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Price of Laser Recorders Limits Market : Affordable compact disc units may be just a few years away, but don't expect a budget laser disc machine soon.

January 24, 1992|DENNIS HUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At the recent Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, Pioneer showed off a $40,000 recordable laser disc machine, reminding us how many years away we are from a reasonably priced machine that will allow us to make our own laser discs. But apparently we're not so far from a relatively inexpensive unit that records CDs.

Marantz showed the CDR-1, which is a CD recorder. It's due out this winter at a steep price--$7,000. The blank CDs aren't cheap, either: $50 each.

The beauty of the Pioneer recordable laser disc player is that it's infinitely reusable. With the Marantz unit, however, you can only use each CD once and can't erase what you've recorded.

But some features of this machine show progress in the recordable CD field. For instance, you can start recording a CD, stop and finish it later, a luxury not possible with earlier, less sophisticated machines. And the CD can be played on any CD player.

At $7,000, the CDR-1 is aimed at professionals. Recordable CD players, with reusable blanks and prices in the $1,000 to $2,000 range, are still a few years away.

At the Las Vegas show, Sharp's 8mm camcorders also attracted a lot of attention. The VL-MX7U and the VL-MX6U are the first 8mm units with two lenses--one wide-angle and one telephoto. The big bonus is that you can switch quickly between the lenses, giving home videos a sophisticated look that wasn't previously possible. Special effects are also possible, including one that enables you to show two images on the screen simultaneously--one full-frame picture and a smaller insert in the corner.

The VL-MX7U, which boasts stereo sound, is $1,700. The simpler VL-MX6U is $1,400.

Upcoming on Video and Laser Disc: On video: "Life Stinks" (Jan. 29), "Hot Shots" (Jan. 30); "Mobsters" (Jan. 30); "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead" (Feb. 19); "Rambling Rose" (March 3) and "Dead Again" (March 12).

Laser disc: Disney's "The Jungle Book" is due on Feb. 14 at $30. Voyager will release special versions of two movies: "Boyz N the Hood" comes out March 12 on a disc showing production stills and an audition video, in addition to an extra audio track featuring director John Singleton's comments; "The Fisher King," the bizarre romantic comedy starring Robin Williams and Mercedes Ruehl, is due March 25, including extra footage plus an audio track with commentary by director Terry Gilliam.

What's New on Video and Laser: "Whore" (Vidmark, $90). Theresa Russell plays a hooker in this sordid look at a seamy profession. There are several versions available--R-rated, NC-17 rated and unrated, featuring footage not seen in theaters.

"Showdown in Little Tokyo" (Warner, $93). This bloody cop movie is a B-Movie version of "Lethal Weapon," with Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee playing officers battling Japanese crooks in L.A.

"Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken" (Disney, $93). An inspirational, sentimental, family-oriented movie about the trials of a dedicated, Depression-era teen (Gabrielle Anwar) who goes blind. Co-stars Cliff Robertson.

"Lost in a Harem" (MGM/UA, $20). Abbott and Costello are in near peak form in this 1944 comedy in which the bumbling pair help a sheik reclaim his throne. For swing fans, there are snappy numbers by the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra.

"Beverly Hills, 90210" (Worldvision, $90). For those who didn't tape the 90-minute pilot of the teen-oriented series, this introduces the characters and hints at the traumas--and quality--to come.

"Broadway Melody of 1936" (MGM/UA, $20). Eleanor Powell, one of the best dancers of the '30s, struts her stuff in the frothy musical comedy about a small-town girl trying to make it on Broadway. Co-starring Jack Benny and Robert Taylor.

"I Dood It" (MGM/UA, $20). Despite a dumb title, this 1943 musical comedy about a tailor romancing a movie star has some sparkling moments and some first-rate music, including "Taking a Chance on Love." It stars Red Skelton and Eleanor Powell and features Lena Horne and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.

"King of the Forest Rangers" (Republic, $30). There are some fairly exciting B-movie style action sequences in this 1946 Western serial (12 episodes) about a ranger (Larry Thompson) battling an evil archeologist who's hunting a secret treasure.

"1991 Year in Review," (CNN, $15). A surprisingly tame, unimaginative, hourlong look at possibly the most exciting news year since the '60s.

"Queen: We Will Rock You" (Strand, $14.98). A 90-minute concert video featuring the greatest hits of the English band, led by Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in November.

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