Out on Video

A weekly update of video releases

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THE BIG CLOCK

Kevin Costner's thriller "No Way Out" was directly inspired by this film noir classic from 1948, starring Ray Milland as an overworked magazine executive who's assigned to track down the killer of his boss's mistress - knowing that the trail will lead to him, even though he's completely innocent of the crime. Charles Laughton is hilariously effete as the hypocritical boss, and Elsa Lanchester is even funnier as an eccentric artist who offers to identify the murderer by sketching his picture. Maureen O'Sullivan and Henry Morgan round out the top-notch cast. Honors also go to director John Farrow, whose supple camera work and split-second timing lend spice and suspense to one of the few race-against-the-clock dramas that actually come to a climax inside a giant clock. (Not rated; MCA/Universal Home Video)

THE BIRTH OF BETTY

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Betty Boop is the most popular female star in cartoon history, but she began her career in the early 1930s as a sort of dog-woman with floppy ears and a canine friend named Bimbo, who was often the main character. Volume 1 of "Betty Boop: The Definitive Collection" shows her transformation into a full-fledged human with a squeaky voice, a perky attitude, and a penchant for sassy adventures. Titles range from "Mysterious Mose" to "Silly Scandals," and most of the action is accompanied by wild and wonderful jazz. (Not rated; Republic Pictures)

STRAW DOGS

Dustin Hoffman gives a highly charged performance in Sam Peckinpah's blistering melodrama about an American mathematician. He moves to an isolated British town in search of peace and quiet, enters a dispute with local laborers who molest his wife and invade his home, and settles the score in a burst of prolonged mayhem. When first released in 1971, the picture sparked heated debates over the escalating explicitness of on-screen sex and violence. Seen a quarter-century later, it seems a capably directed, blatantly manipulative thriller whose outrageous gender politics are stuck somewhere in the dim, barbaric past. Susan George plays the hero's wife. (R; CBS Fox/ABC Video)

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