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'E.T.' Due Soon, but Questions Remain; 'Dog' Without Subtitles Raises Some Hackles

February 19, 1988|DENNIS HUNT | Times Staff Writer

MCA's recent announcement about the home-video debut of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," the all-time top-grossing movie, was remarkably vague. All it said was that the movie, which has grossed more than $700 million, is due out in the fall, in time for the Christmas shopping season.

There weren't any details--about price, release date, cable or pay-per-view plans--because they haven't been worked out yet.

So why make the announcement now?

"We were backed into it," said Gene Giaquinto, president of the MCA Home Entertainment Group. "We had no choice."

Some information about the long-awaited home-video debut was accidentally leaked in a recent New York Times article about the home-video firm's parent company, MCA Inc.

"We were besieged by calls about it from everywhere," Giaquinto said. "The mention in that article was premature to our release plans. But we felt we had to make some kind of announcement. That's why I came out with that somewhat innocuous press release."

One big question is the price--whether it will fall in the $90-$100 or the $20-$30 range. Giaquinto didn't want to talk about that. At a low price of, say, $29.95, it's almost certain that "E.T." would become the biggest selling home video ever--surpassing "Lady and the Tramp" and "Top Gun," which have sold nearly 3 million cassettes each.

Another unanswered question is whether "E.T." will include a commercial--maybe for a phone company or the maker of Reese's Pieces. Giaquinto declined to speculate on that or on MCA's cable and per-per-view plans for the film.

But he added: "In six to eight weeks there will be a huge press conference that will answer all questions."

DUBBED 'DOG': Paramount Home Video is going to be in the doghouse with many foreign-language movie fans. Its April 20 release of "My Life as a Dog," the Swedish childhood drama directed by Oscar nominee Lasse Hallstrom, will be the dubbed version only.

But according to Paramount executive Eric Doctorow, a subtitled version may also be released later. "If enough people in the marketplace want it, we'll put it out," he said.

The problem is that retailers and distributors aren't that eager to carry subtitled movies because there's not a big market for them.

"We want this to be a mainstream movie, to be seen by as many people as possible," Doctorow said. "That means putting out the version that's going to get the broadest acceptance--the dubbed version."

COMING MOVIES: On April 14, Vestron will release the original, uncut version--including 31 minutes trimmed for the American release--of director Michael Cimino's maligned "The Sicilian." The shorter version--115 minutes--will be available too.

Two Robert Downey Jr. movies are due April 14 on CBS-Fox: "Less Than Zero," co-starring Andrew McCarthy and Jami Gertz, and "The Pick-up Artist," featuring Molly Ringwald.

Next week: Virgin Vision's "A Prayer for the Dying" and Warner Video's "The Lost Boys." Next month: "Matewan" (March 2), "Howling III" (March 2), "Hellraiser" (March 8), "Beverly Hills Cop II" (March 9), "Stakeout" (March 15), "Surrender" (March 16), "The Big Shots" (March 16) and "The Living Daylights" (March 17).

NEW RELEASES: HBO's "No Way Out," a tense, sexy thriller set in Washington, D.C., is about the grim consequences of high-level hanky-panky. A caustic secretary of defense (Gene Hackman) and a Navy intelligence officer (Kevin Costner) are having a secret affair with the same woman (Sean Young). Her death triggers a cover-up, which points the finger of suspicion at a fictitious Russian spy. As the cover-up unravels in the Pentagon in the second half of the movie, the naval officer--our hero--gets deeper into a hole. Roger Donaldson's super-slick direction covers up most of the plot holes and loose ends, and almost makes the out-of-the-blue twist at the end seem less ludicrous. As the slimy aide who comes to the Secretary's defense, Will Patton steals the movie.

A better name for MGM/UA's "Spaceballs" is cornballs. Some of the jokes in Mel Brooks' scatter-gun satire on "Star Wars" are woefully corny. But quite a few--particularly in the second half--are on target. Once you see this you'll have a hard time watching "Star Wars" with a straight face. Co-starring are Rick Moranis as a wimpy Darth Vader, John Candy as Barf, the sassy half-dog creature, and Brooks in a dual role of the sneaky President Skroob and a comical Jewish sage named Yogurt. Warning: Some may find the Jewish jokes in this expensive, undisciplined comedy offensive.

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