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Warner Bros.
Paul Newman stars in the 1967 classic "Cool Hand Luke," which is now available in a deluxe edition.
Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price and Paul Newman headline some of these new-in-release DVDs.

"Fox Horror Classics, Vol. 2" (Fox, 1932-46, b/w, three discs, $19.98). Two of the films here are not really horror movies, though they have touches of the genre. But each provides a worthwhile cinematic adventure for fans of creaky black-and-white thrillers.

"Chandu the Magician" (1932). The downside to this campy fantasy is that the special effects are rather dated (though some remain stunning) and Edmund Lowe is weak as Chandu — an American who has learned the mystic arts in the Far East. But Bela Lugosi — hot off of "Dracula" — really shines as the villain who threatens the world with a death ray. Based on a popular radio drama, this is campy fun for vintage film fans. Co-directed by master visual artist William Cameron Menzies ("Things to Come," "The Thief of Bagdad") and photographed by James Wong Howe (nine-time Oscar nominee, winner of two). (A couple of years later, Lugosi would play the Chandu hero in a 12-part serial, "The Return of Chandu.")

"Dragonwyck" (1946). This is the prestige picture in this collection, an adaptation of Anya Seton's bestseller, which marked the directing debut of Joseph L. Mankiewicz (who went on to win Oscars for "A Letter to Three Wives" and "All About Eve"). Gene Tierney stars as a young woman hired to be a companion to the child of a distant relative (Vincent Price), then she falls in love with and eventually marries him, despite his brooding dark secrets. Sound familiar? Not quite up there with "Rebecca" and "Jane Eyre" but nonetheless a worthwhile gothic yarn. Bolstered by great support from Jessica Tandy and Walter Huston.

"Dr. Renault's Secret" (1942) is the only real horror movie here, built on that old chestnut about a creature who is half-man and half-ape (J. Carrol Naish). The plot has a mad scientist (George Zucco) using his half-ape assistant for nefarious — and murderous — purposes. Naish saves the film with an oddly sympathetic performance, making it surprisingly watchable.

Extras: full frame, audio commentaries, featurettes, photo galleries, audio radio programs, photo galleries, trailers; eight-page booklet (Titles are not available separately.)

"Cool Hand Luke: Deluxe Edition" (Warner, 1967, GP (equivalent at the time to a PG rating), $19.97). Paul Newman was at his peak in the mid-1960s and had one of his biggest hits with this anti-hero saga of the ultimate non-conformist. After cutting off the heads of several parking meters, Luke finds himself on a Southern chain gang. The first half of the film is mostly comedy, showcasing a great cast of up-and-comers: George Kennedy (who won an Oscar), Strother Martin (who has the unforgettable line: "What we have here is a failure to communicate"), Harry Dean Stanton (who sings!), Wayne Rogers, Ralph Waite, Dennis Hopper and unbilled Joe Don Baker, among others. But it gets more serious as Luke gains "hero" status by repeatedly escaping from the prison camp. New bonus features are interesting but Newman doesn't participate.

Extras: widescreen, audio commentary (by film historian Erix Lax), featurette, trailer

"Gulliver's Travels: Special Edition" (Genius, 1995, $14.95). This ambitious TV miniseries feels long as it relates all four of Gulliver's adventures from Jonathan Swift's classic satire. And it's undercut a bit by a back-and-forth flashback technique that was not in the book. But it remains an entertaining story of a doctor's adventures in a land of tiny people, another filled with giants, a floating island where people have no common sense and finally a society of sophisticated horses. Ted Danson stars, with an all-star supporting cast led by Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif, along with Danson's future wife Mary Steenburgen.

Extras: widescreen, featurette, interview with Sharif

"The Big Lebowski: 10th Anniversary Edition" (Universal, 1998; R for language, nudity, violence; two discs, $19.98).

Despite the cult status that has grown around this film, for me it remains one of the Coen Brothers' sorriest misfires. Jeff Bridges stars as a Los Angeles layabout mistaken for a wealthy man with the same name. The film is basically a string of episodic moments built around goofball (but not very appealing) characters. This double-disc set is loaded with bonus features, including Bridges' photos, which he took on the set.

Extras: widescreen, featurettes, photo gallery, interactive map, text production notes, trailer

"Wings: The Seventh Season" (CBS/Paramount, 1995-96, four discs, $42.99). This is the penultimate season for this sitcom, which came from the folks at "Cheers." Good comic cast includes Tim Daly and Steven Weber as brothers who own a one-plane air service in Nantucket and the eccentrics who surround them, including Crystal Bernard and a pre-"Monk" Tony Shalhoub as an Italian cabbie. Sweet-natured and often funny.

Extras: full frame, 26 episodes


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com