais and Margaret Dumas, playing a bizarre and wonderful cinematic game.

"My Favorite Wife." Republic. No one is funnier in a mixed-up farce than Cary Grant.

"The Docks of New York" and "The Wedding March." Paramount. Silents are golden on video, thanks to Paramount, which added fine organ sound tracks.

"Forbidden Games." Embassy. Moving French classic about two children in World War II.

"The Red Shoes." Paramount. Perhaps the best fictional film ever made about dance--or about the arts, period.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" and "Frankenstein." MCA. "The Seven Samurai." Embassy. Great films reappearing in restored versions.

MUSIC AND DANCE

"Swing: The Best of the Big Bands." MCA. Outstanding four-volume collection of '40s shorts.

"R.E.M. Succumbs." A&M. Succumbs to music-video demands, that is, and quite artfully.

"Celebrating Bird" and "Saxophone Colossus: Sonny Rollins." Sony. Outstanding jazz retrospectives by Robert Mugge.

"Maria Callas Hamburg Concert, 1959" and "Maria Callas Hamburg Concert, 1962." Kultur. Black-and-white performances filmed during the diva's prime--cherishable mementos.

"L'Enfant et les Sortileges." Home Vision. Jiri Kylian's children's ballet to music by Ravel--a magical alternative to "The Nutcracker."

"The Doors: Live at the Hollywood Bowl." MCA. Not the '60s group at its best, but a valuable document for fans, restructured from damaged-sound film with painstaking care.

"Piano Legends" and "Trumpet Kings." VAI. Two great jazz-short compilations.

"The Coltrane Legacy." VAI. A look back at the great saxophonist John Coltrane.

"Davidsbuendlertaenze." Home Vision. Balanchine's intimate, brooding one-act masterwork set to Robert Schumann's piano cycle.

"Ailey Dances." Kultur. A classic, four-part, live-performance program of Alvin Ailey's works.

"Jazz on a Summer's Day." Sony. Bert Stern's exquisitely photographed documentary about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

"Beastie Boys." CBS/Fox. Outrageous, very lively video compilation-plus.

CHILDREN'S

"Shari Lewis Presents 101 Things for Kids to Do." Random House. An activity tape (for kids 6 to 12) that really delivers.

"King Cole's Party." Price/Stern/Sloan. A live-action kids' tape with imagination and humor.

"Babysongs" and "More Babysongs." Hi-Tops. Top-notch music video for tots.

DOCUMENTARY

"The Henry Miller Odyssey" and "Anais Nin Observed." Masterworks. Two of Robert Snyder's superb documentaries.

"Profile of a Writer." Home Vision's insightful series on Joseph Heller, David Mamet and several others, combining interview and illustration.

"Life on Earth." Warner. The thoughtful David Attenborough nature series.

"World Without Walls: Beryl Markham's African Memoir." Wild Wing. The aviator's unique life is being made into as many as three movies.

"The Fantasy World of George Pal." New World/LCA. Special-effects wizardry.

"Marlene." Embassy. A fascinating look (and non-look) at actress Marlene Dietrich.

"The March of Time." Embassy. Life in these United States in the '40s and '50s--an extremely valuable series of videos.

COMEDY

"Fawlty Towers." CBS/Fox. John Cleese as the world's most obnoxious and funniest hotel manager.

"Billy Crystal: Don't Get Me Started." Vestron. Half stand-up and half hilarious--and premonitory--mock-documentary about some old Vegas stars getting together again.

INSTRUCTION/INFORMATION

"Stop Smoking for Life." Lorimar. Good advice from Larry Hagman.

"Rockschool." Lorimar. A super introduction to the art of making rock music.

"The Natural Way to Meet the Right Person." Delza. Smart tips for singles.

"Jane Fonda's SportsAid." Lorimar. Taking care of and avoiding those exercise and leisure-sport injuries.

MISCELLANEOUS

"China." Paramount/Windham Hill. Painterly images of China's landscapes and people set to mellow, gentle music.

"The Charles Bukowski Tapes." Lagoon. A raw look at a raw poet-author.

"The Prisoner: Chimes of Big Ben Alternative Version." MPI. A special addition to MPI's tapes of this classic British TV series.

"Columbia Pictures Cartoon Classics." RCA/Columbia. "Gerald McBoing-Boing" and other UPA works that helped change the look of cartoons in the '50s.

"Voyage to the Outer Planets." Today. NASA and JPL film segments set to Holst. Breathtaking.

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