Starman: Collector’s Edition

As discussed in depth in the bonus materials of the new Scream Factory Blu-ray of 1984’s Starman, director John Carpenter was eager to use the film to veer away from the scary fare he was known for and into the gentler realms of sci-fi and romance. Jeff Bridges anchors the film with a quirky, subtle performance as an alien entity trying to adjust to life as in a human body as he makes his way across the country to rendezvous with his mothership.





Shout! Factory;
$34.93 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel.

To differentiate itself from the recent success of E.T., 1984’s Starman was billed as a “science-fiction romance” that played heavily on the idea of the “Greetings From Earth” messages launched with the Voyager space probes a few years earlier.

Director John Carpenter took on the project because he wanted to distance himself from his reputation as a horror director, but he was no stranger to science-fiction. He made his directorial debut with the expanded student film Dark Star in 1974 before establishing himself as a horror icon with Halloween, The Fog and Christine. But interspersed with those was the Elvis TV movie (with Kurt Russell), not to mention the Escape From New York and The Thing, both undisputable examples of sci-fi, even if The Thing takes full advantage of his horror sensibilities. And four years later he would make They Live.

Starman, however, would prove to be much lighter in tone than his previous works, with Carpenter putting an emphasis on the road trip aspect of the story that would center on the rapport between his two leads. While most of the film is a conventional “government searching for aliens” type of plot, it succeeds primarily due to the performance of Jeff Bridges, who was nominated for an Oscar for his efforts.

The film stars with one of the Voyager probes being intercepted by an alien ship, which finds the golden record on it containing samples of Earth culture and an invitation from the U.N. for alien life to visit. The aliens then send a smaller craft to accept the invitation, only for it to be shot down by the U.S. military.

After the ship crashes in rural Wisconsin, its occupant discovers the remote cabin occupied by Jenny (Karen Allen), who is pining over her recently deceased husband (Bridges). The alien uses photos of the man and some DNA from a lock of his hair in a scrapbook to create a body it can use to study humanity. This is where Bridges shines through, amplifying the awkwardness of an alien form in a new body slowly growing accustomed to it as he learns more about the world around him.

Bridges in the bonus materials recalls the approach he took to the character as one of an advanced being in a human body trying to impersonate a human. The transformation of the alien into Bridges was the result of the combination of work from three masters of movie makeup effects: Dick Smith, Rick Baker and Stan Winston.

Jenny is understandably freaked out by the clone of her dead husband standing in front of her, but quickly comes to understand what he’s there for. He needs to travel to Arizona to be picked up by his people in three days, before his human body can no longer sustain his alien energies (which allow him to control electronic devices, such as jumpstarting a car or keying the jackpot of a Vegas slot machine).

With the aid of some little metal spheres, the Starman’s powers include the ability to shield himself from danger and resurrect the dead, as in a memorable scene in which he cures a deer from recently being shot by a hunter.

Starman’s antics naturally cause a disturbance wherever he goes, creating a ripple effect that is being tracked by a group of government operatives who are divided by their interests in the alien. Some want to learn from him (as in Charles Martin Smith SETI scientist), but some want to dissect him, which creates some tension over which group gets to him first.

Shout! Factory’s new Blu-ray edition looks fantastic and really does justice to the cinematography of Donald M. Morgan. Aside from the few necessary visual effects shots to establish the alien spacecraft, most of the film’s look is defined by subtle lighting effects that come across really well in high-definition.

The film gave Bridges a chance to show off some of his musical chops thanks to his alien persona relaying himself through music he’s picked up, and a film-reel flashback of his human self playing the guitar and singing “All I Have to Do Is Dream” with Allen (a duet that was included on the film’s soundtrack album). He’s eventually win the Best Actor Oscar for playing a musician in 2009’s Crazy Heart. For Allen, this was probably her best-known role outside of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The Blu-ray combines some legacy bonus materials with a new 24-minute retrospective, called “They Came From Hollywood: Remembering Starman.” Bridges, Smith, Carpenter and a handful of the filmmakers are shown in separate interviews recalling their experience of making the film and what it meant for their careers.

For Bridges in particular, the film marked the start of a tradition in which he would assemble the photographs he takes on the set of his films into a scrapbook memento for the cast and crew.

The audio on some of the interviews is a bit scratchy, so viewers shouldn’t worry that their speakers are blowing out.

The Blu-ray also includes a great, insightful audio commentary with Carpenter and Bridges ported over from an overseas Blu-ray release, plus an 11-minute promotional featurette from the ’80s.

