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All the Presidents' Films and More

February 16, 1996|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's Presidents Day weekend and you haven't a clue how to celebrate the holiday. Well, why not check out these videos focusing on famous past residents of the White House?

Barry Bostwick plays the man who could never tell a lie in "George Washington" (Warner), a decent 1984 TV miniseries based on James Thomas Flexner's bio, and the so-so 1986 sequel, "George Washington: The Forging of a Nation" (MGM, $30).

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson buffs might enjoy "1776" (Columbia, $20), an entertaining 1972 musical about America's first Continental Congress. William Daniels and Ken Howard star.

Nick Nolte, though, seems a mite uncomfortable as Jefferson in Merchant Ivory's sleep-inducing 1995 costume drama "Jefferson in Paris" (Touchstone).

Charlton Heston plays President Andrew Jackson in 1958's "The Buccaneer" (Barr Films; Facets, $15), a swashbuckler about Old Hickory's relationship with pirate Jean LaFitte (Yul Brynner) during the Battle of 1812.

There have been several bios of Abraham Lincoln: D.W. Griffith's static 1930 "Abraham Lincoln" (Nostalgia Family Video, $20) starring Walter Huston; John Ford's 1939 drama "Young Mr. Lincoln" (FoxVideo, $20) with Henry Fonda; 1940's "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" (Turner, $20) starring a terrific Raymond Massey; and the 1988 NBC miniseries "Gore Vidal's Lincoln" (Pacific Arts, $30) starring Sam Waterston.

Brian Keith gives a larger-than-life performance as Teddy Roosevelt in John Milius' 1975 romantic adventure "The Wind and the Lion" (MGM). Candice Bergen and Sean Connery star.

Alexander Knox received a best actor Oscar nomination for his sturdy performance as Woodrow Wilson in 1944's lavish film biography "Wilson" (FoxVideo, $20).

Ralph Bellamy repeated his Broadway triumph as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1960's "Sunrise at Campobello" (Warner), a fine drama chronicling FDR's battle to conquer polio.

Edward Herrmann received an Emmy as FDR in "Eleanor & Franklin" (Time-Life Video and TV), a splendid 1976 miniseries based on Joseph Lash's biography.

James Whitmore won an Oscar nomination for his boisterous performance as President Harry S. Truman in 1975's "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!" (Worldvision, $20), a filmization of Whitmore's one-man stage show.

Gary Sinise just won the Golden Globe for his engaging turn as the man from Missouri in "Truman" (HBO Video), HBO's adaptation of David McCullough's bestseller.

A miscast Patrick Dempsey plays young John F. Kennedy in "J.F.K.: Reckless Youth" (Cabin Fever), a lumbering 1993 miniseries version of Nigel Hamilton's controversial biography.

Martin Sheen, though, fares much better as JFK in the 1983 miniseries "Kennedy" (Prism, $14).

One of the best films about Richard Nixon is the 1976 thriller "All the President's Men" (Warner, $20), the Oscar-winning 1976 adaptation of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's book about the Watergate break-in. Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman and Jason Robards star.

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Martin Balsam: The versatile character actor, who died earlier this week of an apparent heart attack at age 76, won a best supporting actor Oscar for the 1965 comedy "A Thousand Clowns" (MGM/UA, $20), as the straight-arrow brother of a nonconformist (Jason Robards). Balsam also made a nice impression as Holly Golightly's agent in the 1961 romantic comedy "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (Paramount, $15). And who can forget his grisly murder at the hands of Mrs. Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 thriller "Psycho" (MCA/Universal, $15)?

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TV: Paramount Home Video is releasing three special-edition versions ($15 each) of the popular syndicated supernatural series "Sightings": "The UFO Report," "The Psychic Experience" and "The Ghost Report."

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New to Rhino Home Video is "The Rutles--All You Need Is Cash" ($15), the hilarious Beatles spoof that aired on NBC in 1978. Included is 15 minutes of recently discovered footage.

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Foreign Affair: Orion Home Video has released a "Louis Malle Masterpieces" gift-box collection ($50), featuring the late French director's acclaimed "Au Revoir Les Enfants," "Murmur of the Heart" and "May Fools."

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Killer Bs: Jennifer Rubin, Damian Chapa and Scott Plank star in the sleazy, erotic thriller "Saints and Sinners" (Live). . . . "Blondes Have More Guns" (Troma) is a silly, tasteless, slapsticky spoof of "Basic Instinct" and "Indecent Proposal."

New This Week: Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter star in the suspense thriller "Copycat" (Warner).

"Unzipped" (Miramax) is the acclaimed documentary on fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.

Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo star in the comedy "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" (MCA/Universal).

Also new: "Down Came a Blackbird"; "The Stars Fell on Henrietta" (Warner); "Mute Witness" (Columbia TriStar); "Window to Paris" (Columbia TriStar); "Dead Tired" (Miramax); "Hackers" (MGM/UA); and "The Affair" (HBO Video).

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