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A selection of new releases for sale or rental AMERICA (1982. Directed by Robert Downey. Sony Video) - Farce about a small-time cable TV station that can't do anything right, but eventually gets some notoriety when its signal bounces off the moon and ricochets into television sets around the world. Downey deserves credit for plugging away at his own brand of ultrahip social satire for years and years, without much regard for ``making it'' commercially. He deserves no credit at all for the foolishness and vulgarity of this particular romp, though, or for the racism that creeps into the picture masked as modernist humor. Zack Norman and Michael J. Pollard, two courageously eccentric performers, head the cast. Also on board are an uncomfortable-looking Tammy Grimes and, in cameo roles, Melvin Van Peebles and Robert Downey Jr. THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY (1972. Directed by Joseph Losey. Republic Pictures Home Video) - Shot in Italy and Mexico by an expatriate American filmmaker, this production is as international as Trotsky's revolutionary dreams. Hence there's a dizzying mixture of accents, from the Welsh lilt of Richard Burton to the French accent of Alain Delon and the German purr of Romy Schneider, not to mention the American and Mexican drawls of various minor characters. Director Losey failed to do justice to his provocative subject, even though he was a proud leftist at heart. The screenplay, full of epigrams and ironies, is no less heavyhanded than the bloody bullfight scene that provides one of its unsubtle metaphors. Burton does a slyly humorous job of conveying Trotsky's vanity, though, and Delon is effectively crazed when the movie approaches its grisly culmination. The video version chops down the movie's wide-screen compositions into square TV-tube proportions, a practice that would have provoked a wince from the pictorially precise Losey. BACK TO THE BEACH (1987. Directed by Lyndall Hobbs. Paramount Home Video) - Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello fueled many an adolescent fantasy when they were, respectively, a pop singing star and a television ``Mousketeer'' back in the 1950s. Later they starred in various ``beach blanket'' pictures in the '60s. The single joke of this comedy is that they're now a married couple living in Ohio, where he's a car salesman and she's a homemaker. Traveling to Hawaii for a vacation, they get stalled in California where the surf's up and the beach-blanket set is crooning a siren song. There are a few hilarious moments featuring the punkish child Frankie and Annette have somehow produced. But the laughs are sparse throughout most of the story, despite the presence of Connie Stevens and Pee-Wee Herman. DRAGNET (1954. Directed by Jack Webb. MCA Home Video) - Dum-da-dum-dum. Forget the Dan Aykroyd remake. Nothing could be nuttier than the original, based on the incredibly popular 1950s television show. The clipped dialogue, staccato speech, and deadpan performances often seem like self-parodies, but it all appeared quite bold and serious a mere three decades ago, as many a viewer can testify. Ben Alexander is present in his usual sidekick role; the guest cast includes Richard Boone and Ann Robinson, the latter as a brave policewoman. The plot has something to do with a mob-style killing, but it's the characters and the documentary-style narration that make this vintage fun.

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