Dvd Check

DVD CHECK

May 18, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

The Poseidon Adventure

[Fox] $20

The 1970s was a fertile decade in American cinema because of the demise of the studio system and the production code and the influx of such "Young Turk" directors as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Peter Bogdanovich and William Friedkin.

The '70s also ushered in the era of the all-star disaster film. Although 1954's The High and the Mighty is the granddaddy of disaster epics, the genre didn't really take off until 1970's Airport.

The "Master of Disaster" was producer Irwin Allen. The critics may have skewered his popcorn flicks, but audiences loved them. Fox is releasing addictive special editions ($20 each) of Allen's best films: 1972's The Poseidon Adventure -- Wolfgang Petersen's remake Poseidon opened last week -- and 1974's The Towering Inferno.

Based on a novel by Paul Gallico, The Poseidon Adventure is set aboard a venerable luxury ocean liner making one last voyage from New York to Athens before being scrapped. On New Year's Eve, the ship is capsized by a tidal wave, and only a few of the passengers have the sense to head upward to the bottom of the ship as their only hope of being rescued.

The cast includes Oscar winners Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Jack Albertson and Oscar-nominated Shelley Winters. Carol Lynley, Pamela Sue Martin and Stella Stevens also star. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, Poseidon Adventure won for best song for "The Morning After."

The first disc includes civilized commentary from 95-year-old director Ronald Neame, who admits that both he and Hackman felt they were "slumming it," and amusing moments with Stevens, Lynley and Martin.

The second disc contains an AMC Backstory episode on the film and nine new featurettes, including interviews with the cast, a look at the Queen Mary, an examination of the special effects and an exploration of the religious and spiritual aspects of the film. Rounding out the disc are film-to-storyboard comparisons and vintage featurettes.

Two years later, Allen produced The Towering Inferno, which deals with a deadly fire that breaks out in the world's largest skyscraper the night the massive structure officially opens. Allen gathered an impressive cast, including Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Jennifer Jones, Fred Astaire (who received his only Oscar nomination for his performance), Robert Wagner, Robert Vaughn, Richard Chamberlain and a memorably awful O.J. Simpson.

Towering Inferno received eight Oscar nominations, including best film, and won statuettes for cinematography, editing and song for "We May Never Love Like This Again."

Extras include informative commentary with film historian and critic F.X. Feeney, scene-specific commentary with contemporary special effects director Mike Venzina and stunt coordinator Branko Racki, featurettes on the genesis of the project, the special effects and stunts. There's an AMC Backstory here as well, and extended and deleted scenes.

Earthquake

[Universal] $15

Universal is also releasing its 1974 disaster flick Earthquake, a melodrama in which a massive temblor hits Los Angeles. Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, Lorne Greene, George Kennedy and Genevieve Bujold star. The film won a special achievement Oscar for its then-cutting-edge special effects and the award for best sound -- Universal introduced a new system for the film called Sensurround, in which heavy bass speakers were installed on the floors in theaters so audiences' seats would vibrate during quake sequences.

Munich

[Universal] $40

Steven Spielberg's controversial drama about the aftermath of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Eric Bana stars as one of the five Israeli Mossad agents recruited to track down and kill the men responsible. The two-disc limited edition includes an introduction by Spielberg and well-crafted documentaries.

The New World

[New Line] $28

Reclusive, iconoclastic American director Terrence Malick's fourth feature in 32 years is a beautifully photographed Expressionistic rendering of the historical tale of Virginia's first white settlers, who came to the "New World" in 1607. Colin Farrell plays explorer Capt. John Smith, who falls in love with the 14-year-old Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher). The DVD offers a low-key but intriguing 10-part documentary on the complex production -- Malick doesn't participate in any of the interviews.

Nanny McPhee

[Universal] $30

Emma Thompson stars in and wrote the screenplay for this colorful children's film about an unusual nanny who uses her magical powers and quirky personality to rein in the seven children of a perplexed widower (Colin Firth). Extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel, minidocumentaries on Thompson's makeup, the casting of the children and the whimsical production design. Director Kirk Jones and his diminutive stars supply commentary, as do a droll Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran.

The Facts of Life

The Complete First and Second Season

[Sony] $40

Spinoff of the popular NBC sitcom Diff'rent Strokes was created in 1979 as a vehicle for Strokes star Charlotte Rae, who played the housekeeper, Edna Garrett. In the spinoff, Mrs. Garrett became the housemother to a group of girls attending Eastland School. The set includes interviews with several of the actresses.

Coming Tuesday

Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Transamerica, Game 6, BloodRayne and London.

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