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Chris Hicks: Martin-Lewis double bill on shelves

Dean Martin \& Jerry Lewis' first films make their DVD debut this week.
Dean Martin \& Jerry Lewis' first films make their DVD debut this week.
Deseret Morning News Archives

Among this long list of movies new to DVD are some golden oldies that have never been on home video before, including Martin & Lewis' second film, "My Friend Irma Goes West," and the excellent Kirk Douglas drama "Detective Story."

"My Friend Irma"/"My Friend Irma Goes West" (Paramount, 1949/1950, not rated, b/w, $14.99). This double-bill features Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis in their first two films, actually designed as vehicles for radio star Marie Wilson in her ditsy-blond New Yorker role of Irma (a short-lived TV sitcom followed). Her best friend (Diana Lynn) tries to keep Irma out of trouble — but it doesn't matter, since supporting players Martin & Lewis steal the show in the first film and are even better in the second (in which they all head for Hollywood, with some Western digressions).

Extras: Full frame, optional English subtitles, chapters.

"Herbie: Fully Loaded" (Disney, 2005, G, $29.99). Lindsay Lohan is charming as she reluctantly buys the title VW bug from a junkyard, only to discover it has a mind of its own. Soon she's competitively racing, despite reservations by her father (a subdued Michael Keaton). Amusing kids film relies heavily on special effects with the anthropomorphic auto.

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary (by director Angela Robinson), deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, bloopers, music video, language options (English, French, Spanish), subtitle options (English, French), chapters.

"Detective Story" (Paramount, 1951, not rated, b/w, $14.99). Kirk Douglas is riveting as a cop accused of brutality in this solid thriller based on the play about a New York City police precinct. The supporting cast (many repeating their stage roles) is equally good — especially Lee Grant (in her first film) and William Bendix.

Extras: Full frame, language options (English, French), optional English subtitles, chapters.

"The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" (Paramount, 1946, not rated, b/w, $14.99). This film is on several public-domain labels, but this is by far the best print available. Compelling film noir with the ever-powerful Barbara Stanwyck as a woman whose past catches up with her. Kirk Douglas, in his film debut, more than holds his own.

Extras: Full frame, optional English subtitles, chapters.

"Wet Asphalt" (Dark Sky, 1958, not rated, b/w, $14.48). Horst Buchholz is a young idealistic German journalist, hired by his idol, an international correspondent. Buchholz does all the work and his boss takes all the credit, which Buchholz doesn't mind until he discovers that the boss's latest sensational story is completely fabricated and innocent people are being harmed. Earnest melodrama with fine performances. (German film dubbed in English.)

Extras: Full frame, chapters.

"The Woman in White" (WGBH, 1998, not rated, $19.95). This excellent PBS thriller (shown on "Masterpiece Theatre"), based on Wilkie Collins' novel, stars Tara Fitzgerald in 19th century England who lives with her wealthy half-sister. But something isn't quite right with the sister's impending marriage, and even though they are warned by both the mysterious title character and their art tutor, tragedy looms. The second half is devoted to Fitzgerald seeking revenge, with a shocking twist.

Extras: Full frame, optional English subtitles, chapters. (If you can't find this title in a local store, it can be ordered by phone at 800-949-8670, or on the Web at shop.wgbh.org.)

"The Escape Artist" (Paramount, 1982, PG, $14.99). Griffin O'Neal (son of Ryan) isn't bad in this story of a young man who aspires to be an escape artist like his father (Harry Anderson). But he gets mixed up with bad company (Raul Julia, Teri Garr). Interesting but decidedly uneven, with a cast that includes Joan Hackett, Desi Arnaz and two former Dead End Kids, Gabriel Dell and Huntz Hall.

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary (director Caleb Deschanel, production manager Barrie Osborne, technical advisor Ricky Jay), English subtitles, chapters.

