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Restored 'Star' Shines

Judy Garland gave her all to 'A Star Is Born,' but the DVD offers more of her, in Tinseltown footage and extra musical numbers.

September 21, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The legendary Judy Garland gives the performance of her career in the 1954 musicaldrama "A Star Is Born." This terrific remake of the 1937 Hollywood classic about the star on the rise who marries the star on the slide is making its DVD debut this week (Warner, $25).

The fantastic two-sided disc includes the wide-screen edition of the beautifully restored George Cukor-directed drama, which also stars a magnificent James Mason as the ill-fated Hollywood star Norman Maine.

The second side of the disc is chock-full of goodies for Garland fans, including three alternate versions of the late superstar performing the Oscar-nominated tune "The Man That Got Away." There is also a short musical number that had been deleted, "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street," which was originally part of the "Born in the Trunk" section.

Though the footage is missing, the disc also includes the audio tracks from two other deleted scenes.

Hollywood buffs will get a kick out of the live TV telecast from Sept. 29, 1954, of the premiere of "A Star Is Born" at the Pantages Theatre. Everybody in Tinseltown seemed to have been on hand for Garland's first film in four years.

Jack Carson, who appears in the film, hosted a portion of the event, which features appearances by Dean Martin, Lauren Bacall, William Bendix, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. Garland is interviewed too, and there is rare footage of the post-premiere party at the Cocoanut Grove, featuring speeches by Garland and Warner Bros. chief Jack Warner.

Rounding out the disc are the theatrical trailers from all three versions of "Star."

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Don't fret if you missed the recent theatrical re-release of the hysterical 1984 rock mockumentary "This Is Spinal Tap" because the digital version of Rob Reiner's brilliant spoof of a British heavy metal band is now available.

Everything about the disc is a scream--even the slightly naughty animated menus. The DVD includes the wide-screen version of the comedy, as well as the very funny commentary from Tap itself--lead vocalist David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), co-lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer).

In a mini-documentary, director and star Reiner re-creates his "Tap" role as filmmaker Marty DiBergi. He admits that Tap hated the film and the group hasn't talked to him in 16 years. DiBergi, who began his career making the feature "Kramer vs. Kramer Meets Godzilla," is out of the movie business and making promotional mouse pads.

There's approximately an hour's worth of deleted footage, including several scenes at the Bobbi Fleckman (Fran Drescher) party for the Tap.

Other extras include a TV appearance by the band on the old "Joe Franklin Show," four music videos, trailers and TV spots and three commercials for a European candy that feature the Tap.

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The funniest moments in "28 Days" (Columbia TriStar, $25)--the Sandra Bullock comedy drama about a young woman going through rehab for alcoholism--revolve around "Santa Cruz," a fictional daytime TV soap opera the members of the rehab center are hooked on. "Santa Cruz" is also the best thing about the DVD.

Betty Thomas, who directed "28 Days," also directed the wonderfully silly 30 minutes of "lost episodes" of "Santa Cruz" that appear on the disc. One of the best plot lines in the episodes focuses on an heiress who suffers from a weird disease that renders her blind if she gets wet.

Since Bullock's character makes gum wrapper chains in rehab, the disc includes instructions on how to make the chains.

The DVD also features the wide-screen version of the film, the"HBO First Look" documentary, the trailer, isolated musical score and genial commentary from director Thomas, producer Jenno Topping, composer Richard Gibbs and editor Peter Teschner.

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Walt Disney's made-for-video sequels to such blockbuster animated musicals as "Aladdin," "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast" have been pretty routine, with none of the magic of the originals. The same holds true for "The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea" ($27 for VHS; $30 for DVD).

Young girls may enjoy this tale about Ariel and Eric's daughter Melody, but older fans of the 1989 film will find that "Little Mermaid II" lacks the pizazz, humor and heart of the original. The pleasant but unmemorable new music, penned by Michael & Patty Silversher, pales in comparison to Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's Oscar-winning score.

Several of the original voices are back for the sequel, including Jodi Benson as Ariel, Buddy Hackett as Scutttle the seabird and Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian the crab. Among the new characters are Morgana (Pat Carroll), Ursula's evil sister, and Undertow, her shark sidekick (Clancy Brown). Tip the penguin (Max Cassella) and Dash the walrus (Stephen Furst) are the comic relief as Melody's pals.

The DVD includes an interactive trivia game and an educational game about real-life sea creatures.

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The digital edition of "High Fidelity" (Touchstone, $33) cries out for an audio commentary track from star, co-writer and co-producer John Cusack and director Stephen Frears. Their insights into the making of this acclaimed romantic comedy about the fear of commitment would add immeasurably to the viewing experience. At least there are separate, albeit short, conversations with Cusack and Frears on a variety of subjects including how Frears became involved in the project.

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