Malcolm X, Jimmy Hoffa and Charles Chaplin are turning up on theater marquees. At the same time, other versions of their lives will be appearing at video stores.
Just as last year's theatrical release of Oliver Stone's "JFK" was accompanied by a rash of conspiracy books and videos, this trio of strange bedfellows has inspired a year-end series of magazine-cover stories, news programs, talk shows - and cassettes.Scheduled to appear in stores this past Wednesday - the same day Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" opened in theaters - was the CBS Video release of "The Real Malcolm X: An Intimate Portrait of the Man" ($20). Hosted by Dan Rather, the hourlong tape contains footage from the CBS News archives that has never been seen before, as well as interviews with Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones, Lionel Hampton, Malcolm Jamall Warner, members of the Public Enemy rap group and Malcolm X's widow, Betty Sha-bazz.
"Malcolm X: El Hajj Malik El Shabazz," another hourlong $20 tape, is already available from a Philadelphia company, Movies Unlimited. Warner Home Video has the rights to an excellent, feature-length 1972 documentary, "Malcolm X," that was nominated for an Academy Award but lost to "Marjoe." No plans have been made for a tape release at this point, but if Lee's movie is any kind of success, it should turn up before year's end.
"Where's Jimmy Hoffa?," an 85-minute tape that will be priced at $60 when it's released Dec. 16, was produced by MPI Home Video. Made up of archival footage, interviews and a conversation with the labor leader who took on the Mafia and big business, it's intended as a companion piece to "Hoffa," the Jack Nicholson/Danny DeVito epic that opens theatrically on Christmas Day.
"Although Hoffa is missing, the interest in this man has not waned for over two decades, particularly after his strange disappearance in 1975," says MPI executive Waleed B. Ali, who plans to promote the tape with a national publicity and marketing campaign.
The most extensive blitz, however, will accompany the reissue of several Chaplin classics and the first-time video release of a documentary about the comedian's life, "The Eternal Tramp," narrated by Gloria Swanson. CBS/Fox Video has just released it for $15, alongwith $20 reissues of "City Lights," "Modern Times," "Monsieur Verdoux," "Limelight" and such compilations as "The Chaplin Revue" and a double bill of "The Kid" and "The Idle Class."
CBS/Fox Video's pricier laserdisc division also will be bringing out these titles on disc for the first time, beginning this month with "Modern Times," which will include an interview with David Raskin, who worked with Chaplin on the score.
Also getting into the Chaplin reissue business is Republic Home Video, which recently brought out a four-volume set of his early short subjects for $60. The titles include such gems as "Easy Street," "The Cure," "The Rink" and "The Immigrant," most of which suggest the blend of pathos and comedy that would become Chaplin's specialty when he turned to features.
Chaplin's earlier, cruder comedies, including "Tillie's Punctured Romance" and "The New Janitor," are available from Movies Unlimited, which also has Kevin Brownlow's remarkable three-hour 1984 documentary, "The Unknown Chaplin" and an entertaining feature-length late-1970s biography, "The Gentleman Tramp."
The release of new theatrical versions of "Dracula" and "Aladdin" this month have also been accompanied by video tie-ins.
MCA Home Video recently brought out $15 tapes of the English-language and Spanish-language versions of "Dracula" that were filmed on the same sets at Universal in 1931. Early next month, MPI Home Video will release a $60 tape of Dan Curtis' 1973 made-for-TV movie, "Dracula," starring Jack Palance as the vampire count and featuring a script by Richard Matheson.
Disney's new cartoon version of "Aladdin" borrows from several movies already available on tape, including various versions of "The Thief of Bagdad." GoodTimes Video recently added to the list with "The Meanie Genie of Aladdin's Lamp" ($20), which is part of the "Where's Waldo?" series of puzzles and activity games for children. New this week from CBS Fox Video is "Bernard and the Genie" ($60), a Rowan Atkinson comedy about a genie who specializes in Christmas wishes.