New on DVD

HBO Home Video unleashes the Alan (Six Feet Under) Ball vampire series True Blood: The Complete First Season (5-disc $59.99), starring Anna Paquin. Extras include six cast and crew audio commentaries, the mockumentary In Focus: Vampires in America, satiric spots and more. Eagle Media likewise goes the bloodsucker route with the Lifetime Channel series Blood Ties: Season One (4-disc $26.99), based on Tanya Huff's Victoria Nelson books; the set contains all 13 Season 1 episodes, along with a behind-the-scenes documentary and trailer. Not to be outdone, E1 Entertainment debuts The Hunger: The Complete First Season (4-disc $39.98), from executive producers Tony and Ridley Scott, hosted by Terence Stamp and featuring Daniel Craig, Karen Black, Margot Kidder, Lena Headey and Timothy Spall; the 22-episode set includes a behind-the-scenes look at Season 2, with David Bowie hosting.

In the Ready for Crime Time Dept., CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment opens the cathode vaults for Cannon: Season Two Volume One (3-disc $39.99), starring William Conrad as portly PI Frank Cannon; Conrad returns as equally beefy prosecuting attorney J.L. "Fatman" McCabe in Jake and the Fatman: Season Two (3-disc $39.99), costarring Joe (The Gangster Chronicles) Penny. And on the subject of legal eagles, the same label presents Perry Mason: Season 4 Volume 1 (4-disc $54.99), with Raymond Burr as the determined defense attorney. Benjamin Bratt toplines as an unconventional interventionist in CBS/DVD's The Cleaner: The First Season in a four-disc set ($54.99) that includes select cast and crew commentaries and interviews, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes documentary, gag reel and more.

Sagebrush justice is served by James Arness' Matt Dillon in the same label's Gunsmoke: The Third Season Volume 2 (3-disc $39.99), corralling 20 B&W Season 3 episodes of the classic oater costarring Dennis Weaver, Milburn Stone and Amanda Blake. VCI Entertainment likewise revisits the '50s frontier with Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater: Season One (4-disc $39.99), hosted by actor Powell, who also stars in several of the assembled 29 episodes; other notable guest thesps include Ernest Borgnine, Rory Calhoun, Lee J. Cobb, Beverly Garland, James Garner, Jack Lemmon, Ida Lupino and Jack Palance.

In the suspense arena, Kiefer Sutherland returns as the ever-beleaguered Jack Bauer in 24: Season 7 (6-disc $49.98), containing all 24 Season 7 episodes plus select audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes and more, while Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell portray brothers on the lam from sinister forces in Prison Break: Season Four (6-disc $49.98), with featurettes and commentaries; both sets arrive via 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Likewise from the same label come the comedy/thriller combo Burn Notice: Season Two, starring Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar and the always welcome Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe (no relation to his signature Evil Dead character Ash), complete with select commentaries, deleted scenes, featurette and more, and Saving Grace (4-disc $49.98 each), headlining Holly Hunter as a hard-boiled police detective who receives celestial guidance.

Acorn Media goes the British crime route with Caroline Quentin in Blue Murder Set 4 (2-disc $39.99); the three-episode Andrew Taylor serial-killer trilogy Fallen Angel (2-disc $29.99), starring Charles Dance and Emilia Fox; Yannick Bisson in the 1890s-set Murdoch Mysteries: Season One (4-disc $59.99); The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Set 4 (2-disc $39.99), offering the Inspector Wexford suspense miniseries Simisola and Road Rage, along with the bonus documentary Super Sleuths: Inspector Wexford; and Malcolm McDowell and Eileen Atkins in the 1920s-set made-for-TV thriller She Fell Among Thieves ($24.95). The action shifts to Vancouver, Canada in the four-disc, 12-episode Intelligence: Season Two ($59.99), with Ian Tracey and Klea Scott, complemented by an interview with series creator Chris Haddock and behind-the-scenes clips.

The same label chronicles The Adventure of English: The Life Story of a Remarkable Language (4-disc $79.99), a four-part series hosted by Melvyn Bragg, presents the space exploration documentary Apollo 11: A Night to Remember ($24.99), detours to Downing Street for the historical epic Number 10 (3-disc $49.99), and celebrates the Bard with Playing Shakespeare (4-disc $79.99), a series of master classes featuring Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen, David Suchet and Patrick Stewart, among other noted thespians.

Also fresh from across the pond, BBC Video intros a trio of teleseries: the femme-focused drama Mistresses (4-disc $59.98), the venerable Britcom Waiting for God: Season Four (2-disc $34.98), collecting all 10 Season 4 episodes plus the 1993 Christmas Special, and Kenneth Branagh as Swedish detective Wallander (2-disc $34.98), assembling three feature-length mysteries-Sidetracked, Firewall and One Step Behind-along with behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews.

