We look at new discs of 'North by Northwest,' 'The Omen: Special Edition,' and 'A Star Is Born'

By Mark Harris
September 22, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

For weeks, Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman worked together trying to create a screenplay for The Wreck of the Mary Deare; when they couldn’t crack it but still owed MGM a film, they came up with this instead — one of Hitchcock’s, and Hollywood’s, greatest light-suspense entertainments ever, and an essential addition to the growing catalog of Hitchcock on DVD. Cary Grant plays a New York adman kidnapped when a spy ring mistakes him for a CIA decoy; Eva Marie Saint is the beautiful agent (or perhaps double agent, or triple agent) he falls for. Suspend disbelief about plot (Lehman admits there are a couple of elements that even he doesn’t understand, and he wrote it) and casting (Jessie Royce Landis, almost one year younger than Grant, plays his mother). Instead, revel in the beloved set pieces — the near death by crop duster, the sleeper-car seduction, the climax on the face of Mount Rushmore — the luxe late-’50s settings, from the Plaza Hotel (real) to the United Nations (faked), and the acting, dialogue, and direction, all in nimbly playful tune with one another. Warner’s excellent DVD transfer preserves the slightly unreal quality of the film’s Technicolor cinematography (so rich it almost looks injected with pigment), and includes a commentary track by Lehman and a well-produced 40-minute documentary about the film’s production. A

Here, the horror flick that had scores of parents searching their children for numerical birthmarks and made ”Damien” a bad name. Features: Commentary by director Richard Donner, new documentary, anamorphic wide-screen.

Judy Garland dazzles as a songbird on the rise in this restored version of the George Cukor classic. Features: Footage of original premiere and after-party, three alternate takes of ”The Man That Got Away,” deleted song ”When My Sugar Walks Down the Street,” theatrical trailers, anamorphic wide-screen, Dolby Digital 5.1.