VIDEOSCAN

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A selection of new releases for sale or rental DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920. Directed by John S. Robertson. Video Yesteryear) - John Barrymore was among the first major stars to tackle Robert Lewis Stevenson's classic tale, which would eventually attract such diverse performers as Spencer Tracy, Boris Karloff, and even Jerry Lewis (in ``The Nutty Professor''). He evidently valued the opportunity, since he had to shoot the film by day while appearing in a production of ``Richard III'' by night; eventually the tension of this schedule grew so strong that he closed down the Shakespeare play to complete the movie. His portrayal of Jekyll and Hyde is less memorable than Fredric March's, directed by Rouben Mamoulian for Paramount one year later. Also second-rank is Robertson's filmmaking, which cleverly exploits but rarely transcends the emerging Hollywood vocabulary of horror-film effects. This cassette provides a valuable example of Barrymore's silent-film technique, however, especially in his first transformation from Jekyll to Hyde, which is accomplished mostly through virtuosic acting rather than makeup and camera trickery. As usual, Video Yesteryear accompanies the action with Hammond Organ music by Rosa Rio and unspools the movie at its correct projection speed. Alas, there's also a ``reel change'' that irksomely interrupts the story around the halfway mark. THE FOURTH PROTOCOL (1987. Directed by John Mackenzie. Lorimar Home Video) - Out of the whole British intelligence community, only Michael Caine is alert to the danger menacing Western civilization: A dastardly KGB agent is directing the assembly of a nuclear device smack in the middle of England, hoping to disrupt the NATO alliance with chaos and confusion. Trouble is: Caine's character doesn't play by the rules, making it easy for lazy or disingenuous colleagues to ignore his calls for action. Popular suspense-monger Frederick Forsyth helped write the screenplay, which is based on one of his novels. It's a confused scenario, and it isn't helped by Pierce Brosnan's chilly performance as the nasty villain. There are a few diverting scenes, though, before the movie falls completely apart in an oh-so-wry finale. LES MIS'ERABLES (1935. Directed by Richard Boleslawski. Key Video) - Fredric March is a scrubbed and romantic movie star even in the opening shots, when hero Jean Valjean is on trial for stealing bread to feed his starving family. In other respects, he's more than adequate until the last 15 minutes, when the picture bogs hopelessly down in lovey-dovey twaddle between Valjean and his adopted daughter. In the second-fiddle role of Javert, the obsessive cop who dogs Valjean's trail, Charles Laughton is simply magnificent, giving his character a mingled arrogance and desperation that's as emotionally chilling as it is technically astonishing. Sir Cedric Hardwicke is characteristically wooden as the cleric who inspires Valjean to go straight. A child named Marilynne Knowlden gives an interestingly deep-voiced performance as young Cosette, however, and you can spot John Carradine as a firebrand in one of the surprisingly listless July Revolution scenes near the end. W.P. Lipscombe's screenplay is reasonably faithful to Victor Hugo's novel, by Hollywood standards, and director Boleslawski has the good sense to let Laughton steal every scene he's in.

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