'Doctor Zhivago' restored for 30th anniversary

'Doctor Zhivago' restored for 30th anniversary
Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in "Doctor Zhivago." ()

This Tuesday, MGM/UA Home Video releases the newly restored 30th anniversary edition of "Doctor Zhivago" ($25), director David Lean's beloved version of Boris Pasternak's acclaimed novel.

Omar Sharif, who achieved heartthrob status as the romantic Russian poet-doctor Yuri Zhivago in the Oscar-winning hit, acknowledges that he had a difficult time watching the film earlier this year at a gala screening in Beverly Hills.


"I wish I could stay as young as the films," the 63-year-old Sharif confesses with a sigh. "To tell you the truth, I couldn't sit through the whole thing because, you know, too many things came back to my mind. When you think how you looked then and how you look now, it's depressing."

Audiences, he says, "expect you to be even older than you really are. They say, 'My God, that's the guy from the '60s.' When you think that 30 years have passed so quickly, you think, 'Well, I hope the next 10 years won't pass that quickly.' "

Sharif says he had a great working relationship with director Lean, who first cast the Egyptian actor in his 1962 Oscar-winner "Lawrence of Arabia" in the role of Sherif Ali Ibn El Kharish. Sharif received a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his performance as the friend of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole).

"He considered me in a sort of way as his son because he always thought he discovered me," Sharif explains. "I made films in Egypt, but he's the one who discovered me for the Western world. He was very, very fond of me. That's why he got me to do 'Doctor Zhivago,' because it wasn't obvious at the time that the actor who was sitting on the camel in 'Lawrence of Arabia' with a black mustache would come and play a Russian poet. As a matter of fact, all the MGM people, even Carlo Ponti, the producer, thought he was mad. He said, 'I know this man. I know he can do this.' He had his way."

Sharif spent 10 1/2 months shooting "Zhivago" in Spain and Finland. "I was out there about four months before for preparation," Sharif recalls. " 'Lawrence' was 20 months. I tell you what, I wouldn't do this again. When you are young you can do these things. I wouldn't accept a film today if they said you have to go out for 10 to 12 months in uncomfortable conditions."

Sharif believes "Doctor Zhivago" has struck a chord with audiences over three decades because it's "got all the classic ingredients of the classic film. If you think about it, it's exactly the same formula as 'Gone With the Wind.' It's a great love story set against the background of civil war and revolution. People love to see romantic films. Even the people who love violent [movies], now and then they feel like seeing a good old romantic film where they can have a little cry and a little dream. I think everybody needs that now and then."

The restored "Doctor Zhivago" is available in regular and letterbox formats and includes a documentary on the film.

Documentaries: On April 15, 1994, British writer Dennis Potter ("Pennies From Heaven," "The Singing Detective") was interviewed by Melvyn Bragg ("The South Bank Show") for British television. Potter was frank, brilliant, controversial. He also was dying of cancer and had only weeks to live. "Dennis Potter: The Final Interview" (NVG, $20) is a sad, enthralling, mesmerizing must-see.

"First Works" (Rhino Home Video, $40 each; $60 for both volumes) is a fascinating two-volume examination of 12 contemporary filmmakers: Roger Corman, Taylor Hackford, Spike Lee, Paul Mazursky, Oliver Stone, Robert Zemeckis, John Carpenter, Richard Donner, Ron Howard, John Milius, Martin Scorsese and Susan Seidelman. The interviews, which were conducted in the late '80s, are compelling and insightful. But the enjoyable clips from the directors' student films and early feature and TV work are the best reasons to watch.

TV Time: Fans of MTV's "The Real World" series will probably get a kick out of "The Real World Vacation: Behind the Scenes" (Sony Music Video, $13). Featured is never-before-seen footage of juicy brawls and fights that the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco casts got involved in when they were sent on vacation. Heather B., the rapper from the New York cast; Jon Brennan, the virginal country singer from the L.A. group, and Rachel Campos, the Republican co-ed from the S.F. cast, meet for lunch, dish up the dirt and introduce the clips.

Bergman Fest: Ingmar Bergman's 1969 drama "The Rite" ("The Ritual") (Home Vision, $40) makes its video debut. Gunnar Bjornstrand, Ingrid Thulin and Anders Ek play members of a theatrical troupe who are summoned by a judge to answer questions on obscenity. Besides "The Rite," Home Vision also is re-releasing Bergman's "The Magic Flute" ($30), his long unavailable adaptation of Mozart's beloved opera.

Update: Republic Pictures Home Video has pushed back the street date of "It's a Wonderful Life 50th Anniversary Edition" to early November. The deluxe edition was originally due for release on Sept. 19.

New This Week: Norman Jewison is the producer of "Dance Me Outside" (A-Pix Entertainment), a compelling little drama based on W. P. Kinsella's novel. Set at the Kidabanessee Reservation in Canada, "Dance" focuses on two friends (Ryan Black and Adam Beach) who are eagerly awaiting the reunion of friends and family. However, their lives change when one of the friends (Tamara Podemski) is murdered. Well-acted by a talented young cast; sturdily directed by Bruce McDonald ("Highway 61").

Jerry Lewis, Oliver Platt, Leslie Caron and Richard Griffiths star in "Funny Bones" (Hollywood Pictures Home Video), an offbeat comedy about an aspiring young comic, living in the shadows of his famous comedian father, who returns to his hometown of Blackpool, England, after bombing in Las Vegas. Directed by Peter Chelsom ("Hear My Song").


Marlon Brando returns to the screen after five years in "Don Juan DeMarco" (New Line), a comedy about a shrink who tries to convince a young man (Johnny Depp) he's not the legendary lover Don Juan. Faye Dunaway also stars.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jim Carroll in "The Basketball Diaries" (Polygram), the critical and box-office disappointment based on Carroll's bestseller.

Also new: "New Jersey Drive" (MCA/Universal); "Roommates" (Hollywood Pictures Home Video); "Once Were Warriors" (New Line); "Frank and Jesse" (HBO); and "The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb" (Magna Entertainment).