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Videos Give Basics in Foreign Languages, Sailing, Riding

June 16, 1989|TERRY ATKINSON

When the summer heat gets too hot, people retreat to the movies--either to theaters or to the VCR. But, when it comes to videos, there's more to watch than films.

Here's just a sampling of tapes that can enhance your summer fun.


What pleasures and horrors await us on vacation? Guidebooks give us a good idea--but in supplying a real look at where we're going (and what we want to avoid), they can't compare to a good travel-tips video.

One of the most highly regarded video-travel series is Laura McKenzie's, and for many Southern Californians her "Mexican Beach Resorts" will come in mighty handy.

In this classy production's brisk, fact-filled 55 minutes, the chirpy but savvy McKenzie takes us on a breezy tour of the best beaches, restaurants, shopping areas and historical sights in Acapulco, Puerta Vallarta, Baja, Cancun and Mazatlan.

McKenzie covers most of the bases--one moment touting some restaurant as among the world's best, then issuing blunt warnings. For example: "(Taxi) drivers will cheat you if they can." She also lists 20 foods to avoid if you don't want Montezuma's Revenge. Although not all of McKenzie's tapes are as brightly produced (much of her London guide resembles a dull travelogue), her strong reputation may be justified. The other travel-tips series we've seen, Fodor's, is ill-constructed and riddled with commercial spots.

Many video stores carry some of the Laura McKenzie travel tapes ($24.95 each). For the complete list, call Republic Home Video, (800) 826-2295.


Far-off places can be a lot easier to explore if you know a few fundamental phrases, like "Are there any exotic bacteria in this entree?" Especially if you're in France, whose inhabitants have considerably less patience with anglais than citizens of most other Western European countries.

Vidmark's "Joy of Talking French" comes to the rescue with 79 minutes of basic language instruction--a male instructor with a French accent speaks a phrase, an American woman (representing you and me) repeats the phrase, sometimes getting brusquely corrected. The phrase appears in written form at the bottom of the screen.

Not exciting, but helpful, the tape is traveler-oriented, divided into sections on hotels, restaurants, etc. Also included is a booklet of phrases and an audiocassette of the video's sound track for playing in your car.

The "Joy of Talking" series ($39.95) is also available in German, Hebrew, Italian and Spanish. The tapes are available at several outlets including Tower Video, telephone (213) 829-4359. HORSING AROUND

Even if you've trotted a steed around Griffith Park several times--in fact, even if you already own a horse--"Stefanie Powers' Introduction to Horseback Riding and Horse Care" probably will teach you several valuable techniques about the art of horsemanship . . . or horsewomanship.

You'll learn everything from how to get the horse out of the gate (with you attached, if you heed Powers' warnings) to getting the horse into the desired gait.

None of the demonstrators actually gets on a horse until halfway through the 52-minute cassette, and weekend riders may want to skip a lot of the material on feeding, washing and grooming horses.

Powers (former star of TV's "Hart to Hart") is a confident teacher who guides two pupils--a boy and a girl--onto the saddle and beyond. Aided by a male voice-over narrator, Powers explains everything from how to hold the reins (make a tepee with your thumbs, then drop them and pretend you're holding a horizontal stick that you're using to steer) to how to get the darn nag--oops, we mean magnificent creature--to respond to your every riding whim.

"Stefanie Powers' Introduction to Horseback Riding and Horse Care" ($39.95) is available from M. R. S. Enterprises, telephone (800) 451-0303.


"We like to toss off a lot at you," instructor Steve Colgate tells actress Audrey Landers ("Dallas") near the beginning of the fact-packed 106-minute "Learn to Sail."

He's not kidding. Landers and actor Sam Jones ("Flash Gordon") get a full course in boat-handling in this excellent how-to tape. There's so much to learn that it may make novices a little seasick: What every part of a boat is called, how to tie a square knot, that a mainsheet is not a sheet but a line, the most acceptable pronunciation of leeward (not lee-ward , but something like loord ) . . . and about half a zillion other fine nautical points.

"Learn to Sail" is nothing if not thorough. Fortunately, it's also clear and superbly produced (right down to the pretty, unobtrusive guitar music in the background) and hosted with command by Colgate, who's been doing this sort of instruction for more than 20 years.

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