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Home invasion's next for `300'

July 29, 2007|Susan King

THE stylishly bloody sword-and-sandal epic "300," which arrives Tuesday on DVD, ranks as the No. 1 R-rated movie of the year at the box office.

The film certainly made a star out of Scottish actor Gerard Butler, who previously had the misfortune of headlining the ill-fated movie version of "The Phantom of the Opera."

Though "300" received mixed reviews, audiences loved director Zack Snyder's vision for the action-adventure that re-creates the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, when the well-chiseled and buffed Spartans fought the good fight against a massive army of Persians. The story had been made 45 years earlier as "The 300 Spartans."

Snyder is now in pre-production on a superhero tale, "Watchmen." But it is Butler who has really reaped the success of "300," with several films, including "Butterfly in a Wheel," "P.S. I Love You" and "The Untouchables" prequel, among his upcoming projects.

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John Wayne's patriotic special

A real rarity from 1970, "John Wayne's Tribute to America," mosey onto DVD from MPI Home Video on Tuesday. The musical-variety special hosted by the Duke aired on NBC as "Swing Out, Sweet Land" and is described as a "patriotic and poignant journey through American history."

The Oscar-winning legend was an unabashed conservative, so there isn't a counter-culture performer among the guest rosters. As host and narrator, Wayne presents Lorne Greene as George Washington -- Greene was Canadian -- and Bob Hope and Ann-Margret as entertainers at Valley Forge, Red Skelton as a printer, Lucille Ball as Miss Liberty, Bing Crosby as Mark Twain, Dean Martin as Eli Whitney and Dan Rowan and Dick Martin as the Wright brothers. Johnny Cash performs "Ribbon of Steel" and Glen Campbell is on hand to sing "This Is a Great Country." The disc also features the original sponsor commercials with Wayne and Ed McMahon and his guest appearance on an episode of "What's My Line?"

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Popeye & friends (and Bluto too)

CREATED by Elizie Crisler Segar, Popeye the Sailor made his first appearance in the King Features comic strip "Thimble Theater" on Jan. 17, 1929. Within a year, he had become the main focus of the strip. In 1933, Max and Dave Fleischer's Fleischer Studios brought the muscular, spinach-eating sailor man to the big screen in a series of cartoons that were released by Paramount Pictures.

These shorts also featured Popeye's ladylove, the lanky Olive Oyl, and Bluto as the villain who lusted after Olive. Spinach farmers in Crystal City, Texas, were so grateful for Popeye's passion for the leafy green vegetable that they erected a statue of him in the town for saving the industry, which previously had been dying on the vine, so to speak.

This Tuesday, Warner Home Video releases "Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1939, Vol. 1," a four-disc collection of 60 newly restored, black-and-white uncut cartoons. Also included are the first two Technicolor Popeye two-reel cartoons: "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor" and "Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves."

As for the spinach, you'll have to provide your own.

-- Susan King

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