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Do The Right Thing DVD

Home Video: 'Right Thing' on Special DVD

Do the Right Thing' isn't the movie to end all movies about race relations," Spike Lee said the other day. Probably not, but almost 12 years after it was made his film still stands as one of the most vivid on the subject. For proof, one need only explore a first-rate new DVD special edition from the Criterion Collection.

Extras are in profusion: a 60- minute documentary on the making of the film; Mr. Lee's own filming behind the scenes, beginning with the block party for the neighbors before shooting began in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn; his nimble defense of the film at a news conference following its screening at the Cannes Film Festival; an interview with Barry Brown, the film's editor; a video of Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," the film's theme song.

Then of course there is the film itself, full of the blazing light and throbbing color of the hottest day in Bed-Stuy. At Sal's Famous Pizzeria, the proprietor (Danny Aiello) verbally spars with the black clientele, his quarrelsome sons (John Turturro and Richard Edson) and his less than industrious delivery man, Mookie (Mr. Lee).

Across the street the Korean owners of a grocery store field racial gibes and dish out their own. On the sidewalks Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) and his trunk-size boom box and Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) foment discontent. The explosion will come that night. And that, as the disc jockey Mister Senior Love Daddy (Sam Jackson, later Samuel L.) might say, is the truth, Ruth.

Mr. Lee contributes to a commentary recorded for laser disc in 1995, joined by Ernest Dickerson, the cinematographer; Wynn Thomas, the production designer; and Joie Lee, the director's sister, who plays Mookie's sister in the film. Mr. Thomas disputes the notion that black movies are not designed as carefully as white films. "You create an environment in which the issues can play out," he says.

Everywhere the movie stokes heat. Screaming sunlight bakes a blazingly red brick wall. Mr. Dickerson talks about using sandy colors and lots of browns to create heat, and about the need to dodge any sense of coolness when clouds covered the sun.

The film has a bright orderliness. Mr. Thomas says that people tell him it looks like "West Side Story," which isn't surprising, he adds, given his and Mr. Lee's theater backgrounds. It is left to Mookie to muss things up by tossing a trash can through Sal's window, starting the riot that leads to the fire that destroys the place.

Mookie's motive is the death of his friend Radio Raheem, who is killed in the stranglehold of a policeman. In the summer of 1989 many New Yorkers were afraid the film might start riots in movie theaters. Their fear still angers Mr. Lee, who also remains peeved at critics who were more upset by the property destruction than Raheem's killing.

Nothing has changed, he said, either in life or for the film. "That was the summer of 1989 and this is 2001, and I don't think it is dated at all," he said.

New Video Releases

The Original Kings of Comedy

Well known on television, Bernie Mac (left), Steve Harvey, D. L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer gather for two nights of performance in Spike Lee's concert film. Mr. Harvey, star of "The Steve Harvey Show" on the WB network, swings into a definition of the differences between rap and old- school funk, and fans who know Mr. Hughley from the sitcom "The Hughleys" may blanch at the profanity. All four display their chops when they talk about African-American family with roots in the South. "What comes out of these comedians' hearts hits the most powerful chord, and the audience wants more of it," Elvis Mitchell wrote in The New York Times.

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