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Chris Hicks: 'Yankees,' reissued 'Shawshank' are top releases on DVD

Gwen Verdon, Walston shine in classic musical

Warner Home Video

Here are some new movies on DVD — the best being the debut of "Damn Yankees" on disc and a reissue of "The Shawshank Redemption."

"Damn Yankees" (Warner, 1958, not rated, $19.97). This adaptation of the stage sensation is a lot of fun, although Tab Hunter in the lead is a weak link. But don't let that stop you; Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston more than make up for him, as they repeat their Broadway roles (Walston won a Tony).

The story has an aging Washington Senators fan selling his soul to the devil (Walston) for a chance to regain his youth. So he receives a youthful body (Hunter) and helps his team as they attempt to beat the Yankees for the pennant. However, when he tries to invoke an escape clause, the devil brings in a temptress (Verdon) to seduce him.

The film is funny, charming, witty, boasts excellent dancing (choreographed by the great Bob Fosse) and is loaded with terrific songs — "Whatever Lola Wants," "You Gotta Have Heart," "Two Lost Souls," etc. Walston is a riot and Verdon is sex on wheels; her mambo with Fosse is a real highlight.

Extras: Widescreen, trailer, subtitle options (English, French, Spanish), chapters.

"The Shawshank Redemption: Special Edition" (Warner, 1994; R for violence, language, brief sex, nudity; $26.99, two discs). Some of the best film adaptations of Stephen King stories have nothing to do with horror — "Stand By Me," "The Long Green Mile" and this one.

Timothy Robbins stars as a New England banker who receives two life sentences for the murders of his wife and her lover in 1947 . . . but did he really do it? In prison, he befriends a long-term inmate (Morgan Freeman, who also narrates), and the film takes a number of surprising twists and turns.

Although at 2 1/2 hours it's a bit long, Robbins and Freeman — and supporting player James Whitmore — are excellent, and "Shawshank" brings to mind the best in the prison-picture genre, from "White Heat" to "The Birdman of Alcatraz" to "Cool Hand Luke."

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary (writer/director Frank Darabont), making-of featurettes; interview with Darabont, Robbins and Freeman on "The Charlie Rose Show"; spoof "The Sharktank Redemption," photo gallery, storyboards, trailer, DVD-Rom applications, language options (English, French), subtitle options (English, French, Spanish), chapters. (Also available for $44.99 in "Deluxe" edition, which is the same as this one, with the addition of audio soundtrack CD and booklet.

"Raising Helen" (Touchstone, 2004, PG-13, $29.99). Kate Hudson stars as a free-spirited fashion-career woman who inherits three young children when her sister passes away. Her other sister (Joan Cusack) is mortified, and Hudson's boss (Helen Mirren) is annoyed. And the audience may be, too, as it is all overly familiar and just not funny enough.

Garry Marshall directed and Hudson is adorable, but the script just isn't there. (There's also a Mormon joke, by the way.)

Extras: Separate widescreen and full-frame editions, audio commentary (with Marshall, the screenwriters), deleted scenes, music video (Liz Phair), language options (English, French), subtitle options (English, French, Spanish), chapters.

"Breakin' All the Rules" (Columbia/TriStar, 2004, PG-13, $26.96). Magazine writer Jamie Foxx is fired and dumped by his girl. So he writes a best-selling book about how to break up with women. Our sympathies are supposed to be with the womanizing men in this film, but they're pretty unlikable.

Among the bonus features are a colorized Three Stooges short!

Extras: Widescreen and full-frame options, audio commentary, making-of featurette, bloopers, mock interview (with Foxx's character), colorized/restored 1935 Three Stooges short: "Hoi Polloi," language options (English, French), subtitle options (English, French, Spanish), chapters.


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com