1. TIME OUT: THE TRUTH ABOUT HIV, AIDS AND YOU (1992) To say this is a great health-instruction tape doesn’t do it justice. After all, what’s the competition — highway safety films? No, the remarkable thing about Time Out is the way hosts Magic Johnson and Arsenio Hall and all their hip guests put the details across to the young audience that needs to hear them with an absolute minimum of B.S. and without losing their cool. It’s also funny — see Sinbad as a talking condom! — while keeping the deadly seriousness of AIDS in view. Commendably, video stores have thrown their support behind this tape, making it available to schools and for free rental and underscoring the basic message: What you don’t know can kill you.
2. THE GODFATHER TRILOGY 1901-1980 (1992) Francis Ford Coppola just can’t keep his meat hooks off The Godfather. The gag is that he keeps making the damn thing better. This latest home-video set — nearly 10 hours in length — stitches the three movies into chronological order, with the addition of a few Godfather Part II scenes that haven’t been seen since that film’s theatrical premiere. Even the Shakespearean pretensions of Godfather Part III look good in this setting, making the Trilogy the way to go. So far.
3. PROOF (1992) It’s those small surprises you occasionally bring home from the video store that make owning a VCR worthwhile. Proof is proof that video sleepers are out there, if you’re willing to take the chance. It’s a wry, smart, and penetrating Australian import that looks at the mind games among a blind, misanthropic shutterbug, the comely housekeeper who rearranges his furniture out of sexual frustration, and the uncomplicated young guy who wanders into their field of fire. Call it sex, eyes and photography.
4. THE WEEK THAT SHOOK THE WORLD: THE SOVIET COUP (1991) An invaluable historical record of the death of a nation. This repackaged ABC ”Special Presentation” combines the late-breaking freshness of TV news with the perspective of fine documentary filmmaking. While anchors Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, and David Brinkley provide insights into the anti-Gorbachev generals, reporters go into the streets to capture the public’s defiant mood. And reporter Diane Sawyer gets into the opposition headquarters for an exclusive interview with the most defiant Russian of all, Boris Yeltsin. — Terry Catchpole
5. THE SEARCH FOR ROBERT JOHNSON (1992) In 1990, 54 years after they were recorded, Robert Johnson’s scarifying blues hit the top 100 in a new CD reissue. That’s an amazing story, and so is this documentary, which attempts with admirable success to fill in the human dimensions of the shadowy Johnson legend. The single most emotional moment on video this year is the scene in which one of the singer’s long-ago girlfriends, now a wizened old lady, hears for the first time a recording of a tune Johnson wrote about her: As his keening voice calls her name, her face transforms briefly into its younger self.