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Here's a noirish spy yarn about a British hunter (Walter Pidgeon) who has Adolf Hitler in his crosshairs, only to be captured by the Gestapo before he can pull the trigger. Escaping their torturous clutches, he falls prey to a legion of fascist enemies throughout Germany and foggy London, while finding an underground railroad of safety through the kindness of strangers, including the lower-class Cockney woman (Joan Bennett) who falls in love with him. Man Hunt is all the more notable for being directed by Fritz Lang, a German émigré and onetime idol of Hitler's. It's a savvy, anti-Nazi propaganda film made before U.S. involvement in World War II, when such films became customary. It has its sluggish stretches — the erudite gamesman's requisite romance with the Dickensian waif leads to some clunky culture-clash comedy, but otherwise Lang's in top form, with unforgettable opening and closing stanzas. Special features include an audio commentary and Rogue Male, an excellent making-of featurette. —John Thomason
OK, rather than playing to the illusion of subjective neutrality, effective documentaries present all sides while adopting a viewpoint, the one the filmmakers consider to be the right one. Right?
From its inflammatory title, Witch Hunt (narrated by Sean Penn) pulls no punches in presenting 1980s paranoia in Kern County, Calif., where a dozen people were accused and falsely convicted of child molestation. The 10 subjects in Dana Nachman and Don Hardy Jr.'s film were sentenced to more than a thousand years behind bars. This apparent plague of molestation began after newly elected District Attorney Ed Jagels — running on a "tough on crime" platform — took office.
Rather than show concern that these middle- and lower-class parents were getting railroaded, the public — fed by a complacent media — merely roiled with fear.
The attorney general discovered that Kern County investigation and interrogation techniques were less than ideal, paving the way for overturning the previous spate of convictions, two decades later. We learn of incorrect rulings, lost and befuddled children and the overall mind-numbing ignorance of jurors. And while innocents wilted in prison, their lives ripped apart, the "victims" of said "crimes" began to feel the effects of being instruments of cowboy justice.
Witch Hunt is what The Jaundiced Eye and Capturing the Friedmans so desperately wanted to be. Rather than letting open-ended questions hang, the film provides real answers and reportage — thus a vivid portrait of political maneuvering at the price of civil liberty. Essential. —Mike White
Vanilla Cakes 2: Sweetback White Chicks
Depth Entertainment Family
What Johnny Depp is to acting, bespectacled black schlong-master John E. Depth is to African-American porn, a stud with a sizable gift for womankind. And the kind of women who co-star with Depth's charge are fine indeed: Sabara, Olga Cabavea, Corina Jayden, Anita Blue, Katie Cummings, Cuntree Pipes (gee, is that her real name?) and bodacious Kelly Devine comprise the stable of sweeties who put the you-know-what into Caucasian.
As you might have guessed, the multi-scene DVD is a tour de F-word into the realm of full-color black-and-white lovin', with nary a bad scene in the batch. Anita Blue provides the perfect mix of nice sleazy girl and incredibly sleazy girl, somehow managing Depth's vulva-mangler with wicked ease.
In terms of ethnic makeup, pillow-lipped looker Sabara may not exactly be 100 percent vanilla, but, really, who cares? Depth certainly doesn't, nor does his proud fudge goblin. And if it's good ol'-fashioned white girls you're after, cheerleader-perfect Katie Cummings more than fills the bill, as John E.'s ebony pants-dweller more than fills the nasty lassy's private parts. All in all, an arousing outing deep into the lucky world of Depth. —Fern LaBott