Starman Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon
1984, 115 minutes, Rated PG
Released on December 18th, 2018
Jeff Bridges as Starman
Karen Allen as Jenny Hayden
Charles Martin Smith as Mark Shermin
Richard Jaeckel as George Fox
Jenny Hayden was recently widowed and is still in mourning for her husband Scott. She stays up late watching home movies and drinking wine until she is ready to pass out. Her world is about to change with the arrival of an extra-terrestrial answering the invitation of the Voyager space probe to come visit Earth. The alien clones Scott using a lock of hair saved in a scrapbook and seeing her late husband walking around is more than Jenny can handle. He tells her that he means her no harm and needs her help to get to Arizona within three days to return home or he will die. She is still in shock but agrees to drive him and together they set off on a grand adventure.
What follows is a road movie as the pair travel cross country in her trusty 1977 mustang. She teaches him about life and love and re-awakens her spirit in the process. He learns about humanity through a series of visits to small towns and truck stops and interacting with the locals therein. They are being pursued by government agents looking to study the alien, dead or alive. Mark Shermin is one of the good guys and works with S.E.T.I. (the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) hoping one day to meet such an alien and is doing everything in his power to keep the Feds at bay. The clock is ticking and our heroes face an uphill challenge if they are to make it to Arizona in time.
By 1984, director John Carpenter (Prince of Darkness) had already enjoyed success as both an independent filmmaker and as one working within the studio system. He had proven himself in the horror genre and in sci/fi with titles like Dark Star (1974) and The Thing (1982), but Starman marks a turning point in his career. This is a more sensitive Carpenter at work here, delivering a family-friendly, PG-rated adventure that is more in line with something coming from Steven Spielberg. The relationship between Jenny and the alien (Starman) is the driving force of this picture as her life lessons speak to the nature of what is good in the world. Written by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon, the duo behind Stand by Me (1986), this is a character-driven story that really speaks to the audience with its positive message.
Jeff Bridges (The Fisher King) stars as Starman, bringing a childlike innocence to the role in a performance that earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. He carries the picture with ease as he learns the ways of man and celebrates life. Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark) is wonderful as the emotionally wounded Jenny Hayden. Her initial fear of the alien rings true as she believes she is being kidnapped and her gradual understanding of the situation is well-realized. The two appear in almost every scene together and share great onscreen chemistry in their unconventional relationship. Charles Martin Smith (The Untouchables) is great as Mark Shermin, the fed with a heart of gold. His eagerness to meet an alien and do right by him is fun to watch and his enthusiasm is infectious.
There are many great character actors appearing in smaller supporting roles that genre fans will enjoy seeing including Carpenter regular George “Buck” Flower (They Live) as a fry cook and Ted White (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) as a deer hunter. Starman came with Carpenter’s largest budget to date. The shoot sprawled across country and at one point incorporated more than a dozen helicopters in the finale. The visual effects were provided courtesy of powerhouse ILM and the one sequence of special make-up effects as the alien grows from a baby into an adult was realized by the dynamic team of Dick Smith, Rick Baker and Stan Winston.
Starman clicked with audiences and was a success at the box office, proving Carpenter was capable of making more than one kind of picture. The horror maestro delivers a romantic comedy with real heart and a big sense of adventure all within an intimate character drama. The movie has a lot to offer with its uplifting themes and strong performances and beautiful scenery. Sadly, this is Carpenter’s only visit to this genre, but he continued to crank out hits for the rest of the decade. The film is about to hit its thirty-fifth anniversary and this new Collector’s Edition is a great way to revisit the movie or catch it for the first time. Carpenter completists will definitely want to scoop this one up.
Video and Audio:
Starman appears in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the picture comes with a dated transfer used for the previous Blu-ray release, but it’s a good one. Colors are strong and flesh tones appear natural throughout and there is plenty of small-object detail.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track provides a nice balance between dialogue levels and music cues with everything sounding crisp and clean and free from distortion. The rear channels get some play, especially during the finale, but this is largely a dialogue-driven film.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
John Carpenter and Jeff Bridges provide an audio commentary that is laid back and conversational in nature and offers plenty of behind-the-scenes anecdotes. The track is well-paced and full of entertaining information that fans will definitely want to check out.
The 2018 segment They Came from Hollywood: Remembering Starman (24 minutes) includes interviews with Carpenter and Bridges, fellow actor Charles Martin Smith and script supervisor Sandy King Carpenter. There are lots of good stories and everyone has fond memories of the production. This is a tightly constructed piece that covers a lot of ground concisely and does not overstay its welcome.
The vintage featurette (11 minutes) is a standard EPK with cast and crew interviews and some behind-the-scenes footage shot on location.
A teaser and the original theatrical trailer are included here along with four TV spots that show the film’s marketing campaign.
A still gallery of promotional artwork and lobby cards plays as a silent slideshow (8 minutes).
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