"King of the Corner" (Ardustry, 2005; R for language, violence; $24.98). Comic character actor Peter Riegert, who has occasionally shined in lead roles ("Crossing Delancey," "Local Hero,"), has created one for himself by co-writing and directing this dark comic melodrama about an ad exec's mid-life crisis. But it's very hit and miss. And too many scenes go on too long — including an awkward sequence in the middle that makes no real-life sense. But there are many nice moments, and a great supporting cast that includes Isabella Rossellini, Eli Wallach, Rita Moreno and Beverly D'Angelo.

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary (by Riegert), making-of featurette, Riegert's short film "By Courier," chapters.

"Saving Face" (Sony, 2004; R for language, sex; $26.96). The focus is occasionally muddled in this social comedy about the war between traditional and modern life in a Chinese family, but the players are so appealing that they generally pull it off. Wil (Michelle Krusiec), a young doctor who is about to enter a secretive gay relationship with a spoiled ballerina (Lynn Chen), has a new roommate when her widowed mother (Joan Chen) suddenly finds herself pregnant.

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary, deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, language options (English, French), chapters.

"The Jazz Singer" (Anchor Bay, 1980, PG, $19.98). Neil Diamond's songs are great, but this rehash of the ancient chestnut about a cantor (Laurence Olivier in full-ham mode) who abhors his son's pop-musical choices is pretty weak. And time hasn't been kind to it. (And yet the Al Jolson version, which helped introduce the movies' sound era, is still not on DVD!)

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary (producer Jerry Leider), text biographies, trailers, poster/photo gallery, English subtitles, chapters.

"Darling Lili: Director's Cut" (Paramount, 1970, G, $14.99). This "director's cut," originally prepared by director/co-writer Blake Edwards for cable TV, isn't any better than the original. This musical World War I flying epic is still a misfire, an uneasy mix of broad comedy and wartime melodrama with miscast Julie Andrews (Edwards' wife) as a German spy who succumbs to the charms of World War I air ace Rock Hudson (with whom Andrews has zero chemistry). Even the songs are unmemorable.

Extras: Widescreen, deleted scenes, trailer, optional English subtitles, chapters.

"Season of the Witch"/"There's Always Vanilla" (Anchor Bay, 1973/1971; R for violence, nudity, sex, language; $19.98). These two early George A. Romero films — his second and third after "Night of the Living Dead" — are somewhat creaky works, but fans may want to take a look. In the interviews, even Romero expresses disdain for "Vanilla," a silly hippy-dippy romance. "Witch" (a k a "Jack's Wife" and "Hungry Wives") is somewhat better, as a bored homemaker delves into witchcraft.

Extras: Widescreen, documentary on Romero, making-of featurettes, trailers, photo/poster gallery, text biography, chapters.

"Save the Tiger" (Paramount, 1973; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; $14.99). Jack Lemmon won his second Oscar for this episodic downbeat drama, about a luckless businessman who plots to burn down his company's warehouse for the insurance money. Lemmon is quite good but the movie is a chore to sit through.

Extras: Widescreen, optional English subtitles, chapters.

"5x2" (THINKfilm, 2004; R for sex, nudity, language, drugs; $29.99). Like Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" or Christopher Nolan's "Memento" this film's narrative is backward storytelling, which is, at first, a bit confusing. An unhappy marriage starts with the divorce and works back to the couple's initial meeting. Any insights are lost in unrelenting bleakness.

Extras: Widescreen, in French with English subtitles, deleted scenes, making-of featurette, auditions. lighting tests, chapters.

"The Defender" (Visual, 2004; R for violence, language; $24.99). This truly dreadful action film was directed by Dolph Lundgren, who stars as a Secret Service agent in a "Seven Days of May"-type plot. Would you believe Jerry Springer plays a tough-guy U.S. president?

Extras: Widescreen, trailers, optional English subtitles, chapters.

"Single White Female 2: The Psycho" (Sony, 2005; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; $24.96). Predictably sleazy sequel has a couple of young women moving into an apartment, with one unaware that her shy, sweet roomie is actually a deranged killer.

Extras: Widescreen, optional English subtitles, chapters.


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com