Starring Timothy Bottoms, Jane Seymour, Hart Bochner. Directed by Harvey Hart. Released by Acorn Media. $59.99. *** (3 STARS)
Jane Seymour is sexy, sultry and downright scary in this TV miniseries adaptation of John Steinbeck's East of Eden, a tale of sibling rivalry and hard-fought redemption among two northern California families in the first part of the 20th century.
More faithful to Steinbeck's novel than director Elia Kazan's 1955 film version (which helped make a legend of James Dean), East of Eden is, at its core, the story of feuding brothers Cal and Aron Trask (Sam Bottoms and Hart Bochner), their wealthy father, Adam (Timothy Bottoms), and their headstrong, scandalous mother, Kate (Seymour). All the elements are there for a potboiler of the first order. Adam goes from being a homeless vagrant to a wealthy landowner, thanks to an unexpected inheritance; Cal and Aron are never happier than when they are battling each other, trying to inflict the deepest emotional hurt possible; and Kate ends up a respectable brothel owner (if such a thing is possible) whose sons have been raised to believe she died long ago.
I hope it isn't too revealing to say that both sons find out the truth about their mother, and neither takes it terribly well.
Biblical allusions abound. It's no accident the father is named Adam, or that the sons have names similar to Cain and Abel, and this adaptation, released in 1981, revels in every one. The actors make for interesting siblings (although Sam Bottoms, with his zombielike demeanor, tends to be a bit distracting). But watching Seymour chew up every available bit of scenery is a joy. It's a pity so many know her only as the blandly pious pioneer doctor on TV's Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; as East of Eden reminds us, she can be so much more.
Also in stores today: : Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Walt Disney Home Video, $29.95, Blu-ray, $34.95) Piper Perabo and Jamie Lee Curtis are mere window-dressing in this way-too-calculating story of a pampered pooch (voice of Drew Barrymore) forced to fend for herself on the mean streets of Mexico.
Other releases: : Keri Russell lends voice to everyone's favorite Amazon in Wonder Woman (Warner Home Video, $29.99); although she's only 24, Scarlett Johansson has apparently been around long enough to warrant the Scarlett Johansson Collection (Lionsgate, $19.98), a two-disc set that includes 2003's Girl With a Pearl Earring, 2004's A Good Woman and 2001's An American Rhapsody; Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman cavort through Baz Luhrmann's overwrought 2008 box-office dud, Australia (20th Century Fox, $29.95, Blu-ray, $39.95).