THE KING AND I
G, 1956, 133 minutes, Fox Video, $69.98. FLOWER DRUM SONG
Unrated, 1961, 133 minutes, MCA/Universal Home Video, $39.98.END NOTES
Hello, young lovers, whoever you are. After months and months of delay reportedly caused by technical problems, Fox finally releases the wide-screen, letterboxed, laserdisc edition of "The King and I," the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical adapted from "Anna and the King of Siam." And MCA, one of the most foot-dragging of video labels when it comes to older titles in its library, offers a belated release of "Flower Drum Song," a lesser but still lilting R&H effort. Each disc features chapter stops that let you skip the plots and enjoy only the numbers, yet another good reason to buy a laserdisc player. In both musicals Rodgers and Hammerstein go Asian, but no offensive stereotypes leap out, whereas a number of performances by talented Asian actors do. "Flower Drum Song" suffers from laughably tacky set design and some clunko choreography, but the score is transferred intact from the stage version, and the cast includes Myoshi Umeki, America's sweetheart for several years; Jack Soo, later a big star on TV's "Barney Miller"; and Patrick Adiarte, a teenage scamp in "Drum Song" and also the young prince in "King and I." That is by far the better film, of course, with Deborah Kerr (and Marni Nixon's singing voice) doing an okay job of playing Anna and Yul Brynner captured in his masterful, defining-moment portrayal of the proud, troubled king. According to the liner notes, Marlon Brando was considered for the role, a potential calamity mercifully avoided. While a few of the better songs were cut for the movie version, the 12-minute Jerome Robbins ballet "Small House of Uncle Thomas" remains, charming and gorgeous. Director Walter Lang does almost nothing to cinematize the show, but that's all right; "King and I" works fine as an act of theatrical preservation, and at some strange level the story, even with its abrupt ending, still has power. "Flower Drum Song's" standout performer is Nancy Kwan (previously "Suzie Wong"), whose "I Enjoy Being a Girl," Stone Age sexist ditty though it may be, is the only part of the film, other than the Universal logo, to be letterboxed. "The King and I" and "Flower Drum Song" are all by themselves a Rodgers and Hammerstein festival, and beyond that a celebration of the Broadway musical in days of sentimental glory. Those days can only come back when one watches such films. Tom Shales
PG-13, 1991, 98 minutes, Orion Home Video, closed-captioned, $92.99.
Overlooked at the box office, "Mystery Date" is an enjoyably surreal urban romp that plays a little bit like a collegiate "After Hours." Ethan Hawke of "Dead Poets Society" plays the fall guy, a college student whose dream date with his neighbor (Teri Polo) becomes a nightmare when a Chinese mobster (B.D. Wong) mistakes him for his older brother (Brian McNamara). It appears that Ethan's brother set Ethan up when he lent him his credit cards and urged him to charge the tab at a favorite Polynesian restaurant. But then appearances are deceiving. A whodunit with hearts and flowers, this enjoyably offbeat first screenplay by Parker Bennett and Terry Runte was nicely directed by Jonathan Wacks of "21 Jump Street." Rita Kempley
DON JUAN, MY LOVE
Unrated, 1990, Spanish with English subtitles, 96 minutes, Fox Lorber Home Video, $89.95.
Full of double takes and double-entendres, this Spanish boudoir farce is meant to reveal the zany humanism of Spanish psychosexuality. But as directed and co-written by Antonio Mercero, it's predictable and sophomoric. Los jo-jos begin when the ghost of Don Juan (Juan Luis Galiardo) rises from his grave on Halloween with the hope of escaping Purgatory by performing a good deed. As luck would have it, the ghost is mistaken for a swell-headed actor (Galiardo again), a hard-core womanizer who is appearing as the legendary lover in a stage play. When the actor is waylaid by brigands, the romantic ghost replaces him both under the arch and in the arms of the lech's love interests. These lusty, horse-faced senoritas respond to the ghost's manly endowments with ribald comments and sheer delight. Indeed the entire cast -- including the play's stereotypically gay director -- find their hands in the pants of the dead don. Perhaps this would be titillating if Galiardo didn't look so much like a sweet potato. Rita Kempley
AMERICA'S PIN-UP: BETTY PAGE
Not rated, 1990, B&W, 50 minutes, Video Dimensions, $19.95.
The camera work looks like it was shot by Abraham Zapruder, the sets would barely do justice to a rent-by-the-hour motel room and the plot is nonexistent. But who needs conventional film values when you've got the magnificent Betty Page stripping, pouting and spanking her way into your heart via this collection of 8mm loops from the '50s and early '60s? Page was a notorious pinup girl in the days when Marilyn Monroe was the reigning sex queen, a time when a girl could outrage so many by showing so little by today's standards. Though out of the public eye for the past 30 years, she's gained an international cult following, and "America's Pin-Up: Betty Page" reveals the allure of this campy, angelic sinstress. Bear witness, if you dare, as Betty heats up your screen with her infamous "clown dance," and see her out-lingerie Madonna in scene after pulse-pounding scene. The makers of this tape have interspersed old footage of Monroe, Mansfield and some of the bigger glamour girls of the time with a somewhat hokey narration and the films of Betty, something that makes her own flickering, black-and-white fame seem all the more poignant. Trashy, yes; socially relevant, no; enlightening, not really; but certainly a lot more fun to watch than Christian Slater shooting people's heads off. Peter Gilstrap