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Putting Video Spotlight on Old Classics

September 13, 1996|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Both Kino on Video and MCA/Universal have mined their vaults and unearthed some terrific (and some not-so-terrific) old films due for release Tuesday on video.

Kino's "Lost European Classics" features three interesting imports ($30 each).

After fleeing Nazi Germany in the early 1930s, a young Billy Wilder lived in Paris, where he co-wrote and directed (with Alexandre Esway) "Mauvaise Graine," a breezy, fun 1933 comedy about a young slacker (Pierre Mingand) who joins a group of savvy car thieves after his rich dad cuts him off without a franc. Danielle Darrieux also stars.

A real rarity is Max Ophuls' ("La Ronde") schmaltzy but endearing 1932 tragedy "Liebelei." The Nazis suppressed the film and destroyed the original negative because of the Jewish background of Ophuls and writer Arthur Schnitzler and because of the film's critical depiction of military codes of honor. Kino's print is digitally remastered from one of the few existing copies.

"Liebelei" features a touching performance from Magda Schneider (Romy's mother) as a sensitive opera singer who falls for a handsome soldier (Wolfgang Leibeneiner).

The best of the lot is the evocative, highly stylized 1946 German film "Murderers Are Among Us," starring Ernst Wilhelm Borchert and Hildegard Knef. Splendidly directed by Wolfgang Staudte, this moody drama has an incredible look--stark lighting, offbeat and intense camera angles--and moving performances from Knef, as a concentration camp survivor, and Borchert, as a former Nazi officer and surgeon traumatized by the war. A must-see.

To order any of the videos, call (800) 562-3330.

MCA/Universal is adding four more titles ($15 each) to its Universal Cinema Classics line. Ray Milland and Charles Laughton star in the taut 1948 thriller "The Big Clock," which was later remade with Kevin Costner as "No Way Out."

Rugged Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and Ann Blyth star in the colorful 1952 seafaring romance "The World in His Arms." Gary Cooper and George Raft headline the OK 1937 action-adventure "Souls at Sea."

And Lana Turner, Anthony Quinn, Sandra Dee and John Saxon devour the scenery whole in the deliciously campy 1960 Ross Hunter melodrama "Portrait in Black."

MCA/Universal's Shirley Temple Collection features two of the Mop Top's 1934 Paramount films: "Now and Forever" and "Little Miss Marker" ($15 each).

Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard star with Temple in "Now and Forever," a so-so drama about a charming thief who mends his ways because of his daughter. "Little Miss Marker" is an entertaining adaptation of a Damon Runyon tale about a little girl who is left with a bookie (Adolph Menjou) as a pawn for her father's $20 horse race bet. Be forewarned, though; both of these films have been colorized.

MCA/Universal is adding two silly Don Knotts slapstick farces ($15 each) to its Universal Comedy Classics line: 1971's "How to Frame a Figg" and 1967's "The Shakiest Gun in the West."

Exercise?: Can we talk about "Joan Rivers' Shopping for Fitness" video (ABC Video, $20), arriving in stores Tuesday? The premise--Rivers and two other women forgo the gym for the shopping mall--is a hoot. But this comedy wears thin after the first 10 minutes. Rivers' fans, though, will probably enjoy it.

From the Small Screen: New for Tuesday is "The Best of Austin City Limits: Country Music's Finest Hour" (Sony Music Video, $17), which features performances by Willie Nelson and the Judds culled from PBS' long-running country music series.

MCA/Universal has re-priced the pilot, two long-form episodes and eight one-hour installments of the short-lived 1978-79 ABC sci-fi series "Battlestar Galactica" ($10 & $12), which starred Lorne Greene, Dirk Benedict and Richard Hatch.

Killer Bs: Arriving Tuesday is "Black Out" (Vidmark), a trite action-thriller starring former football bad boy Brian Bosworth as a happily married banker haunted by nightmares of his past after he suffers amnesia in a car accident.

"Deadly Outbreak" (Live), an inane rip-off of "Under Siege" and "Die Hard," stars Ron Silver as a ruthless terrorist who seizes control of a biochemical research facility. Jeff Speakman is the lone wolf soldier out to thwart his evil plans.

Ted Kotcheff ("The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz") directed "Hidden Assassin" (Dimension), a muddled pedestrian thriller starring Dolph Lundgren as a U.S. marshal assigned to bring an assassin to justice.

Coming Next Week: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane and Gene Hackman star in the hit comedy "The Birdcage" (MGM/UA).

Tim Reid ("Sister/Sister") directed the acclaimed drama "Once Upon a Time . . . When We Were Colored" (Republic).

Those wild and crazy Kids in the Hall star in their first feature comedy, "Kids in the Hall Brain Candy" (Paramount).

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in and directed the martial arts flick "The Quest" (MCA/Universal).

Victoria Abril and Josiane Balasko star in the Golden Globe-nominated French comedy "French Twist" (Miramax).

Rory Cochrane and Kyra Sedgwick star in the drama "The Low Life" (Cabin Fever); also new: "Weird TV" (UNAPIX), "Raw Target" (Vidmark) and "Great Crimes and Trials of the 20th Century" (Columbia TriStar, $20).

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