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Sunday, December 27, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Videos -- Some Favorite Classic Films Make It To Video

Because so many movies that opened theatrically in 1992 are already available on videotape, and because we've already published our annual "10 best" list of movies that opened in theaters, it seems redundant to put together a "10 best" list of recent videos.

But many classics made their tape and laserdisc debuts this year, and they're now getting more exposure on video than they do in revival houses. Here are 10 personal favorites (listed in alphabetical order) that turned up in stores for the first time in 1992:

"Le Boucher" (The Butcher). The most elegant in a series of late-1960s thrillers starring Stephan Audran and directed by her then-husband Claude Chabrol. Audran plays a small-town schoolmistress who becomes involved with a shy but passionate local butcher (Jean Yanne) while a serial killer terrorizes the area.

"Chang." The recently restored version of "Chang," which had a brief theatrical run here in 1991, is a fascinating 1927 documentary-style drama about Thailand farmers threatened by wild animals. Its makers went on to create the original "King Kong." It's available from Milestone Home Video, which has also released "Tabu," "Simba," "The Silent Enemy" and others as part of its "Age of Exploration" series.

"Divorce Italian Style." Unavailable on television or in theaters for many years, Pietro Germi's 1962 black comedy finally turned up on videocassette this year. Germi's Oscar-winning script and Marcello Mastroianni's sly performance as a conniving husband haven't aged a day.

"First Position" (1972) and "Derby" (1971). William Richert, best-known today as the Falstaffian Portland street character, Bob, in Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho," was a promising young director in the early 1970s. Aside from his later political satire, "Winter Kills," this pair of documentaries represents his best work. "First Position" is one of the finest ballet movies ever made; "Derby" is a 91-minute study of a 24-year-old Midwest tire-plant employee, Mike Snell, who tries to make the Roller Derby team.

"How Green Was My Valley." The sentimental John Ford classic that trampled "Citizen Kane" at the 1941 Academy Awards finally made it to video this year - though only on laserdisc. The cassette is coming in 1993. That leaves only one best-picture Oscar winner not on video in any form: the 1933 film of Noel Coward's family chronicle, "Cavalcade."

"Next Stop, Greenwich Village." Paul Mazursky's charming 1976 autobiography about his struggles as a young Brooklyn actor in post-war New York. The late Lenny Baker plays the young Mazursky, Christopher Walker and Ellen Greene are among his pals, and Shelley Winters, in the role of her career, is unforgettable as his delirious mother.

"101 Dalmatians." Disney's most successful reissue ever when it came back to theaters in the summer of 1991, this feature-length cartoon was just as popular on videotape (but where's the laserdisc?). It's as fresh and clever as it must have seemed when audiences first got a peek at it three decades ago.

"Sunrise." German filmmaker F.W. Murnau's 1927 made-in-U.S.A. classic won the first Academy Awards for best actress (Janet Gaynor) and cinematography, as well as a special prize for "best artistic quality of production." Visually one of the most ravishing of silent films, it's the simple but compelling story of an adulterer (George O'Brien) who tries and fails to kill his wife (Gaynor), then rediscovers his love for her during an ecstatic trip to the city.

"A Woman Under the Influence." Gena Rowlands and her late director-husband, John Cassavetes, both received Academy Award nominations for this heavy 2 1/2-hour 1974 drama about a strained marriage. It's the first of several Cassavetes films to be released by Touchstone Video.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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