Bob Fosse's Dark Star 80 In Widescreen

Bob Fosse's not-even-remotely-musical true crime thriller Star 80 has been out on DVD in the US for decades, but it's always been one of the most disappointing full-screen, featureless discs to come out of a major studio. It even came in one of those cardboard crappy snapper cases. But it became one of those DVDs that the studios never cared to reissue here in the US, but gave nice, anamorphic widescreen transfers to abroad. In this case, we're looking at Warner Bros' attractive Australian DVD.
Star 80 is the dark story of model and actress Dorothy Stratten and the man who managed, married and ultimately murdered her, Paul Snider. Mariel Hemingway is charming and believable as Stratton, and there's a strong supporting cast, including Cliff Robertson, Carroll Baker and an early cameo by Keenan Ivory Wayans as himself. But it's the incredible performance by Eric Roberts that carries the weight of this picture, managing to make him both empathetic and yet totally abhorrent. This film takes you on a ride with its all too real villain along the lines of horror films like Maniac or Don't Answer the Phone, while other times being charming and funny. The fact that it's got great music and an edge because everything we're seeing really went down helps raise it above the others, too. It's the kind of film people who've seen it don't forget.
US disc on the left; Australian on the right.
US disc on top; Australian on bottom.
Star 80 was shot by one of the world's greatest cinematographers of all time, Sven Nykvist, so it really sucked to see this film so poorly represented on the early DVD. It wasn't even open matte. It was sort of a compromise picture, with some additional vertical information, but it cut a lot off the sides. So seeing the Australian disc is a big revelation. And if you look at the second shot, there's even a bit more information along the top of the widescreen print. It looks like someone did put in time and care to make the 4:3 transfer look as good as it could; but it's just not the correct aspect ratio. The US disc was also a bit brighter, but I'm not sure that's preferable or more accurate. There are no extras on this release, just as there weren't any on the old US one, but at least there are two sets of English subtitles, standard and hearing impaired.
Now, I see that Warner Archives has Star 80 on their schedule for the end of this month. Hopefully this is the transfer we'll see. I mean, I'd be surprised if they stuck with the fullscreen one at this point; but you don't know 'till you know. Fortunately though, if they do, we know the import still has our backs. And collectors may still prefer to the Australian disc, simply as a pressed disc over an MOD DV-R.

No comments:

Post a Comment