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THE 47 RONIN, PARTS 1 AND 2 - Loyal warriors cope with their leader's death, concocting an elaborate plan to preserve their honor by destroying his enemies and restoring his memory to its rightful luster. Although the setting is medieval, the production of this celebrated Japanese epic during 1941 and 1942 points to its resonance in the World War II era. Most important of all is the unique style of director Kenji Mizoguchi, who turns what might have been a tumultuous tale into a visual experience of remarkable elegance and refinement. (Not rated; Home Vision Video)

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

Cecil B. DeMille specialized in larger-than-life epics, and he clearly hoped the title of this 1952 extravaganza would describe his movie as well as the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus, which provides the background for the action. Charlton Heston plays a circus boss who resists the charms of a trapeze artist (Betty Hutton) while keeping tabs on an egotistical aerialist (Cornel Wilde) and other big-top performers, some played by real circus stars. The acting is corny but the spectacle is - well, spectacular. And there's a delicious performance by James Stewart, covered in clown makeup for reasons the story eventually makes poignantly clear. (Not rated; Paramount)

RYAN'S DAUGHTER

In a seaside Irish village, a pubkeeper's daughter marries a shy schoolteacher, then falls deeply in love with a disabled English soldier, offending neighbors who despise the British rule he represents. Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles give thoughtful performances as the teacher and his straying wife, but large portions of the movie are stolen by Trevor Howard, Leo McKern, and John Mills in an Oscar-winning portrayal of the village idiot. Top honors go to the picture's astonishingly lovely cinematography, held in perfect balance with the intimate story by David Lean, who directed this British epic in 1970. Some viewers may object to the film's occasional moments of sexual passion, but everyone will enjoy its ravishing views of Ireland's western coast. (R; MGM/UA Home Video)

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