NEWLY RELEASED VIDEOS THE HOT SPOT

The parallels to "Blue Velvet" are so numerous that this Dennis Hopper-directed project could be considered a remake. He imposes a "Postman Always Rings Twice" story line over this film about a guy, who is drawn into a love triangle with two women who represent opposing poles of light and darkness. It takes place in a small town (although Hopper prefers the desert to Lynch's timberlands), filled with randomly quirky folks. Don Johnson is the car-salesman stranger who appears in town and is attracted (and attractive) to beautiful innocent Jennifer Connelly. Of course, that hardly slows down his glandular response to scheming trollop Virginia Madsen. Hopper has us sweating out the end that, like some cooling reprieve, never seems to get here. Orion. - Tom Maurstad (Dallas Morning News)

MONDO CANE - Three decades after its release, "Mondo Cane" ("A Dog's World") stands as one of the all-time strangest films. All director Gualtiero Jacopetti did was catalog the world's weirdest rituals from New Guinea to New York. And filmgoers the world over came and watched in jaw-dropping awe. If the thought of watching a piglet suckle a woman's breast intrigues you, then "Mondo Cane" is for you. If not, skip this bizarre look at gross human eccentricities. Why bother, now that we have "America's Funniest Home Videos?" The oddest aspect of this granddaddy of shockumentaries is that it yielded the popular theme song: "More." Trust me, once around with "Mondo Cane" is more than enough. Made before ratings (1963). MPI. $59.98. - Max McQueen (Cox News Service)SANTA SANGRE - Speaking of strange movies, "Santa Sangre" has also been newly released to video. Director Alejandro Jodorowsky covers the same surreal religious turf of his 1971 cult masterpiece "El Topo." At "Sangre's" brutal heart is the story of a boy who becomes his mother's arms after hers are cut off by her demented husband. Not surprisingly, Oedipal references run amok through this garish marriage of misdirected religiosity and sexuality. Do not be fooled by "Santa Sangre's" esteemed place in Roger Ebert's Top 10 for the year. "Santa Sangre" is for adventuresome filmgoers and video viewers only, those who like their Fellini spiked with Pasolini. 1990. R and NC-17 versions available. Republic. $89.98. - Max McQueen (Cox News Service)

GENERAL H. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: COMMAND PERFORMANCE - Culled from Independent Television News footage, this upbeat look at Schwarzkopf's life manages to be entertaining in its own celebratory way. Much of the video is footage of "Stormin' Norman's" briefings for the press during Operation Desert Storm, but there are also candid moments and biographical material. Who knew the general's police inspector father investigated the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case? Or that Schwarzkopf senior helped bring the Shah to power in Iran? Balancing these glimpses of the West Point graduate's early life are scenes of Schwarzkopf in action, conferring with Saudi politicians, chatting with soldiers in the Middle East and surveying battlefield locations from atop a Jeep. 30 minutes. Strand VCI. $9.98. - Tom Maurstad (Dallas Morning News)

MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS - With the culture-seizing success of shows like "The Simpsons" and "Married . . . with Children," entertainment bandwagon-jumpers everywhere are trying to come up with their own crazy, dysfunctional family whose T-shirts we will all soon be wearing. The Hollowheads live in an alternate universe where all of life's necessities are pumped into each household through a moronically complex network of tubes - like the Cleavers living in a colostomized world. The story involves Pop unexpectedly bringing his tyrannical boss home for dinner, but really, it hardly matters because this movie is so intent on becoming its own phenomenon that other concerns fall by the wayside. Media. - Tom Maurstad (Dallas Morning News)

DIVING IN - "In the spirit of `Hoosiers' and `Breaking Away,' " reads various promotional material for "Diving In," a video that wants nothing so badly as to emulate those earlier "triumphant underdog" sagas, yet fails on nearly all counts. Matt Adler stars as a high school diver who must conquer his fear of heights in order to go to the Olympic trials - and better a cocky nemesis (Matt Lattanzi) in the process. The only redeeming factor is some nifty underwater photography - but even there the thrill doesn't last long. This video flounders, then sinks. 92 minutes. Paramount Home Video. - Mike Pearson (Scripps Howard)

STAR TUNES - This video has cast-members spontaneously breaking into song every time someone has a point to make. Of course, since the target audience is 4- to 8-year-olds, that might not be as suicidal as it sounds. Under the starry skies of a campout, children's performer Don Cooper takes "The Not-Ready for Bedtime Players" on a musical tour of the heavens, singing delightful tunes about the accretion theory of planetary formation and the unified field theory. He also leads a discussion on the Big Bang. Amid songs about gravity, Mister Sun and what a galaxy looks like, Cooper offers a mnemonic device for remembering all of the planets in our solar system. Wood Knapp - Tom Maurstad (Dallas Morning News)

VIDEO QUESTION

Q: Does it harm the VCR to continually switch from VCR viewing to TV monitor (watch TV channels through the VCR)? Does time-shifting cause excessive wear? Which is the best way to rewind: Just rewind, or go to "0000," or index rewind?

A: All the functions you describe are normal VCR operating procedure and are not harmful in themselves. Dirt, dust and aging are the VCR's enemies, not usage. As for rewinding, the command you use is unimportant.

Q: Sometimes when I rent movies, I like to copy them to watch later. Since I'm doing it just for personal convenience, not for profit, is it illegal?

A: To me it's no worse than copying a TV show to watch later. Yes, what you're doing is illegal. The FBI warning you see on copyrighted tapes applies to all unauthorized copying - the reason that you've copied a cassette is immaterial. As a matter of practicality, however, enforcement against anyone other than pirates is unlikely.

Q: Aren't all stereo VCRs also hi-fi?

A: No. Hi-fi VCRs record the audio signal beneath the video signal, so that the tracks occupy almost the entire width of the tape. These tracks can be mono or stereo. Before hi-fi was developed, stereo was achieved by splitting the conventional linear soundtrack recorded at the tape edge into right and left channels. Stereo VCRs produce a "noisier" sound, but one benefit is that the sound can be re-recorded while preserving the video. Hi-fi doesn't permit that. - Andy Wickstrom (Knight-Ridder)