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On Screen: Humanity's Heroes, Monsters

'For All Mankind' reaches spiritual heights; 'Lord of the Flies' and 'The Bone Collector' examine evil.

March 16, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Commentary on DVDs can be informative, educational, fun or, in some cases, downright worthless. But the Criterion Collection's edition of the documentary "For All Mankind" ($40) may feature the first that's a spiritual journey.

Culled from thousands of feet of footage at the NASA Archives, the 1989 "For All Mankind" chronicles the Apollo missions to the moon. Not only does it feature footage the astronauts shot themselves on the missions, the documentary also includes their thoughts and feelings about their journeys.

Producer-director Al Reinart and Apollo 17 Cmdr. Eugene A. Cernan, the last man to set foot on the moon, supply the soaring commentary. Reinart talks about the inception of the project and his choice of rock composer Brian Eno to do the music, but it is Cernan's intelligent, inspiring thoughts that really make this commentary a cut above the norm. Cernan discusses how his life and the lives of all the Apollo astronauts changed on their missions--how much more spiritual they all became. Cernan says he would go back to the moon in a nanosecond and can visually return to the surface of the moon any time he wishes.

Also included on the disc is a crisp wide-screen transfer of the Oscar-nominated documentary; a gallery of paintings of the moon and the astronauts by Apollo 12 and Skylab astronaut Alan L. Bean, who provides commentary on his art; an optional on-screen identification of astronauts and mission control specialists; and NASA audio highlights and liftoff footage.

"For All Mankind" illustrates the greatness and feats of heroism that people are capable of, while Criterion's other new release, "Lord of the Flies" ($40), shows the beast within every human.

Renowned British theater director Peter Brook directed this 1963 classic adaptation of William Golding's landmark novel about 30 English schoolboys, stranded after a plane crash on an uncharted island, who become brutal savages.

The disc features a beautiful new digital transfer of the black-and-white film; excerpts from the novel, read by Golding, which one can listen to while watching the film; a deleted scene with commentary; the original theatrical trailer with commentary by editor Gerald Feil; a production scrapbook; home movies and outtakes; and excerpts from "The Empty Space," Feil's 1972 documentary about Brook's methods.

The compelling audio commentary, recorded seven years ago for the laser disc edition, features Brook, Feil, producer Lewis Allen and director of photography Tom Hollyman, who had never used a film camera before this movie.

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Universal's sadistic suspense-thriller "The Bone Collector" ($27) also explores the depths of evil. Denzel Washington stars as a famous forensics detective who has become a quadriplegic and enlists the help of a young cop (Angelina Jolie) to help him track a serial murderer who intentionally leaves clues.

The DVD includes the wide-screen transfer, production notes, cast and filmmaker biographies, the trailer, a standard featurette, and commentary from director Phillip Noyce ("A Clear and Present Danger," "Dead Calm").

Noyce isn't the most scintillating person around, but he offers insights on how important he thinks title sequences are to his films and how he envisioned the relationship between the Washington and Jolie characters as akin to that of Henry Higgins and Eliza in Shaw's "Pygmalion."

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New Yorker Video, which specializes in foreign, art-house and documentary films, kicks off its new DVD line with the splendid 1960 documentary "Jazz on a Summer's Day" ($30). Bert Stern directed this joyous account of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Stern captured the vibrant colors and sights and sounds of the festival, and the tremendous performances of such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Anita O'Day, George Shearing, Dinah Washington and Gerry Mulligan.

In addition to a beautiful transfer of the film, the disc includes chapter access to the live performances, a complete festival playhouse, reflections of the stars and a chronicle of the America's Cup boat race, which was taking place during the festival.

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For the wee ones, Warner Bros. is offering the DVD of "Scooby-Doo's Original Mysteries" ($25), which features the first five adventures of the Great Dane and were originally telecast in 1969. Also included on the disc: a Scooby-Doo trivia challenge, a jukebox preview of songs from an upcoming album, Scooby-Doo recipes for snack food and a music video.

The laugh track is pretty annoying on the disc, but it's not as annoying as the new animated "Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers" ($15), which debuts on video this week. It's a silly, poorly animated adventure in which Shaggy and Scooby inherit a haunted Southern mansion.

Warners is also bringing the beloved cartoon characters Tom and Jerry to DVD for the first time in "Tom and Jerry's Greatest Chases" ($25). The disc features 14 classic cartoons in beautiful Technicolor, starring the famous cat and mouse. The disc also contains the famous "The Worry Song" number with Jerry and Gene Kelly from the classic 1945 musical "Anchors Aweigh."

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