THE NAME OF THE ROSE
R, 1986, closed-captioned, 120 minutes, Nelson Entertainment, $19.98.
The cloisters, cryptic and creepy, set the tone for this murky adaptation of Umberto Eco's bestselling medieval mystery. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud of "Quest for Fire" does evoke the times, filling these corridors with dirty supplicants and Marty Feldman-esque monks. With their googly eyes and hunchbacks, they appear to be modeled on the monastery gargoyles -- who happen to be the sole silent witnesses to a series of murders in this spooky 14th-century abbey. One-time 007 Sean Connery successfully gets into a new habit here as William of Baskerville, the Franciscan Sherlock who investigates the crimes with his prote'ge', Adson of Melk (newcomer Christian Slater), a teen Watson who is suitably dumbfounded by his mentor's brillant deductions. Since the murders occur just as a crucial summit convenes between the Franciscans and the Dominicans, Baskerville includes even these bigwigs among his suspects. The Devil, however, is the prime contender among the superstitious monks -- a notion encouraged by the powerful Inquisitor (F. Murray Abraham). The book, all twists and thorns, was a complex portrait of period and church politics, but the movie is merely a shallow, slow-moving Agatha Christie. Rita Kempley HIGH NOON 1952, B&W, 84 minutes, Republic Pictures Home Video, $19.95.
This Fred Zinnemann western starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly has a vaunted reputation and I'll be darned if I know why. In it, Cooper plays Will Kane, the town marshal who pledges to hang up his gun and his badge as a wedding gift to his bride (Kelly), an impossibly lovely young Quaker. But their plans to live a peaceful life are foiled when word leaks out that a man Kane sent to prison is coming to town on the noon train to take his revenge on the marshal. Viewers over the years have responded to the Cooper character as an existential hero -- a sort of Sartre in spurs -- confronted with a complex moral dilemma, and the screenwriter, Carl Foreman, who was blacklisted in the '50s, most certainly intended it that way. But the way the filmmakers have worked out their story is too pat; there's never a sense of anything at risk in the hero's choices. We know he's going to fight and we know he's going to win. We even know that his wife is going to stick by him. To boot, the movie is visually undistinguished -- it looks like an episode of "Gunsmoke" -- and dully paced, which is perhaps to its fans a sure sign of high seriousness. It's supposed to come across as antiheroic -- or at least as an exploration of the burdens of heroism -- but its real subject is Cooper's lonely bravery. Hal Hinson HALF MOON STREET R, 1986, closed-captioned, 90 minutes, Nelson Entertainment, $19.98.
Sigourney Weaver goes from alien mother-buster to Eurotrash demimondaine in this improbable British potboiler, a mammoth embarrassment for her, though costar Michael Caine escapes unscathed. Weaver gives a smug, sexless performance as vegetarian prostitute Dr. Loren Slaughter -- the honorific signifies her Harvard PhD. Loren is a woman of the '80s -- avid jogger, expert in Middle Eastern affairs, hard-working call girl. Turn-ons: Perrier, feminism. Turn-offs: smoking, terrorism. Here, she is turned both on and off when she becomes involved with Lord Bulbeck (Caine), a high-ranking diplomat whose patronage endangers her life. The plot thickens -- like a hasty pudding -- as assorted spies, international bankers and terrorists move in on the couplers. Exactly why is not -- and never becomes -- all that clear. Caine keep a stiff upper through all of this, and Weaver undresses. Rita Kempley. CV: PETER GABRIEL B&W, 43 minutes, Virgin Music Video, $19.98.
"CV" stands for "compilation video," and truth be told, there are few pop artists whose work is so worth compiling. Gabriel has long been a video innovator as well as a musical one, as this collection attests. Included are the obvious crowd pleasers like "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time," an equally inventive and absurdist meditation on upward mobility. Like many of his songs, Gabriel's videos are often dream-centered and full of poetic images and shadow play. In "I Don't Remember" and "Shock the Monkey," that can mean a nightmare edginess, but more often it's the languid, liquid dreamscape of "Mercy Street." This haunting video is one of the most beautiful ever made. Also included are two outstanding videos for one of Gabriel's best songs of affirmation, "Don't Give Up." In the first, Gabriel and singer Kate Bush sing the duet warmly wrapped in each other's arms, slowly spinning so that the camera is always on the face of the singer, while a bright sun is eclipsed and then revealed again in the background. In the second version, scenes of everyday life and work wash over each other, overlapping like gauzy waves of consciousness. With so few artists able to create a moving video for any one song, it's astounding that Gabriel has created two distinguished works for a single tune. Richard Harrington DEAD END 1937, B&W, 92 minutes, Embassy Home Entertainment, $19.95.
Few movies have lineups of talent, both in front of and behind the camera, as formidable as this one's. Or have them come to less. "Dead End," which stars Joel McCrea, Sylvia Sidney and Humphrey Bogart, was directed by William Wyler from Lillian Hellman's adaptation of a Sidney Kingsley play about poor East Siders who live under the penthouse terraces of the very rich. The movie never successfully makes the transition to the screen; it's maddeningly talky and not even Gregg Toland's stunning cinematography can overcome the staginess. The story emerges out of a loose collection of characters: McCrea plays an out-of-work architect who's in love with a society woman (Wendy Barrie), and Sidney is the woman from the neighborhood who's loved him since she was a girl. The movie is all about getting out of the slums and making something of yourself; in other words it's a routine up-from-the-ghetto story. As Baby Face Martin, Bogart has a ferocity that cuts through the fogginess of the material. Sidney, on the other hand, has a completely different kind of energy and her effects are so quiet and unaffected that she turns her character, who in the hands of another actress might have been a simp, into someone memorable. Claire Trevor has a marvelous scene as a old girlfriend of Martin's who, rather than starving, became a prostitute, and the Dead End Kids are on hand as well. Hal Hinson