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Summer Realism

'Long Way Home' and 'Champagne Safari' top an interesting group of arriving documentaries.

June 25, 1998|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you've already tired of this summer's batch of popcorn flicks, then look no further than the shelves of your local video stores for more substantial fare. Several acclaimed as well as rare documentaries are scheduled for release on video over the next few weeks.

Arriving Tuesday on video is the 1997 Oscar-winning feature documentary "The Long Way Home" (BWE Video, $25). Written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, "Long Way Home" is a compelling chronicle of the untold story of the aftermath of the Holocaust and how the survivors attempted to return to a normal life. The film spans the years 1945 to 1948, when the state of Israel was formed.

Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the documentary also features the voices of Edward Asner, Miriam Margoyles and Martin Landau reading excerpts from the stories of survivors.

Also making its bow Tuesday is Kino on Video's "Saved! Rare Travel Diaries" collection ($25 each).

"Champagne Safari," from 1952, had been unseen for more than 40 years. This unusual real-life travelogue-saga documents the second honeymoon of Hollywood glamour queen Rita Hayworth and her third husband, Prince Aly Khan. Hayworth's friend, photographer Jackson Leightner, was invited to accompany the lavish entourage --which consisted of endless supplies of servants, stretch limos and private planes--as they traveled through colonial Tanganyika, Uganda, Kenya and the Congo.

However, Leightner got more than he bargained for when Hayworth and Khan's marriage broke up during the trip. When he returned home, Leightner packaged these movies as a feature film. The Kino print is in black-and-white because the surviving 35-mm color prints are badly fading.

Produced for MGM from 1930 to 1933, "James A. Fitzpatrick's Traveltalks" is an amazing voyage back to what the world was like nearly 70 years ago. Fitzpatrick's narration is unintentionally hilarious, but these 11 films offer a unique glimpse of China, Japan, Korea, Dutch New Guinea, Ireland, India and Venice, Italy, before World War II.

"Seven Years in Tibet" is not the Brad Pitt flick from last year, but a slowly paced British semi-documentary, circa 1957, that features the real Heinrich Harrer re-creating his escape from the British POW camp and his journey into the Himalayas. Besides using dramatic reenactments, the film also features color footage shot by Harrer during his seven-year stay in the Forbidden City.

To order any of the Kino documentaries, call (800) 562-6880.

First Run Features has two documentaries on tap for release on July 7. "Six O'Clock News" ($60) is the latest cinematic journal from award-winning Ross McElwee of "Sherman's March" and "Time Indefinite" fame.

This time around, McElwee finds himself watching a lot of television since becoming a father, especially the 6 o'clock news. As he becomes more obsessed with the nightly calamity he sees on the small screen, McElwee sets out on a trip to meet the people he has followed on the news: a Korean immigrant whose wife was killed in a robbery; a couple whose trailer survived a killer tornado; a man who survived being buried alive in the Northridge earthquake; and his old friend and former teacher, whose house was destroyed by a hurricane. Warm, witty and moving.

Movie buffs will want to check out "Elia Kazan: A Director's Journey" ($25), an informative, literate biography on the Oscar-winning director of such film classics as "On the Waterfront" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," whose career has been shadowed by controversy because of his infamous testimony in the early '50s before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Written and directed by Richard Schickel and narrated by Eli Wallach, "A Director's Journey" features interviews with Kazan and clips from his numerous films.

To order either First Run film, call (800) 229-8575.

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