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New Releases Reflect the Luminous Past

'Twain' from '67 and Thomas from '66-'71 are well worth revisiting.

May 13, 1999|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The latest batch of TV series, specials and movies to hit the video market includes an Emmy Award-winning one-man show, a classic romantic comedy from the '60s, a banned episode of "The X-Files" and handsome new versions of such chestnuts as "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "Horatio Hornblower."

On March 6, 1967, CBS broadcast Hal Holbrook's Tony Award-winning one-man show, "Mark Twain Tonight!" Three decades later, this 90-minute broadcast, for which Holbrook won an Emmy, is making its video debut on Kultur ($25). The great news is that the show is just as wonderful as it was 32 years ago.

Holbrook was all of 42 at the time he played the 70-year-old humorist and writer, who was born Samuel Clemens. Holbrook's transformation into Twain is remarkable, and Twain's comments on politics, the art of lying, religion and patriotism still have a contemporary ring.

The actor began performing his one-man show in 1948; he opened it off-Broadway in 1959 and hit Broadway in 1966. Holbrook has toured with this show every year since 1954. To order, call (800) 458-5887.

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Four years before Mary Tyler Moore turned the world on with her smile as single professional woman Mary Richards, Marlo Thomas was making TV history as ABC's "That Girl." Thomas played perky, cute but independent Ann Marie, a would-be actress who leaves her home to become a star in New York City. The series, which aired from 1966 to '71, also starred Ted Bessell as her writer boyfriend, Donald Hollinger. Anchor Bay is offering a three-volume boxed set ($10 per tape; $30 for the set) featuring nine of the series' funniest episodes. The first tape explores pivotal moments in the relationship between Ann and Donald; the second video looks at her wacky auditions; and the third features such guest stars as her real-life father, Danny Thomas; a very young Teri Garr and Rob Reiner; and such veterans as Ethel Merman and Milton Berle.

After achieving success last year with its video collections of "The Avengers '67," A&E has now returned with "The Avengers '65" ($13 per tape; $30 for each set), which features 12 episodes from the first season of the classic '60s British spy series in which Diana Rigg played the cool, jumpsuit-clad Emma Peel. Patrick Macnee is at his suave best, of course, as her partner in solving crimes, the dapper John Steed. The episodes are kicky fun--even more inventive at times than the later episodes in color. To order call (800) 423-1212.

Fox has just released its seventh collection of episodes of "The X-Files" ($15 each; $40 for the pack). The latest volumes highlight episodes from the fourth season, including the most requested episode ever for video release, "Home." This macabre, gruesome episode, in which Scully and Mulder encounter a very strange family, aired only once on Fox before it was banned because of the subject matter. It has, however, popped up a few times on FX during "X-Files" marathons. Also included on the videos are special collectors' cards and behind-the-scenes interviews with creator and executive producer Chris Carter and the writers.

A&E Home Video has released its new production of the swashbuckler "The Scarlet Pimpernel" ($20), which stars Richard E. Grant as the hero of the French Revolution. Arriving May 25 from A&E is a deluxe boxed set of all four episodes of the "Horatio Hornblower" movie series ($60), starring Ioan Gruffudd as C.S. Forester's brave naval hero.

Also New

"The Best of the Simpsons" (Fox, $10 each; $25 for three-volume set): six episodes from the third season of the Emmy Award-winning Fox animated comedy series.

"South Park: Volumes 7, 8 & 9" (Warner, $15 each): six episodes from the outrageous Comedy Central animated hit comedy.

"Touched by an Angel Collector's Edition" (CBS, $15): The first and 100th episode of the long-running CBS series.

"Party of Five" (Columbia TriStar, $10 each): three episodes from the Fox drama.

"As Time Goes By" (BBC, $20): two volumes of the dryly funny Dame Judi Dench Britcom.

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