The Groundstar Conspiracy

The Groundstar Conspiracy (1972)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: George Peppard, Michael Sarrazin, Christine Belford
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

Considering the recent (and unwelcome) comeback of 70’s fashions and the updating of 70’s films, such as "Shaft", it’s curious to note that we haven’t seen a bigger resurgence of genuine 70’s films. Perhaps the audiences of the new millenium only want their 70’s flashbacks filtered through a modern-day mindset. But, for those of you who want a genuine flashback, Anchor Bay Entertainment is bringing "The Groundstar Conspiracy" to DVD. This Geogre Peppard spy vehicle has a timeless plot, but there’s no question that the film is firmly rooted in the 70s. From the clothes to the music, this film is an entertaining throwback that will leave your leisure suits begging for more.

"The Groundstar Conspiracy" begins with a series of explosions at a research facility. We see one man escape from the catastrophe and fall into the doorway of a nearby house. As the credits finish rolling, we learn that the research facility was the Groundstar Project. (Which apparently has to do with a space probe. The film never gets around to telling us much about Groundstar.) The government has sent in Tuxan (George Peppard) to investigate the explosion. Tuxan is an all around badass who will stop at nothing to solve the crime. Tuxan interviews Nicole Devon (Christine Belford, the 70’s answer to Lolita Davidovich), the owner of the house where the survivor was found, but she claims to know nothing. Tuxan then turns to John Welles (Michael Sarrazin), the lone survivor of the explosions. Welles face was obliterated by the blasts, so plastic surgeons rebuilt his face based on the ID card that he was carrying.

After Welles regains consciousness, Tuxan begins to probe him for information, but the concussive shock of the explosions has left Welles with amnesia. Six men were murdered and Welles was found carrying computer tape (!) with top secret information, but he can’t remember who he was working for or why he had to blow up Groundstar. Despite all of Tuxan’s efforts – including shock therapy – Welles can’t remember. During a transfer to another facility, Welles escapes to search for the truth on his own. But, Tuxan follows Welles every step of the way and soon Welles finds himself involved in a conspiracy so deep that no one can be trusted.

To be honest, I had never heard of "The Groundstar Conspiracy" prior to viewing this DVD, but I have to admit that I liked the movie. The story is the glue that holds this film together. While there are some plot holes in the script (What is Groundstar?) the movie brings up some neat concepts, such as the idea that the surgeons may have rebuilt the wrong face for John Welles. The other element of the story which makes the film enjoyable is the Tuxan character, which is played with superb aplomb by George "I love it when a plan comes together" Peppard. Tuxan is a true man’s-man, who doesn’t take "No" for an answer and comes across as super cool. Unlike most anti-heroes of this vein, Tuxan never resorts to violence in the film. His ice-cold demeanor lets people know that he means business and that he’s not a man to be toyed with. Deep down, every guy wants to be Tuxan.

The other element that makes "The Groundstar Conspiracy" work is the talent of director Lamont Johnson. Johnson gives the film a great sense of style, using techniques that we take for granted today, but were probably unusual in 1972. As with John Carpenter, Johnson uses both the foreground and background to tell the story. For example, look for Tuxan watching the operation on Welles from the operating theater. Welles’ flashbacks are presented in a very nice subliminal fashion, which also underscore this style. While the film does drag some towards the end, Johnson keeps things moving along nicely and does a fine job of hiding the surprise ending until the final scene.

Another intriguing element of the film is the score by Paul Hoffert. While some of the music falls into the realm of bad 70’s cop show music, complete with wha-wha-ed wacka-wacka guitars and constant snare drumming, some of the score will undoubtedly remind viewers of the work of John Carpenter. Hoffert will introduce a theme at the beginning of a scene and then let one note continue to play throughout the scene, similar to what Carpenter did in films like "Halloween". This style offers a much needed edge to the suspense of the film.

"The Groundstar Conspiracy" comes to us on DVD by way of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film is presented on the DVD in both <$PS,widescreen> and full-frame formats. The <$PS,widescreen> transfer has been <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TVs and is <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1. The source print for this transfer was apparently in near-mint condition as the image shows very few scratches or spots. There isn’t much grain on the image either. The letterbox framing appears to be accurate, as the image shows no evidence of warping. The colors on the image come across as very true, immediately evidenced by the flashing red light at the beginning of the film. The picture requires no adjustment with brightness, as it doesn’t display the dark tones, which is often evident in movies from the seventies. "The Groundstar Conspiracy" is cleanly compressed, showing no signs of artifacting, dot crawl or other compression artifacts.

While the video transfer of "The Groundstar Conspiracy" comes across as nearly perfect, the <$DD,Dolby Digital> Mono soundtrack isn’t quite as impressive. The sound shows constant inconsistencies in volume, with dialogue being hushed and muffled, and the explosions being very loud. However, the music always maintains a constant volume.

For you readers who like to listen to DVDs through digital headphones, be warned that the first few minutes of the film contain a constant hum that can be almost deafening when using headphones.

The only extra on "The Groundstar Conspiracy" is that original theatrical trailer for the film. This trailer is <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1 and is in Dolby Digital Mono.

If you’re a fan of mod 70’s films, then you must check out "The Groundstar Conspiracy". However, if you’re in the mood for a different kind of action film that puts the story before the violence, then "The Groundstar Conspiracy" is for you as well. Some of the film may come across as dated, but the story is definitely intriguing and Tuxan is a character that must be seen to be believed. So, put down that disco ball and check out "The Groundstar Conspiracy."