HBO Video goes the comic route with two new sets. Eastbound & Down (2-disc $29.99) stars Danny (The Foot Fist Way, Land of the Lost) McBride as a boorish ex-ballplayer who returns to his roots; extras include audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurette, outtakes and more. Martin Scorsese, Martin Landau and Eric Roberts put in guest appearances in Entourage: The Complete Fifth Season (3-disc $39.98), arriving with three audio commentaries and cast and crew interviews.

In the animation arena, E1 Entertainment issues the influential 1960s black-and-white anime import Gigantor: The Collection Volume 1 (4-disc $39.98). The set contains the series' first 26 episodes, digitally transferred from the original 16mm film, along with an interview with director/producer/writer Fred Ladd, an interview with anime historian Fred Patten, select Ladd audio commentaries, six Gigantor comic book issues on DVD-ROM and a collectible booklet. Charlie Brown buffs will want to scope out Warner's Peanuts 1960s' Collection (2-disc $29.98), presenting a half-dozen remastered TV specials, including the new-to-DVD titles He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown and It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown. Lionsgate launches the superhero series Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies ($14.98), featuring five episodes, while Warner counters with Green Lantern: First Flight ($19.98).

Shout! Factory harkens back to the '60s with the pioneering nighttime soap Peyton Place: Part One (5-disc $39.99), gathering the first 31 episodes, with a stellar cast that includes Mia Farrow, Ed Nelson, Ryan O'Neal, Barbara Parkins and Dorothy Malone.

In the documentary department, A&E Home Entertainment releases several new DVDs with an eerie bent, including Ghost Ships, fresh entries in its Haunted History series (e.g., Haunted Caribbean) and MonsterQuest: Season Three, Set One. The discs are tagged at $24.95 each.

In new film-set developments, Warner Home Video preps a Halloween treat for Boris and Bela buffs with its double-disc Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics ($26.98), yoking the BK chillers The Walking Dead (1936) and Frankenstein 1970 with the Bela movies You'll Find Out (1940), costarring Boris, Peter Lorre and Kay Kyser (now that's scary!), and Zombies on Broadway (1945), featuring the Abbott & Costello wannabes Alan Carney and Wally Brown. Extras include a Frankenstein 1970 commentary with actress Charlotte Austin and frequent 'Scope scribe Tom Weaver and a Walking Dead track by film historian Greg Mank.

Sony Pictures presents Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection, gathering three Ishiro Honda heavyweights-Mothra, The H-Man and Battle in Outer Space-under the same digital roof, with subtitled and English-dubbed viewing options. After tingling the spine, the label looks to tickle the funnybone with Icons of Screwball Comedy Volume One, containing If You Could Only Cook (1935), Too Many Husbands (1940), My Sister Eileen (1942) and She Would Say Yes (1945), and Volume Two, collecting Theodora Goes Wild (1936), Together Again (1944), The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940) and A Night to Remember (1943). The discs are tagged at $24.96 each.

If you like gladiator movies, you'll love RetroMedia's Muscle Madness ($24.98). The three-disc set assembles a quintet of 1960s Italo 'ceps-and-'pecs epics-Steve Reeves in Giant of Marathon and War of the Trojans, Mark Forest in Goliath and the Sins of Babylon, Alan Steel in the surreal Hercules Against the Moon Men, and Rod Taylor in Colossus and the Amazon Queen. And free inside-a replica theater promo booklet titled Men!! How to Be a Hercules. (Can you prove that it (couldn't happen?)

The Great Profile emotes anew in Kino Video's four-disc silent set The John Barrymore Collection ($59.95), offering 1927's The Beloved Rogue (with art direction by William Cameron Menzies and a filmed introduction by Orson Welles), 1920's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (plus an excerpt from the rival 1920 version starring Sheldon Lewis and Stan Laurel's 1925 spoof Dr. Pickle and Mr. Pride), 1922's Sherlock Holmes and 1928's The Tempest.

Kino also celebrates French filmmaker Alain Resnais' '80s oeuvre with the four-disc set Alain Resnais: A Decade in Film ($49.98), collecting Life Is a Bed of Roses (1983), Love Unto Death (1984), Melo (1986) and I Want to Go Home (1989); extras include producer and cast interviews and Resnais est un Roman, a documentary on the making of Life Is a Bed of Roses.

Though your Phantom's long been a committed Curlyphile, we must admit to being turned on to the joys of Shemp in Sony Pictures' latest stellar Stooge assemblage The Three Stooges Collection Volume Six 1949-1951 (2-disc $24.96). Highlights among the two dozen shorts on view are Malice in the Palace (with its extended dog and cat cooking gag orchestrated by chef Larry), the sagebrush satire Punchy Cowpunchers, the Shemp showcase Scrambled Brains (with a basic premise later lifted for the chuckle-free Jack Black "comedy" Shallow Hal) and Self-Made Maids (wherein our heroes not only play themselves but go the drag route as a trio of Stooge-struck sisters-Moe even triples as the gals' ornery old dad). No extras but still lots of Stooge bang for the buck.

