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The Laser Bin

June 03, 1988|BARBARA SALTZMAN

The digital technology of laser discs sometimes offers more than videocassettes can. Here are three examples.

"Topaz" (MCA Home Video Laser Video Disc, three sides, $40, 127 minutes) and "Clue"(Paramount Home Video Laser Video Disc, two sides, $40, 96 minutes). These discs share a unique feature: Both offer three alternative endings for each film. "Clue's" three endings, shown in different theaters during the film's theatrical release, are all here. On laser, you can program the film to end with any of the three finales--and murderers. Unfortunately, none of the endings changes this lame imitation of the classic board game enough to worry about whether it was Col. Mustard in the library with the candlestick, though picture and sound quality are first-rate. "Topaz," however, is another matter. Even though widely considered one of Hitchcock's "failures," it gleams next to "Clue." The "Topaz" videodisc offers three alternative endings, at least two of which should be new to most Americans. The first appeared in the U.S. theatrical release, a second was rejected after American preview audiences turned thumbs down on it, and the third screened in Europe and elsewhere. The rejected one is as bizarre as any Hitchcock joke could be.

"Strangers on a Train" (Warner Home Video, two sides, $40, 101 minutes), thought by many to be one of Hitchcock's best films, is a pleasure to see in this format, with picture quality matching the pristine black and white print. Laser chapter-stop capability makes it a snap to replay classic scenes--including catching Hitchcock's signature appearance--and to dissect the director's art.

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