Scream Factory Brings John Carpenter’s ‘Starman’ to Earth on Blu-ray

GameStop, Inc.

Starman Scream Factory

Despite having made a number of classic movies in a variety of genres, it took the world a while to catch on to the fact that John Carpenter was a master filmmaker. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that so many continually wrote off Carpenter over his career as he was a filmmaker often making genre pictures, and those kinds of pictures along with their directors are often overlooked and written off by their contemporaries. Just because the world didn’t take the films of John Carpenter seriously never meant that the director shared that same ambivalence, and Carpenter never shied away from taking chances. That’s especially prevalent in his 1984 science fiction romance Starman. The latest John Carpenter film to be reissued by Scream Factory, the horror imprint of Shout! Factory, Starman sees Carpenter switching gears a bit, opting for an out of this world romance with bits of comedy sprinkled in throughout.

The Voyager 2 space probe was launched into the cosmos in 1977, carrying with it a gold album that conveyed a message of peace in the hopes of contacting alien lifeforms. Voyager accomplished its goal as a mysterious being from beyond our stars ventures to Earth only to be shot down by U.S. government planes, crash landing in Wisconsin. The alien being doesn’t have a terrestrial shape that we often assume alien life would look like. Instead this being is like a glowing ball of energy floating around. This alien being finds itself in the home of Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen), who is still mourning the loss of her husband Steve in an accident a few months prior. Using a lock of hair from a photo album, the alien is able to take the form of the late Steve Hayden. The grieving Jenny is shocked to find her dead husband in the flesh standing beside the fire place; only this isn’t Steve, it’s Starman (Jeff Bridges).

From there the script by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon take the characters on an unusual road trip through America. Bridges’ Starman learns various human customs as Allen’s bewildered Jenny tries to get past the fact that this alien creature is a carbon copy of her dead husband. As the couple makes their way to the Starman’s planned rendezvous with his own kind, the government is hot on their trail. On one hand you have National Security Agency director George Fox (Richard Jaeckel), who wants to capture the alien. On the other hand, you have SETI scientist Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith), who wants to communicate with the alien being for greater understanding of life beyond that on Earth.

While it may not carry all the hallmarks of Carpenter’s most famous films, Starman is still a very John Carpenter movie. The director’s cynicism towards the government and distrust of humanity comes through in most of the characters out to captures the eponymous alien. The film utilizes some impressive special effects for the era, with Carpenter and his collaborators pushing the limits of technology once again. One area that Starman shines new light on Carpenter’s filmography as a whole is the film’s humor. Unlike, say, The Thing or Escape From New York, where the action and suspense takes center stage, Starman has Carpenter showing more comedic flair than he’s usually given credit for. In switching up his stylistic tendencies Carpenter is able to bring more elements of his cinematic brilliance to the forefront than might be noticed in his more sensationalist films.

As much as Carpenter’s filmmaking traits find their way into Starman, it’s the two headlining stars that anchor the film. Jeff Bridges is having blast playing the bewildered alien. His absurd mannerisms and off-kilter line delivery give a bizarre comedic tone to a film that’s often quite melancholy. Bridges’ performance garnered him an Oscar nomination, a miraculous feat for a genre film and the only time anybody was nominated for their work in a film by John Carpenter. Opposite Bridges is Karen Allen, who gives Starman its heart and soul. Her character is devastated by loss and Allen never lets that sense escape her character, even when she’s struck by wonder in the presence of her new alien friend. But Karen Allen also has strong comedic skills and is able to perfectly play off Bridges’ goofball alien.

Starman is an important film in John Carpenter’s extensive filmography because it illustrates just how much we can see the themes that run through a filmmaker’s work when they opt to go in a different direction. It’s a moving, often funny work of romance and sci-fi that strikes a deft balance between the outlandish imagination and the heartfelt sincerity. Scream Factory continues to preserve the works of John Carpenter, and Starman is just the latest example that the horror imprint is dedicated to all of his works and not just the biggest cult classics. This edition of Starman is out of this world.

Starman
  • Overall Score
4

Summary

A change of pace for director John Carpenter, Starman lands on Blu-ray with a special edition from Scream Factory that revives this unique blend of science fiction and romance for a whole new audience.

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