These Videos May Shape Up The Recipient

Most bargain-priced, holiday-oriented videos start turning up as early as August and September, but a few come straggling in just in time for last-minute Christmas purchases.

Some were not even scheduled to arrive this year. But the idea of cashing in on the lucrative gift market proved irresistible, and release dates have been moved up.

The most visible example is "Lucky Vanous: The Ultimate Fat-Burning System," which CBS/Fox Video had originally scheduled to release Jan. 4. Vanous is the shirtless hunk who was ogled by office women in a Diet Coke commercial. The television spot earned him enough notoriety to land on the most recent cover of Psychology Today, which used his face to push a lame essay on men as sex objects.

In this 50-minute tape, he demonstrates fitness expert Kacy Duke's exercise routine and talks about the circumstances that led to his instant fame. Due to "overwhelming demand," CBS/Fox has moved the release date up to next Wednesday. It's priced at $15.

Several other exercise tapes have also turned up just in time for Christmas: "The ABCs of Fitness" (also due Wednesday), "Joan Lunden: Workout America" (in stores today), "Fabio Fitness," Scott Cole's "Abs of Steel 2," Tony Little's "Fat Free Upper Body and Abdominal Reduction," Dixie Carter's "Yoga For You Unworkout II," Jane Fonda's "Step and Stretch Workout" and "The Reebok Winning Body Workout," with Nancy Kerrigan.

And Playboy Entertainment Group is giving another push to "O.J. Simpson's Minimum Maintenance Fitness For Men," which sounds like the sick-joke video of the season, although it's a fairly routine 25-minute cardiovascular workout.

Disney, which has so cannily marketed "The Lion King" in theaters that the current reissue is outgrossing all other G-rated movies, is releasing a couple of crucial clips from the film to the video market tomorrow: the majestic opening song, "Circle of Life," and the playful comedy number, "I Just Can't Wait to Be King." (The complete movie won't make it to video until March.)

They're part of the latest Disney Sing Along Song tape, which runs 25 minutes, sells for $13 and includes songs from "The Aristocats" ("Everybody Wants to be a Cat"), "Beauty and the Beast" ("Belle") "The Little Mermaid" ("Part of Your World"), "Pinocchio" ("When You Wish Upon a Star") and "Aladdin" ("Prince Ali"). Also included is a preview of next summer's Disney cartoon, "Pocahontas." This is the 12th tape in the Sing Along Song series, which has sold more than 18 million tapes to date.

MGM/UA Home Video has a collection of $15 music tapes aimed at several kinds of audiences. For Pink Floyd fans, there's a new letterboxed edition of Alan Parker's 1982 movie of "The Wall." Two volumes of "Swing, Swing, Swing" feature Artie Shaw, Woody Herman and Desi Arnaz in big-band Warner Bros. musical shorts from the 1930s and 1940s.

Several tapes are available only by mail, including Seattle producer Scott Marshall's "You Could Be a Cowboy," designed for children 3-13. It's narrated by John Cullum of "Northern Exposure," and so is a CD of a Will James short story, "Young Cowboy." They're part of a $50 kit, created by Marshall's company, Scattergood, that includes a "beginner's rope" for making lariats. Information: 800-422-2554.

Wehman Video Distribution, also based in Seattle, has just come out with a two-part, 45-minute tape: "Alaska's Three Bears" and "The Alaska Mother Goose" ($28), based on children's books by Shelly Gill and Shannon Cartwright. Also available from Wehman: "Cleared to Land" ($13), a 50-minute program that provides cockpit and exterior views of aircraft maneuvers, and "Working at Sea" ($15), a half-hour tape about people who work on yachts, steamboats and oil tankers in Puget Sound. Information: 800-659-1553.

Fred Levine Productions, which recently relocated from Vermont to Seattle, has "Cleared For Takeoff," which takes children behind-the-scenes at O'Hara airport in Chicago. Information: 800-843-3686.

Another Northwest company, Real World Video, founded by Gig Harbor's Bonnie Scott, is making its debut with Taso Lagos's "Dig Hole. Build House," a half-hour construction documentary aimed at children. Information: 800-858-8715.

Along the same lines, Colorado's FieldBrook Videos For Kids has just released "Let's Build a House." Information: 800-952-0951.

Integrated Communications & Entertainment has a tape aimed at single women: "Alaska Men Video." It's made up of profiles of eligible bachelors in Alaska, where men outnumber women 15 to 1. Information: 800-544-8300.

Pyramid Film & Video, which ordinarily sells to schools and libraries, has released several animated tapes to the home market, including the Oscar-nominated "A Doonesbury Special" ($20) and John and Faith Hubley's "Everybody Rides the Carousel" ($40). Information: 310-828-7577.

A Texas company, Central Productions, is selling "Correct Smoking Etiquette" ($25), about the history of cigar-smoking, and "Trust Your Instincts" ($20), a self-defense tape aimed at women. Information: 800-766-5375.

Columbia House Video Library has a new series, "Mysteries of the Bible," that covers everything from Noah's ark to the Dead Sea scrolls. The club is also selling what it calls "definitive collections" of "Star Trek" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The first tape sells for $5; later installments are $20 apiece. Information: 800-638-2922.

In addition to several Claymation tapes that are currently available ("A Claymation Christmas Celebration," "Claymation Comedy of Horrors"), the Portland-based Will Vinton Studios is offering the "Claymation Clay Fun Pack." The kit includes several blocks of non-toxic, non-hardening colored clay, ready to turn into your own versions of the California Raisins. Information: 503-968-1608.

Video Watch by John Hartl appears Thursdays in Scene. For more information call the Video Hotline on InfoLine, a telephone information service of The Seattle Times. Call 464-2000 from a touch-tone phone and enter category 7369. It's a free local call.