Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
With 1984’s Starman, horror and action master (and my favorite director) John Carpenter took a hard turn into sci-fi. While this was not completely uncharted territory for the man, it was easily his most commercial and mainstream effort. It got some good buzz from the critics, it made some (read as: very few) bucks, and it even spawned a TV series that was kind of blah, but that’s beside the point. So this was one of Carpenter’s bigger films to the everyday Joe and Jane, and yet it one of his most overlooked, under discussed, and forgotten efforts now. So three cheers to the ever-awesome Scream Factory for bringing this one out on Blu-ray, but is it worth a get? Let’s find out.
The story has Karen Allen still emotionally raw and mourning over her recently deceased husband. An alien energy-based lifeform comes to earth, finds a bit of the dead hubby’s hair in a scrapbook, and thanks to DNA makes a physical body for itself that just so happens to look like the dead man, who also so happens to look a lot like Jeff Bridges. Naturally the wife is a tad freaked out by this starman but she soon agrees to help the alien phone home and get back with his interstellar energy pals. So begins a sometimes funny, sometimes action-packed, and a growing romantic road trip across the USA. Standing in their way is the government and an NSA man hell-bent on capturing the visitor.
Starman is kind of the basic on-the-run film, but with a lot of charm thanks to the acting chops of Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen, and the considerable directing talents of John Carpenter. It is not a horror film in the least, although Carpenter can’t help himself from sneaking a few spooky moments into his sci-fi flick, but despite that “flaw” I really like this one. It’s legitimately funny, has some good action, and yes, even the mushy romantic stuff works on me for the most part. Just don’t tell anyone, I have an image to protect.
On to the extras that Scream Factory has given us with this new Blu-ray release. First there is an audio commentary track with director Carpenter and star Jeff Bridges that I thought was a lot of fun. There is a retrospective that runs for 24 minutes and a vintage making-of featurette that’s just over 11 minutes. A teaser trailer, theatrical trailer, TV spots, and a still gallery can all be found here. So there’s not a ton of special features on here, but it is also a far way away from bare bones.
I like Starman quite a lot. No, it’s not as great as Carpenter’s Halloween, The Thing, Escape from New York, or many others, but it is head and shoulders better than Vampires, The Ward, and the bottom-of-the-barrel Ghosts of Mars. So if you are a hardcore horrorhead give it a chance, and I think the combo of Carpenter, Bridges, and Allen will win you over. If you’re just a fan of good movies then this one is a easier sell, as it is a very good movie. Consider this one recommended.