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Chris Hicks: Re-edited cut of ‘Star Trek II,’ vintage shorts about Utah on video this week

The folks in charge of the early Star Trek movies offered Nicholas Meyer a free hand to re-edit and expand what many consider the best film in the entire franchise: “The Wrath of Khan.” The result is a new “director’s cut,” now on Blu-ray.

Also, a new DVD collection of vintage theatrical travelogues includes three from the 1940s about Utah.

“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Director’s Cut” (Paramount, 1982, PG, director’s-cut version, original theatrical version, audio commentaries, text commentary, featurettes, storyboards, trailer). Trekkies or Trekkers or whatever they’re calling themselves this week — fans of “Star Trek” — generally agree that this is the best film in the long-running franchise, so why mess with it? Well, because they can and they know fans will buy it.

For the uninitiated, the film spins off of a famous episode of the original TV series’ second season, “Space Seed,” in which a genetically enhanced superhuman (Ricardo Montalban) failed at trying to take over the Enterprise and was subsequently banished to an isolated planet. In the film, that planet is now dying and Khan is out for revenge. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the entire central TV cast returns with (at the time) snazzy new costumes and (at the time) eye-popping special effects (some created by Utahns — and they still look great on this Blu-ray).

Does this new version offer any significant changes? Not really. There are six or seven scenes with bits of additional dialogue that extend the film by three minutes. One could argue that the changes help character development a bit, and it certainly does no harm, so no complaints from this corner. (Besides, the original version is here, too!)

“FitzPatrick Traveltalks Shorts, Volume 1” (Warner Archive, 1934-46, three discs, 60 short films). Over five decades, documentary filmmaker James A. FitzPatrick made nearly 300 shorts (eight to 10 minutes each), the most famous being the “FitzPatrick Traveltalks,” colorful travelogues that vicariously took moviegoers around the world from the 1930s through the 1950s. The 60 shorts collected here, which look gorgeous, range from Switzerland to Hungary to Mexico to Austria, as well as American ports of call.

Of local interest will be “Salt Lake Diversions,” “City of Brigham Young” and “Monumental Utah” on the third disc, offering superficial but enjoyable overviews of Alta Resort (with that new 1940s innovation, the ski lift), the Great Salt Lake (it’s impossible to sink!), the Bonneville Salt Flats (with Ab Jenkins’ Mormon Meteor), the establishment of Salt Lake City, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Zion Canyon, etc. (Manufacture-on-demand DVD-R discs available at warnerarchive.com.)

“Nikkatsu Diamond Guys, Vol. 2” (Arrow, 1960-65, not rated but probable PG-13, three films, in Japanese with English subtitles, featurettes, photo galleries, trailers; booklet). Three more gangster tales from the Japanese film company Nikkatsu, promoting its “Diamond Guys” franchise. The films are colorful, make good use of locations and are laced with eccentric comedy and some unexpected surreal touches. “Tokyo Mighty Guy” is about a restaurateur who becomes involved in a political scandal, “Danger Pays” is a counterfeiting caper, and the off-the-wall “Murder Unincorporated” is about a screwy assassination agency.

“Dark Passage” (Warner Archive, 1947, b/w, featurette, Bugs Bunny cartoon: “Slick Hare,” trailer). Implausible but nonetheless entertaining film noir thriller about a man falsely convicted of the murder of his wife. He escapes from San Quentin and has plastic surgery to escape detection, but, as you might expect, it doesn’t work. This well-paced yarn gets a major boost from the crackling chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, with Agnes Moorehead terrific as a shady lady with her own agenda. (Manufacture-on-demand DVD-R disc available at warnerarchive.com.)

“Chisum” (Warner, 1970, G, audio commentary, featurette, trailer).

“McQ” (Warner, 1974, PG, featurette, trailer). These two John Wayne vehicles marked a change of pace for the Duke in his final decade. “Chisum” is a routine Western but, rare for Wayne, it’s based on real-life characters (Wayne as cattle baron John Chisum, Geoffrey Duel as Billy the Kid and Glenn Corbett as Pat Garrett) and true events (the 1878 Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory). And “McQ” has Wayne making like Dirty Harry as an urban cop in Seattle investigating the killing of his partner.

“China Sky” (Warner Archive, 1945, b/w, trailer). Randolph Scott and Ruth Warrick are dedicated American doctors working in a hospital in a small hilltop village in China. She loves him and is surprised when he returns from a trip with a new wife (Ellen Drew), who proves to be distractingly jealous. This romantic wartime melodrama, adapted from Pearl Buck’s novel, was released in theaters near the end of World War II, giving it a sense of timely urgency. Anthony Quinn co-stars. (Manufacture-on-demand DVD-R disc available at warnerarchive.com.)

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.