Universal Studios time-travels to the early '30s with its Pre-Code Hollywood Collection (3-disc $49.98), containing six vintage pics-The Cheat, Hot Saturday, Merrily We Go to Hell, Murder at the Vanities, Search for Beauty and Torch Singer.

Agatha Christie mystery lovers couldn't ask for much more than A&E Home Video's gala 17-disc Poirot and Marple collection ($134.95). David Suchet stars as the clever Belgian shamus Hercule Poirot, in an even dozen feature-length capers, ranging from Murder in Mesopotamia to The Mystery of the Blue Train, while Jane Hickson inhabits spry sleuth Miss Marple in fully nine gripping cases, for nearly 35 hours worth of ratiocination and suspense. Extras include star biographies, extensive bibliographies, indices and more. The same label switches continents, formats and gears in The Mafia: The Cold Blooded History of the Mob (4-disc $34.98, assembling 12 hour-long documentary inquiries into such tainted topics as Al Capone and the Machine Gun Massacre and The Kennedys and the Mob, along with the bonus documentary Mob Hitmen.

Acorn Media leads the way in the British import arena. In the suspense department, the label introduces Armchair Thriller Set 1 (4-disc $59.99), assembling four feature-length mysteries-Dying Day, The Limbo Connection, Rachel in Danger and The Victim-with guest stars ranging from Ian McKellen to John Shrapnel-Edward (The Equalizer) Woodward as the eponymous secret agent in Callahan Set 1 (3-disc $49.99), collecting nine tense episodes plus a Woodward bio, and David Suchet returns as Agatha Christie's sleuth in Poirot: The Movie Collection Set 4 (3-disc $49.99), yoking the made-for-TV features Cat Among the Pigeons and Mrs. McGinty's Dead, plus the bonus Poirot series documentary Super Sleuths. In a lighter vein, the same label showcases Martin Clunes as a blood-shy surgeon in the nine-episode comedy/drama Doc Martin Series 2 (3-disc $49.99).

MPI Home Video continues the adventures of David Jason as Detective Inspector Jack Frost in A Touch of Frost Season 14 (2-disc $34.98), assembling three feature-length episodes-Mind Games, Dead End and In the Public Interest.

Timothy Hutton toplines as an embittered ex-insurance investigator who uses his advance techniques to get back at the system that betrayed him in Paramount Home Entertainment's Leverage: The 1st Season ($39.98). The four-disc set assembles all Season 1 episodes along with deleted scenes and multiple behind-the-scenes featurettes. Andy Griffith doles out justice as the eponymous guitar-playing Southern lawyer in the same label's Matlock: The Third Season (5-disc $54.99), gathering all 20 Season 3 episodes. Inept lawpersons fail to keep the titular city safe in Reno 911!: The Complete Sixth Season Uncensored (2-disc $26.98); extras include cast commentary, outtakes, and profiles of new characters Deputy Frank Rizzo and Sergeant Jack Declan.

Elsewhere in the comedy arena, CBS DVD introsThe Lucy Show: The Official First Season (4-disc $42.99); in addition to all 30 Season 1 black-and-white episodes, the set includes interviews with costar Jimmy Garrett, Lucie Arnaz, cast commentary, outtakes + much more. North of the border label Video Service Corp. pumps the final 19 episodes of Corner Gas: Season 6 (3-disc $39.95) for mourning fans of the smash Canadian sitcom starring Brent Butt and Nancy Robertson. Set includes cast and crew commentaries, a TV special and behind the scenes footage.

BLU-RAY WAY

The increasingly popular high-def digital format receives a further boost via CBS DVD/Paramount's gala five-disc CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The First Season ($99.99). The set contains all 23 Season 1 episodes, plus the director's cut of the pilot, for the first time in high-def 16:9 widescreen and 7.1 audio. Extras include a pilot commentary track, the behind-the-scenes featurettes CSI People Lie ... But the Evidence Never Does and CSI Season One: Rediscovering the Evidence HD, deleted scenes, outtakes, gag reel, promos and more.

HBO focuses on distant and recent history in two disparate series. Paul Giamatti takes on the eponymous role in John Adams (3-disc $79.98); in addition to the complete 7-part series, the set contains behind-the-scenes featurettes, an onscreen historical guide, character biographies and more. The Iraq War supplies the setting and fireworks in Generation Kill (3-disc $79.98), arriving with interactive features, audio commentaries, making-of featurettes, interviews and more.

Showtime Entertainment continues the murderous misadventures of Dexter: The Second Season in a three-disc set ($59.99), with Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter and James Remar; extras include the featurette Blood Fountains, the first two episodes of The United States of Tara and more.

Peter Sellers returns in three iconic roles in Sony Pictures' Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 45th Anniversary Blu-ray High-Def Edition ($38.96) of the Stanley Kubrick cult classic. Special features include four documentaries, an interview with Robert McNamara, archival interviews with Sellers and costar George C. Scott, and a pop-up trivia track.

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