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Return of 'Big Momma'

The Martin Lawrence summer comedy gets red-carpet DVD treatment; the original 'Gone in 60 Seconds' returns, restored and remastered.

November 30, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite mixed to negative reviews, the outrageous Martin Lawrence comedy, "Big Momma's House," became one of the biggest hits of the summer. And because it made beaucoup bucks at the box office, Fox has given it the "A" DVD treatment.

Lawrence stars as an FBI agent who takes on an elaborate disguise to become an overweight, cantankerous grandmother of a young woman (Nia Long) who is a girlfriend of a fugitive. The special-edition DVD ($27) includes the wide-screen version, a standard "making of" documentary, TV spots and trailers, funny outtakes that are definitely not for the kiddies, two deleted scenes (including the colorful original animated opening, cut by director Raja Gosnell because it didn't test well), Lawrence's makeup test, two music videos and a passable commentary with producer David Friendly and Gosnell.

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You have to love a movie where a car gets title billing. In the case of the 1974 cult car flick, "Gone in 60 Seconds," which arrives on VHS ($20) and DVD ($25) this week, the car in question is Eleanor, a souped-up 1973 Mach 1 Ford Mustang. The yellow-and-black Eleanor is the star of the kicky, 40-minute, climactic chase sequence.

Navarre Corp. has restored and remastered this fun film, which was the basis for Jerry Bruckheimer's over-the-top remake this year with Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie.

"Gone in 60 Seconds" was written, directed, produced and distributed by H.B. Halicki, who also stars in the movie. Halicki had made his fortune in automotive detailing, towing and the junkyard business by the time he was 25. His big dream, though, was to make the greatest car-chase film ever. When no studio would do the movie, he made it himself with the help of friends and family. "Gone" went on to make $40 million in domestic release. Halicki made two other films but died in 1989 while filming a stunt for the sequel.

The enjoyable DVD features a wide-screen transfer of the film (which is introduced by Halicki's widow, Denise); never-before-seen footage; interviews with Lee Iaccoca, who designed the original Mustang, Parnelli Jones, who appears in the movie, J.C. Agajanian Jr. and Bobby Ore; three trailers; a photo gallery and very funny commentary from cinematographer Jack Vacek and editor Warner Leighton.

The VHS features the full-frame version, the rare footage and Denise Halicki's intro.

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Though the Criterion Collection usually releases the best of cinema classics on DVD, the company certainly isn't elitist. Just check out its latest digital offering, "The Blob" ($40), the low-budget 1958 horror flick about a meteor that lands on Earth and feeds off humanity. Steve McQueen made his film debut in this very campy thriller as a teenager who tries to warn the town about the killer "Blob."

The Criterion special edition features a sparkling new wide-screen digital transfer, the trailer and "Blob-abilia!," a series of stills, posters, props (including the Blob itself) and other goodies from "Blob" fan Wes Shank's massive collection.

The disc also includes two audio commentaries: one by producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder, and the other by director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and actor Robert Fields, who played one of McQueen's buddies.

And just what was the "Blob" made out of?

Silicone.

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Fans of "The Honeymooners" will fly to the moon with the first DVD release of the legendary comedy show from the '50s: "The Very Best of the Honeymooners" (MPI, $15). The disc includes the compilation programs: "The Honeymooners' Funniest Moments Vols. 1 & 2," which are actually clips of all the goofs and snafus that occurred during "The Honeymooners," as well as on Gleason's live CBS variety show. "The Honeymooners" was a popular sketch on Gleason's variety series and then it was spun off as its own CBS series in 1955-56.

The DVD also includes "The Wit & Wisdom of Ed Norton," a compilation of Norton's (Art Carney) funniest moments on the series. Rounding out the disc is the full-length "Honeymooners" sketch titled "Letter to the Boss," which aired on the variety show on Nov. 14, 1953.

"The Wit & Wisdom of Ed Norton" is also available on video ($10).

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During the 1930s and '40s, Republic Pictures excelled in producing some of the most exciting, enjoyable movie serials ever made. One of the best was "The Adventures of Red Ryder," the western action-adventure based on the popular comic-strip character. VCI is releasing the first "Red Ryder" serial from 1940 on VHS and DVD ($30 each).

Over the years, several actors played the western hero, including William "Wild Bill" Elliott and Alan "Rocky" Lane, but the first actor who played Red Ryder was Don "Red" Barry. In this 12-episode serial, Red Ryder must save the local ranchers from the evil Ace Hanlon (Noah Beery). Helping Red Ryder is the brave young Native American boy, Little Beaver (Tommy Cook).

The DVD includes a vintage interview with the late Barry, the theatrical trailer, a poster and lobby card gallery, cast and crew bios and the "Red Ryder" TV pilot, "Gun Trouble Valley." After watching the TV show, you'll know why it had been unseen for more than 40 years!

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During the 1960s, Andy Williams starred in his own popular mellow NBC musical variety series. Image Entertainment has released "The Best of the Andy Williams Show," a nostalgic look back at this popular show, on both VHS ($20) and DVD ($25). Williams introduces the hourlong tape, which features some terrific performances by Bobby Darin, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis Jr. and Judy Garland. One surreal moment finds Williams dancing with a 5-year-old Marie Osmond. The DVD also features a photo gallery.

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