James Stewart -- The Signature Collection [Warner] $50...

DVD CHECK

August 24, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

James Stewart -- The Signature Collection

[Warner] $50

The title of this Stewart set is in itself misleading: It doesn't contain any of the lanky actor's signature roles, such as his Academy Award-winning turn in The Philadelphia Story or the beloved It's a Wonderful Life. But the six films offered are of interest.

Though he's a bit old to play baseball player Monty Stratton in 1949's The Stratton Story, Stewart gives a folksy, charming turn in the true-life story of the Chicago White Sox pitcher who made a remarkable return to the sport after he lost his leg in an accident.

Stewart made a series of mature psychological westerns with director Anthony Mann in the 1950s; their 1953 collaboration, The Naked Spur, is the most satisfying. Shot in Technicolor on location in the Rockies, the saga finds Stewart playing an ambitious bounty hunter trying to bring in an evil outlaw.

Billy Wilder directed Stewart in 1957's lengthy The Spirit of St. Louis, based on Charles Lindbergh's book about his 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Though Stewart imbues his Lindbergh with boyish charm, perseverance and innocence, he was nearly 50 when he played the role. Lindbergh was all of 25 when he flew the Atlantic.

A valentine to the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover, who appears in the film, 1959's The FBI Story is a straightforward, plodding drama about the growth and development of the government agency as seen through the eyes of a stalwart agent (Stewart).

Stewart teams up with longtime friend Henry Fonda for two westerns here: 1968's Firecreek, which casts Fonda as the bad guy and Stewart as a pacifist sheriff, and 1970's The Cheyenne Social Club, directed by Gene Kelly.

Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier

[Paramount] $20

The special edition of the Francis Ford Coppola Vietnam War classic features the original 1979 version as well as the 2001 Redux; Coppola's astute commentary on both editions; 12 deleted scenes; Marlon Brando's complete reading of the T.S. Elliot poem "The Hollow Men"; and more.

RV

[Sony] $20

Though this Robin Williams comedy about the misadventures of a family on vacation in a rented RV took a critical drubbing, the extras on the digital edition almost make it a worthwhile trip. The main reason is director Barry Sonnenfeld, who provides droll commentary that's much funnier than the film.

Scary Movie 4

[Dimension] $30

The fourth installment in the movie spoof franchise is a hit-and-miss affair. Anna Faris and Regina Hall star. David Zucker directed. The extras are quite ingratiating, thanks to the self-deprecating commentary of Zucker, producer Bob Weiss and co-writer Craig Mazin.

Rome: Season 1

[HBO] $100

HBO's ambitious series set during the last years of Julius Caesar's reign. The six-disc set includes commentary tracks, including four with executive producer-writer Bruno Heller and historian consultant Jonathan Stamp, who manage to be educational and entertaining.

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