VIDEOSCAN. A selection of new releases for sale or rental
FODOR'S GREAT BRITAIN (Directed by Ken Harrison and James Holcomb. Produced by Lyn Downing; Random House Video) - This entertaining and instructive travelogue covers a lot of ground: London, Bath, Oxford, and a number of other locations in England and parts of Scotland. It gives a good overview of favorite tourist spots as well as out-of-the-way places, and includes some interesting historical footnotes. Some of the best moments are in bagpipe shop in Scotland, footage of Morris dancers (supposedly the precursors of American tap) in Woodstock; and the sheep country of Cumbria. Includes warnings about scalpers and tourists traps, but is definitely not geared toward budget travelers interested in youth hostels or pensions. -Amy Duncan FODOR'S MEXICO (Directed by Don Lenzer. Produced by Dennis Bishop. Random House Video) - Like the Great Britain video above, ``Fodor's Mexico'' covers a lot of ground and features plenty of side trips well off the beaten path. It includes the expected tourist information about beaches in Acapulco, sightseeing spots in Mexico City, and, once again, is not for the traveler on a restricted budget. But it definitely captures the flavor of Mexico, from big-city life to the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan, with lots footage of Indians selling and trading in the open markets. Includes the same travel tips as the Great Britain video. Both tapes come with a hotel guide and maps, and discount travel coupons. Also available: ``Fodor's Hawaii.'' -A.D. THE SHANGHAI GESTURE (Directed by Josef von Sternberg. 1941. Mystic Fire Video) - This delirious drama takes place largely in a Chinese gambling den, where a temptress with the unlikely name of Mother Gin Sling presides over a tangled succession of encounters, love affairs, and arbitrary plot twists. Like many another Hollywood entertainment of its time, including the slightly later ``Casablanca,'' the picture blends exotic details with down-to-earth dialogue; even the most mysterioso characters have flat American accents and are likely to crack a Brooklyn joke now and then. The screenplay holds few surprises, perhaps because Hollywood's censors demanded that it be rendered far less feisty than its source, a popular 1920s stage drama. The pleasures of the movie come less from its words than from Von Sternberg's fluid visual style and flamboyant performances by Gene Tierney, as a spirited Englishwoman transplanted to the East, and Victor Mature, as a Khayyam-quoting wastrel who takes up with her. Walter Huston is boring as the heroine's father, but Eric Blore more than compensates in a hysterical turn as the casino's money manager.
- David Sterritt ABEL'S ISLAND (Produced and directed by Michael Sporn. Random House Video.) - New Yorker cartoonist/writer William Steig's award-winning children's novel has been turned into a beautifully conceived family video by Michael Sporn. Abel is an aristocratic mouse who is suddenly washed away in a storm while picknicking with his wife. He ends up on an island where there seems to be no escape. Things get very gloomy, but Abel's ingenuity saves him in the end. Morals about patience and perseverance are gently presented. The sketchlike cartoon drawings are charming, and the animation convincing. Tim Curry, of ``Rocky Horror Show'' fame, is Abel's voice. -A.D.