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CAN PLAYBOY’S ‘GIRLS OF ROCK’ SING?

Times Staff Writer

Critics have had fun trashing “The Girls of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the heralded, heavily publicized cassette on Playboy Video ($39.95) featuring gorgeous unknown--and often undraped--women singers in racy music videos.

The critics claim that these lovelies can’t even carry a tune, but director David Winters, in their defense, insisted: “They’re good singers. Those critics are dead wrong.”

Winters did acknowledge that the auditions weren’t geared to choosing the best singers: “We had visuals in mind when we were making the selections. We couldn’t really choose singers based on the quality of their voices. This is a video, and visuals are crucial. It’s not a record album.”

“The Girls of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is an expensive--$400,000--production, but nearly all the budget, Winters reported, went into the flashy visuals.

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“We didn’t spend much money on the music--about $40,000 for the arranging, recording, overdubbing, etc. That’s less than some recording company would spend on one single for some singer. We got a lot for our money, I don’t care what the critics say.”

NEW RIVAL FORMAT: Though it’s not common knowledge, there are more than two video formats. Everyone knows about Beta and VHS, but not too many people are aware of 8 millimeter.

Around for about a year, 8 millimeter is a mini-version of the dominant formats. An 8-mm. cassette, much smaller than the Beta and VHS half-inch cassettes, is just a shade larger than an audio cassette. The 8-mm. equipment is more compact, too.

Eight millimeter has size on its side, but smaller hasn’t necessarily been better. Kodak introduced 8 mm. last year and, along with Polaroid, hasn’t been able to make a dent in VHS-Beta dominance of the market. The compactness of the equipment couldn’t compensate for picture quality that, according to most reports, wasn’t comparable to VHS or Beta.

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Another problem with 8 mm. was the lack of prerecorded cassettes. Since you couldn’t rent the latest movie in 8 mm., nobody wanted it. But now Sony, the great innovator, has entered the market, offering a $1,700 camera-recorder that weighs five pounds, offers a high-quality picture and plugs into a TV without that annoying intermediate box. Other 8-mm. products are on the way from Sony. Also, expect to see more 8-mm. prerecorded cassettes at your local video outlet.

Sony, which has a terrific track record, is predicting that 8 mm. will be the dominant format in about five years. That forecast may be a bit premature; Sony is going to face some rugged opposition. All those who have invested in VHS and Beta VCRs and cassettes aren’t going to be easy to convert.

SNIPPETS: It’s often reported that the home video business is almost exclusively rental, a fact that irritates video companies, since they don’t share in the rental revenues. Many more video customers would buy rather than rent if prices were lower. A recent movie selling for $80 would be much more attractive at $30. But don’t expect companies to lower prices on cassettes of recent movies any time soon. . . .

What-Won’t-They-Think-of-Next Department: Video magazine reports that there’s a phenomenal Mitsubishi video printer that operates like a computer printer. Press a remote control button and you can get a single-frame, black-and-white print of whatever’s on your TV screen. The Mitsubishi P-50U prints any number of copies. The best part is the price per copy, a mere 2 cents; the unit, however lists for $390 . . .

Embassy is entering the second phase of its effort to foil pirates. The company released “The Cotton Club” cassettes at the end of April armed with a new anti-piracy process that supposedly distorts the picture on copies, making them unwatchable. Embassy has released a second videocassette equipped with this process, “Torchlight,” starring Pamela Sue Martin and Steve Railsback, now in the stores. Pirates, beware.

JAZZ AND CLASSICAL: For jazz fans, a collection of eight videos, “Prime Cuts: Jazz and Beyond,” is due in late June (CBS/Fox, $19.95). The highlights are Miles Davis’ “Decoy,” Al DiMeola’s “Sequencer,” Chuck Mangione’s “Diana D” and Herbie Hancock’s “Hardrock.” It also includes Andreas Vollenweider, Weather Report, Hiroshima and the Clark/Duke Project. . . . Sometime in June, for $29.95 each, Sony will release a series of jazz cassettes by Nancy Wilson, Art Farmer, Joe Williams, Bob Wilber, Mel Lewis, Chick Corea and Mike Mainieri.

For opera and classical buffs: Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” a Glyndebourne Festival Opera production featuring Kiri Te Kanawa and Knut Skram (Video Arts International, $79.95); Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” an Italian production starring Raina Kabaivanska and Nazzareno Antinori (Thorn/EMI $39.95), and “Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms,” with performances by Alexis Weissenberg, Teresa Berganza and Pierre Amoyal (Sony, $39.95).

NEW AND COMING: Now available, “Places in the Heart,” featuring Sally Field’s Oscar-winning performance (CBS/Fox, $79.98). Out next week: “The River,” another of last year’s farm films, featuring Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek.

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In mid-July RCA/Columbia will release one of last year’s most acclaimed films, “A Soldier’s Story” ($79.95) starring Adolph Caesar, and one that got hardly any acclaim, the Tom Selleck science-fiction drama “Runaway” ($79.95). . . . Also in July: “Into the Night,” the comedy/thriller directed by John Landis (MCA, $79.95), the Jack Lemmon drama “Mass Appeal” ($79.95) and “Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo” (MGM/UA, $79.95).

An adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel, “To the Lighthouse,” is due on cassette at the end of June. This 1983 HBO special stars Rosemary Harris and Michael Gough (Epic, $69.95).

Atlantic Records joins the home-video market in June with a $19.98 cassette for heavy-metal fans, “Ratt the Video,” which includes music videos and backstage footage.

CHARTS: The three new releases that should dominate the rental market in June all did quite well on the Billboard magazine rental chart. “Dune” debuted at No. 10, “The Karate Kid” jumped from No. 37 to No. 5 and “City Heat” climbed from No. 31 to No. 12.

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, RENTALS 1. “The Terminator” (Thorn/EMI).

2. “The Cotton Club” (Embassy).

3. “Teachers” (CBS-Fox).

4. “Body Double” (RCA/Columbia).

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5. “The Karate Kid” (RCA/Columbia).

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, SALES 1. “Jane Fonda’s Workout” (Karl).

2. “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock” (Paramount).

3. “Gone With the Wind” (MGM/UA).

4. “Prime Time” (Karl).

5. “The Terminator” (Thorn/EMI).


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