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VCRs Good Enough to Catch 'Rabbit' : Don't want to spring for a laser disc? Don't despair--videotapes of the Disney feature also have the notorious scenes.

March 18, 1994|DENNIS HUNT | TIME STAFF WRITER

Want to know how weird this whole "Roger Rabbit" business has become?

You don't need a laser-disc copy of Disney's "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" to check out those notorious scenes. The videotape has the same sequences.

To see them, though, what's needed is a VCR with four heads--fairly standard with stereo VCRs. The extra two heads provide the same high-quality freeze-frame and slow-motion capabilities you get with a laser machine.

Watching the tape in the office, using freeze-frame and slow-motion, only one of the scenes seemed fairly lewd. The cartoon character of Baby Herman fondles a woman as he passes under her dress.

Everything else, though, is tame. On a graffiti-covered wall near a phone you can see very clearly, "For a good time call Allyson Wonderland." When Jessica Rabbit is thrown from a car after an accident, you can see for a split second that she's not wearing underwear. But it's not a close-up and you don't see defined sexual parts.

Since the news came out Monday about these previously undetected frames, emphasizing that they could only be seen on a laser-disc machine, every laser copy of "Roger Rabbit" in town seems to have been sold. At a Videotheque store on Sunset Strip this week, a man was walking up to customers in the laser section, saying he'd pay $200 for a laser copy that retails for $40. A woman at Lazer Blazer in West Los Angeles was offering $250.

For another $50 or so, she could get a four-headed VCR.

Candy Movies

Retailers are reporting a huge run on John Candy movies since his recent death. All indications are that it will be a long run. Some retailers say many interested customers only know about a few of his films and are looking for guidance on what to rent.

Here's a rough guide: His two best movies as a comic actor were "Splash," playing second banana to Tom Hanks, and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," tormenting a fellow traveler portrayed by Steve Martin. Though he's fairly good in the slapstick "Uncle Buck," the movie is thin. Two of his funniest efforts were smaller parts in "Home Alone" and "Stripes." He stretched a bit--rather successfully--in 1991's "Only the Lonely," a sentimental tale of a mama's boy who falls in love.

Candy movies to avoid: "Brewster's Millions," "Summer Rental," "Volunteers," "The Great Outdoors" and "Who's Harry Crumb?"

Marketing Classics

Always looking for ways to market its vast library of classics, MGM/UA is including a free documentary about some of its old movies when you buy certain films. Called "The Lion's Roar Magazine," it features behind-the-scenes clips from classics such as "Ben-Hur" and "Gone With the Wind."

"The point is to increase the customer base for classics, to inspire people to buy old movies," said George Feltenstein, the company's senior vice president and general manager.

100,000 copies of the magazine just went on the market, attached to titles such as "Rain Man," "Casablanca," "Moonstruck" and "Thelma & Louise," which sell for $20.

The drawback to this marketing scheme is its expense, which Feltenstein described as "considerable." The profit margin on old movies is already very small and gets even smaller with this costly documentary.

Was the price of the movies raised to help pay for the documentary?

"Not at all," Feltenstein insisted. If the documentary generates fan interest, he said they may come up with a new one every quarter.

What's New on Video

"Gettysburg" (Turner). The stirring battle scenes make this four-hour Civil War drama worth seeing, despite the miscasting of Martin Sheen as Gen. Robert Lee and overacting by an impressive cast that includes Tom Berenger and Jeff Daniels.

"So I Married an Axe Murderer" (Columbia TriStar). In this wacky comedy, a husband (Mike Myers) is convinced that his wife (Nancy Travis) is a killer and that he's the next victim. Nonstop, low-brow silliness has its moments if you're in the right mood.

"Wilder Napalm" (Columbia TriStar). Weird comedy about two brothers (Dennis Quaid and Arliss Howard) who can start fires by telekinesis. They're at odds, partly over a woman (Debra Winger). Directed by Glenn Caron Gordon, who created TV's "Moonlighting." Strains to be offbeat and is occasionally charming but most often unsatisfying.

Upcoming

Just announced: Best picture Oscar nominee "The Piano," starring Holly Hunter, a best actress nominee, is due on May 25 from LIVE. Paramount's "Wayne's World 2" is scheduled for June 8 release.

Also: "What's Love Got to Do With It," "Fatal Instinct" and "Mr. Wonderful" (Wednesday); "Father Hood," "The Saint of Fort Washington" "Ruby in Paradise" and "The Joy Luck Club" (March 30); "A Bronx Tale" and "The Beverly Hillbillies" (April 6); "Malice," "Carlito's Way" and "Cool Running" (April 13); "Mr. Jones," "Flesh and Bone" and "Another Stakeout" (April 20); "Mrs. Doubtfire" (April 26); "The Remains of the Day" (May 4).

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