These movies arrive on video store shelves this week.
*GODS AND MONSTERS
(R, 106 minutes, 1998, Lion's Gate)
Based on Christopher Bram's speculative novel about the mysterious 1957 death of James Whale, Bill Condon's sensitive film concerns the homosexual filmmaker's friendship with a handsome young gardener in his employ. The slight story is hardly a whodunit, but "Gods" is watchable thanks to the three lead performances -- Ian McKellen as the frail and sexually frustrated Whale, Lynn Redgrave as his bullying but protective housekeeper, and (believe it or not) Brendan Fraser as straight and slightly dim blue-collar boy-toy Clayton Boone. Of note are the flashback sequences re-creating the filming of Whale's two Frankenstein movies and Condon's meticulous capturing of the catty glamour of Old Hollywood. Contains bare chests and some erotic overtones.
-- Michael O'Sullivan
(R, 104 minutes, 1998, Universal)
"Psycho" re-creates most of the gimmicky shocks of Alfred Hitchock's great 1960 original, but how could it not? It's shot (by director Gus Van Sant) from the same script using the same camera angles, and it's all set to the same music (Bernard Herrmann's score, re-orchestrated by Danny Elfman). Structurally, at least, it still works, and at the right moments we palpitate and cogitate. However, the greatness of "Psycho" lay in the subtext, not the text, and all the cool, unsettling darkness and weirdness that Hitchcock layered in is gone, so while the film frightens, it doesn't linger. The Norman Bates who'll haunt your dreams will remain Tony Perkins, not beefy Vince Vaughn. Others in the cast are Anne Heche and Viggo Mortensen. Contains nudity, masturbation and what was once thought extreme violence (though mild by contemporary standards).
-- Stephen Hunter