Quite possibly my favorite part of this job is checking the post on the day that my new box of DVD screeners are scheduled to come in. Sometimes, I know what is coming to me, and the new box means that it is time to get down to business. Other times, however, there is a surprise inside, much like the new box of cereal that made its way home with the groceries when I was a child. Upon reviewing the parcel’s contents, I will either be greatly pleased with my employer, or I will be filled with immediate dread, knowing t…at many nights of misery lie in my future.
This is one of those titles that, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. Now, I’m not anti-musical, and I am most certainly not anti-classic film. I am very much unlike most men on that point. Having said that, I do like a little plot in my three-hour films. This is a picture that has so many stage-performed musical numbers, it actually opens to an overture. I am a fan of the theater, but I am of the opinion that a film should be a film, and the theater, the theater. I don’t want to watch a play captured on film any more that I wish to go to a play and watch a movie.
Now, to be fair, the song and dance routine does trail off somewhat at the halfway point of the film, but for me, it was too late. This is a film that would have been much more entertaining had the editor spent more time adding in dialog, and taking out one of the many, many, many musical numbers. The story is good, but it is constantly interrupted. I understand that she is a performer. I don’t need to be reminded with a stage performance every five minutes.
This is a good audio track for a film of this age. Obviously, some work has been done on the master tapes, as the disc is available only in Dolby Digital 5.1. While the re-mastered track is a marked improvement over the original, there are still no surround effects to speak of. The low end does get a nice boost however. Now, this is certainly not Die Hard, but the film does benefit from this added boost, especially when a full orchestra is used during one of the excruciatingly plentiful musical numbers.
Audio cues are nicely placed across the front of house, and occasionally these sounds travel as their sources move on the screen. It is nice to find a re-mastered soundtrack that takes advantage of all of the modern advances in audio, while still preserving the spirit of the original production. Bravo to Fox, for knowing how to take care of their mammoth catalog of classic films.
No matter what I might say about the film itself, there is no denying the fantastic quality of the video. This is not just a presentation that is great by 1968 standards… this is a presentation that can even stand up against many modern films on DVD. The picture is clear and sharp, with strong, vibrant colors. Black levels are deep, and whites are bright and clean. In fact, except for the occasional appearance of some flecks residing on the negative, this is about as perfect as a transfer comes. There is simply nothing else to say. It ‘s top notch.
There are a respectable number of extras included on this disc. First up is the commentary track by Director Robert Wise. This piece is great and disappointing, all at the same time. Great, because, as is the case with many older films, the tales of this production include many interesting anecdotes about the workings of filmmaking “in the old days”. It is clear that Wise holds a special place in his heart for Star!, and his commentary is charming and informative. The disappointing side of this chat track is the fact that many of Wise’s comments are scripted. Moreover, the track is assembled from a wide variety of interviews and commentary takes. While it is nice to hear a track stuffed full of information, I much prefer a live track to one that has been assembled from various sources.
The Saga of Star! is an interesting (and quite thorough) look at the history of the film, told through an extensive collection of still photographs and text. The viewer is allowed to scroll along through this electronic scrapbook at his or her own pace. I can honestly say that I have never seen an extra feature prepared in quite this manner. While it’s not particularly groundbreaking, it is original. Originality is always a plus.
Equally as interesting is the original 1968 featurette Star! The Sound of a Legend. While pre-produced promotional featurettes are certainly nothing new on DVD offerings, ones created for classic films are. In fact, this is one of the rarest examples of such a piece that I can remember. Electronic Press kits just weren’t done for films in the 60’s, and the production value of this extra is almost more interesting than the information included within it.
Silver Star! is yet another featurette, this one created in 1995, and briefly looking back on the production of the film. While the piece is only nine minutes in length, it is still a valuable historical element for fans of the film.
Additional extras include trailers, TV spots, screen tests, and even more still galleries. This is a disc that holds much more additional content that it originally appears.
I am sure that it is quite apparent that I didn’t care for this film. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad, it’s just that it’s long. Way, way too long. If this film is ever re-made (and at the rate that Hollywood is going, it is just a matter of time), this could really turn out to be a wonderful film. Never underestimate the power of a great editor.
No matter what I may think of the film itself, however, there is no denying the quality of the disc. Excellent picture quality, respectably re-mastered sound, and a boatload of extras assure that this will be a title that will please existing fans, and may even earn the allegiance of some new ones.
Special Features List
- Original Production Featurette
- 25th Anniversary Featurette
- Screen Tests
- Still Galleries
- TV Spots