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‘MASH’ Arrives on DVD

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of the classic antiwar feature film comedies and the long-running TV series based on it are making their DVD debuts this week. Just think of it as Fox Video’s “MASH” note to the die-hard fans of Robert Altman’s Oscar-winning 1970 satire and the landmark, long-running CBS series.

The special two-disc DVD edition of the movie “MASH” ($27) is full of extra goodies and wonderful stories. Altman, whose current film “Gosford Park” is nominated for several Golden Globes, oversaw the extensive film and soundtrack restoration of this dark comedy set in a mobile Army surgical hospital during the Korean War. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture and director, “MASH” won its sole Oscar for Ring Lardner Jr.'s screenplay adaptation. The digital edition features a lengthy, comprehensive and funny documentary with behind-the-scenes footage of the production, a vintage interview with the late Lardner and new interviews with Altman, producer Ingo Preminger and several of the film’s stars, including Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland and Sally Kellerman.

Altman originally didn’t mention in the movie that it was set during the Korean War. But because the country was still embroiled in the Vietnam War, the studio made Altman announce at the outset that the action took place nearly 20 years earlier. Sutherland was hired to play Hawkeye Pierce before Altman came on board, and Altman initially wanted someone else for his part. Neither Sutherland nor Gould, who plays Trapper John, was used to Altman’s freewheeling improvisational style. During his interview, Sutherland points out that they both thought Altman was crazy and actually went to their agents to see if the director could be removed from the film. “We were so arrogant,” Sutherland says.

Sutherland also proffers a sweet story about his parents seeing the film for the first time in a theater in Las Vegas. When Hawkeye says “Hi, Dad!” for a news camerawoman in the film, Sutherland’s father stood up in the movie theater and said, “Hi, Donny.”

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The digital edition also includes the History Channel documentary, “MASH: History Through the Lens,” a look at the 30th anniversary reunion of the cast and crew, an overview of the film’s extensive restoration, a still gallery, talent files, trailers, a “Back Story” mini-doc that aired on American Movie Classics and commentary from Altman, who repeats much of what he discusses in the documentary.

Two years after “MASH” hit the theaters, CBS premiered the half-hour weekly comedy series developed by Larry Gelbart, which starred Wayne Rogers as Trapper John and Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce. The series won nearly 40 Emmys during its 11-year run and remains one of TV’s most popular series ever. The three-disc “MASH Television Season One DVD” ($40) features all 24 beautifully restored episodes from the first season.

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The digital edition of last year’s “Jeepers Creepers” (MGM, $27) should definitely be watched with the lights on. Written and directed by Victor Salva and executive-produced by Francis Ford Coppola, “Jeepers Creepers” is a classic monster flick about two college students--a brother and his older sister--taking the back route home for the holiday. The teenagers (Gina Philips and Justin Long) are almost run off the road by a manic driver in a weird old truck. Later, the siblings find the driver shoving what appear to be bodies down a sewer pipe at an abandoned church. When they decide to stop and investigate, they find an unimaginable horror.

The special edition features wide-screen and pan-and-scan versions of the film, a photo gallery, filmographies, 10 deleted and extended scenes, including the original opening and ending, six “making of” featurettes, talent files, a trailer and interesting commentary from Salva.

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The same week Showtime premieres the second season of its controversial, acclaimed drama, “Queer as Folk,” it is releasing the DVD and VHS sets of the first 22 episodes ($120 for each format) of the series (based on a British show of the same name) that focuses on the lives of a group of gay men and women living in Pittsburgh. Hal Sparks, Peter Paige, Gale Harold, Randy Harrison and Sharon Gless star.

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The digital edition of this strictly-for-adults series features actor and producer commentary on three of the 22 episodes, extended scenes hosted by Sparks, R-rated outtakes, a sneak peek at the second season, episode summaries, a photo gallery, biographies of the eight key characters from the series described by the actors who play them and filmographies of the actors and producers.

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One of John Frankenheimer’s greatest films, “Seconds” (Paramount, $25), makes its digital bow this week. John Randolph plays a disenchanted middle-age man who changes his identity through the help of a mysterious corporation. Though he starts life over as a handsome, swinging bachelor (Rock Hudson in his best performance), he soon discovers his second chance at life is more of a prison than his original existence.

The final film Frankenheimer shot in black and white, the disturbing 1966 drama showcases James Wong Howe’s eerie and evocative cinematography.

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The DVD has a beautiful wide-screen transfer of the restored film, the trailer and Frankenheimer’s perceptive commentary.

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James Dean starred only in the movies--"East of Eden,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant"--before his untimely death at age 24. But before coming out to Hollywood, Dean appeared on TV in several dramatic series.

A new DVD, “James Dean Era” (Eclectic Distribution, $25) features three of Dean’s television appearances: “The Unlighted Road,” “I’m a Fool” (with “Rebel” co-star Natalie Wood) and “Something for an Empty Briefcase.” Though the first two dramas have been available on tape, “Briefcase” is a rarity, having been missing for more than 40 years. None of these shows is great, but it’s wonderful to see Dean flex his acting muscles on the small screen.

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Back in 1965, the Three Stooges--Larry, Moe and Curly Joe DeRita--starred in their first animated cartoon series, “The New Three Stooges.” Rhino Home Video is releasing several episodes on VHS ($10 each) and DVD ($15). Each six-minute cartoon includes live-action wraparounds with the boys. Though the wraparounds are at least watchable, the cartoons are pretty awful.

Strictly for undiscerning Stooges fans.


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