VIDEOSCAN

A selection of new releases for sale or rental ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930. Directed by Lewis Milestone. MCA Home Video) - The antiwar message stands out proudly in this classic film about a young man who joins the German Army at the start of World War I and soon learns the harsh realities behind popular notions of battlefield honor and glory. Lew Ayres, billed as Lewis Ayres, gives a sensitive performance that transcends the stilted diction favored by some Hollywood productions in the early days of talkies. Milestone never directed a more resounding film, and its carefully composed images hold up reasonably well on the small video screen. Carl Laemmle Jr. produced the movie, which was written by Maxwell Anderson and George Abbott from an Erich Maria Remarque novel. The cassette edition contains a few minutes of restored footage that's absent from theatrical prints. THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL (1987. Directed by Michael Custance. Academy Entertainment) - This lively but uninspired musical takes its cue from the Hans Christian Andersen story of a poor girl who sells matches in the cold Victorian winters of not-so-merry England. Natalie Morse, in the title role, steals the show from grown-ups Twiggy and Roger Daltrey. Michael Hordern introduces the tale, which is based on an earlier musical called ``Scraps.'' Jeremy Paul and Leslie Stewart did the book and lyrics. Keith Strachan composed the score. THE NAKED SPUR (1953. Directed by Anthony Mann. MGM/UA Home Video) - The ``adult western'' genre was born in the early '50s, and this psychological study is an early and distinguished example of the breed. Betrayal and bitterness have driven a decent man, played by James Stewart, into becoming a bounty hunter. Helped by an unstable soldier and an aging prospector, he captures a killer and the killer's innocent girlfriend. But tensions break out among the three captors, and the bad guy exploits these in hopes of escaping. Director Mann does a superb job of making the film's Colorado Rockies location seem confining and even claustrophobic, and the performances are memorably intense: Robert Ryan as the murderer, Janet Leigh as his companion, Ralph Meeker as the soldier, Millard Mitchell as the prospector. The screenplay, by Sam Rolfe and Howard Jack Bloom, earned an Academy Award nomination. ON THE BOWERY (1956. Directed by Lionel Rogosin. Mystic Fire Video) - The plot centers on Ray, a young alcoholic who's just arrived on New York City's skid row. This ruggedly powerful film is more a documentary than a drama, though: Shot in streets and saloons of the Bowery neighborhood, it focuses much of its attention on the area's real-life denizens. In the acted episodes, personality portraits are sketched rapidly and poignantly, despite director Rogosin's use of nonprofessional performers. The long transitions between dramatic scenes are vivid, harrowing, and profoundly compassionate toward their unfortunate subjects. Recent films now on video 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD (1987. Drama starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video.) SQUARE DANCE (1987. Drama starring Daniel Petrie, Jane Alexander, and Jason Robards. Pacific Arts Video.)

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