Starman (Region 2)

Starman (Region 2) (1984)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Music Video, Theatrical Trailer

Many visitors to this site are most likely familiar with the DVD region coding system and the fact that many popular films are available on DVD overseas, but not in Region 1. An occurrence which is equally frustrating is when a film is given a ’bare-bones’ release in Region 1, yet enjoys the ’Special Edition’ treatment elsewhere. Such is the case with the new DVD of John Carpenter’s ’Starman’, which is being released in Region 2 in a PAL format. This disc is an improvement over the Region 1 DVD in nearly every aspect and it should have Carpenter fans racing to figure out how they can view it.

The film is presented here in an anamorphic widescreen, and has been letterboxed at 2.35.1. (Due to the PAL to NTSC transition, the framing was closer to 1.85:1 on my set.) The image is sharp and clear, and the source print was free from defects. When compared side-by-side with the non-anamorphic Region 1 release, the image on this new disc is a bit bright and washed out at times, but it still looks great. There is no distortion here and artifacting is kept to a minimum. The new Dolby DIgital 5.1 audio track is definitely an improvement over the Dolby 2.0 Surround track found on the Region 1 disc. The audio here is crisp and clear, with a nice bass response. The dialogue is always intelligible and the surround sound separation is quite good.

The main attraction to this new DVD is an audio commentary with director John Carpenter and star Jeff Bridges. As is typically the case with Carpenter’s commentaries, this is a fun talk, where he and Bridges reminisce fondly about the production of the film. Clearly, both speakers share a great affection for ’Starman’ and many of their anecdotes are funny and heartwarming, as well as informative. The speech never gets too technical and there is always an air of fun to it. In addition to this unique feature, the DVD offers a music video with Bridges and co-star Karen Allen covering The Everly Brothers classic ’All I Have to Do is Dream’ (which they also sing in the film, in one of Jenny’s home movies). Also included here is a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette from 1984, which offers interview with the cast and crew, and some on-location footage. Rounding out the extras is the theatrical trailer for ’Starman’ and a bonus trailer for ’Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.

While the extras willl draw many to this DVD, the film is the real star here. ’Starman’ remains one of Carpenter’s most mature and competent works to date. The story of an alien visitor (Bridges) who is aided by a lonely widow (Allen) is still as funny and moving today as when it was originally released. The movie features a great cast, and Bridges’ Oscar-nominated performance is still fascinating to watch. Some of the special effects make look dated, but with its humor and romantic storyline, ’Starman’ remains one of the most original sci-fi films of the last 25 years. And, I’m sure it still does wonder for the sales of Dutch Apple Pie.