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Sunday, February 3, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Video Watch

War Isn't All Fun And Games To Video Fans

While ``Top Gun,'' ``Fire Birds'' and battle-oriented video games such as ``Air Buster'' have become more popular in video stores since the beginning of the Middle East war, so have technology-oriented military tapes.

Countertop Video Corp. of Bellevue, which usually sells tapes only to such foundations as the Museum of Flight, has encountered such demand for its cassettes that it is selling direct to the public for the first time.

The company's biggest seller, ``Desert Shield,'' is a 52-minute documentary in which military experts compare American with Iraqi hardware. Based on previously classified information, it's being promoted as ``the next best thing to a classified Pentagon briefing.''

Defense analysts such as Dr. W. Seth Carus, Dr. Norman Friedman, Steven Zalonga and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. discuss Iraq's preparedness, Saddam Hussein's military knowledge, the quality of Iraq's tanks and planes and the impact of Iraq's long war with Iran.

Carus claims that Hussein gets into trouble when he interferes with the military. He also believes that Iraq is reluctant to put its air force at risk, and that ``they really don't understand what air power is all about.'' Bermudez claims the Soviets didn't give the Iraqis all the expertise and assistance they wanted, and that that will hamper them in an air war.

Zalonga says that Iraq's Soviet-supplied tanks wear out more easily than American tanks, and that Iraqi tanks are in bad shape thanks to the war with Iran: ``Iraq's advantage is quantity, not quality.''

In a sense, this is the real ``Top Gun.'' Although talk and numbers dominate, there's a great deal of spectacular aerial footage, of planes and ground targets being blown up by missiles and small bombs, that illustrates Iraq's air power.

``This tape was just released, and we've already sold out the first order,'' said Greg James, general manager of Countertop. ``To my knowledge we are the only distributor in the area carrying it. Our specialty is aviation and military videos.''

James is combining ``Desert Shield'' with two other cassettes to create a package that sells for $40. The other tapes: ``Story of a War,'' a 40-minute account of the war between Iraq and Iran, and the 35-minute ``Saddam Hussein Defies the World,'' which was produced by an independent London news company and follows Hussein's rise to power.

Countertop Video is at 13400 Northup Way, No. 18, Bellevue 98005. The phone number is 562-1202. ``Desert Shield'' was produced by Video Ordnance, 1 W. 37th St., New York, NY 10018. For information, call (212) 575-0550.

Also getting into the war-video business this month is Turner Home Entertainment, which is bringing out an hourlong $15 tape, ``The War Begins,'' based on CNN's coverage of Operation Desert Storm. Scheduled for worldwide release this week, it concentrates on the reasons for the war rather than battle footage.

In early April, Warner Home Video will release last fall's World War II aerial drama, ``Memphis Belle,'' along with the video debuts of three older war movies - ``The McConnell Story,'' with Alan Ladd as jet aviation pioneer Capt. Joseph McConnell Jr.; ``None But the Brave,'' about a crashed planeload of Marines sharing a South Pacific island with a Japanese army platoon; and ``Zeppelin,'' a World War I espionage thriller that takes place partly on a German dirigible.

Warner has a name for the collection, which also includes the first laserdisc releases of ``Battle Cry'' and ``Battle of the Bulge.'' It's the ``New Recruits'' package.

Video Watch by John Hartl appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment. You can get more video information by calling the Seattle Times' 24-hour free service Infoline. Call 464-2000 from any touch-tone telephone and when instructed, enter the category number 0911 to reach the Video Hotline. You may replay all information by pressing ``R'' (7); back up to previous information by pressing ``B'' (2); and jump over current information by pressing ``J'' (5).

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NEW VIDEOS IN STORES THIS WEEK

Wednesday - ``The Art of Speed,'' Dolph Lundgren in ``I Come in Peace,'' Brooke Shields in ``Backstreet Dreams,'' James Belushi in ``Taking Care of Business.''

Thursday - ``At Gunpoint,'' ``Last Call,'' ``Love and Hate,'' ``Puppetmaster II,'' Tom Cruise in ``Days of Thunder'' and ``The Making of `Days of Thunder','' Kiefer Sutherland in ``Chicago Joe and the Showgirl,'' Traci Lords in ``Shock Em Dead,'' James Caan in ``Red Line 7000,'' Tony Curtis in ``Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies.''

Friday - ``The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.''

New laserdiscs: ``The Dream Is Alive,'' Marlon Brando in ``The Freshman,'' John Ritter in ``Problem Child,'' Michael J. Fox in ``Back to the Future'' (letterboxed), James Stewart in ``How the West Was Won'' (letterboxed), Errol Flynn in ``The Sea Hawk'' (original 128-minute version).

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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