The film would go on to spawn a short-lived sequel TV series in 1986, though none of the cast reprised their roles. The show is available as a manufactured-on-demand DVD from Sony.


Mike’s Picks: ‘The Atomic Cafe’ and ‘The Glenn Miller Story’

The Atomic Cafe

Kino Lorber, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
An artful assemblage of Cold War propaganda films about dealing with the atomic age and potential nuclear war, The Atomic Cafe’s near-singular mix of solemnity and gonzo remains as relevant as ever. The new Blu-ray restoration makes the film look and sound as good as it ever did.
Extras: This is a Blu-ray where the film at hand, superb as it is, is almost literally only half the package. The full-length string of bonus short subjects run over three hours, and there’s 80 minutes more of material — President Eisenhower and Richard Nixon get respectively showcased in two of the entries — from what is described as an “ill-fated” 1995 CD-ROM project about the Atomic Age. There’s also a podcast with the filmmakers.
Read the Full Review

The Glenn Miller Story

Shout! Factory, Drama, $22.99 Blu-ray, ‘G.’ Stars James Stewart, June Allyson, Harry Morgan, Louis Armstrong.
1954. Director Anthony Mann’s The Glenn Miller Story stars James Stewart as famed bandleader whose plane disappeared over the English Channel during World War II. The biopic really gets going in the second half thanks Mann’s staging of the musical numbers and Stewart’s cooly commanding performance.
Extras: Contains a commentary by filmmaker Jim Hemphill.
Read the Full Review

The Glenn Miller Story

Director Anthony Mann’s The Glenn Miller Story stars James Stewart as famed bandleader whose plane disappeared over the English Channel during World War II. The biopic really gets going in the second half thanks Mann’s staging of the musical numbers and Stewart’s cooly commanding performance.


Shout! Factory;
$22.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘G.’
Stars James Stewart, June Allyson, Harry Morgan, Louis Armstrong.

Notwithstanding Thunder Bay (oil drilling) and Strategic Air Command (self-explanatory), the surprising outlier in the fruitful James Stewart-Anthony Mann collaboration (read: five highly-regarded Westerns as well) is The Glenn Miller Story. If that is, a movie as popular as the last was really can be an outlier — one that even managed to kick off something of a Miller boom nearly a decade after the famed bandleader’s airplane death over the English Channel during World War II. For all of its narrative goo — and hour one has as much as you’ll find in any musical biopic — GMS is one of those mid-’50s releases that transformed James Stewart from superstar into to something of an institution. The emblematic Miller glasses that the actor dons and his own controlled performance as the trombonist bandleader really transform him his image.

I was disappointed to miss the picture during its February 1954 release when I was 6, despite already having had Miller pretty well “covered” by all the 78s I inherited from my parents and my Aunt Carol, which I’d already played to death in my bedroom (had to change that damned needle every 10 plays) by the time I started kindergarten. Permanently burned in my brain are “In the Mood,” “American Patrol,” “A String of Pearls,” “I Know Why” (utilized magnificently in The Shape of Water), “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” a ‘B’-side I’ve always liked (“Sleep Song”) and so on a few times over. If I’ve come to appreciate Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw on a purely musical level, there’s something more elusive about the Miller classics that captures the World War II era zeitgeist better than anything.

As it turned out, I ended up seeing 1956’s The Benny Goodman Story first (I was immersed in BG, too) — it the only movie ever directed by Valentine Davies, who penned its Miller predecessor at Universal and was burdened by a leaden lead performance by Steve Allen. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for a few Davies screenplays, most notably Miracle on 34th Street and the baseball cutie It Happens Every Spring (which I’d be curious to see remade with more up-to-date special effects). But his two musical biopics ask a lot, and in GMS’s case, asking it as early as the opening pawnshop scene. It is here that Stewart/Miller notices a string of pearls in an establishment run by schmaltzy Sig Ruman, who really pours on the joviality here as your basic anti-Rod-Steiger kind of hock-it proprietor. Also coming early is the script’s planted seed to establish that Miller will spend the entire movie working on the right arrangement for “Little Brown Jug,” when actually, it was one of the first huge hits he enjoyed once his band started clicking big-time nationally in the late 1930s.

Add to this a lot of co-star June Allyson (better in small doses, the great Good News excepted), and you also begin to feel the much evident iron hand of widow Helen Miller on the production. With so much to dig out from, it’s quite the testimonial to director Mann and cinematographer William Daniels (Stroheim’s Greed, a slew of Garbo pics, Valley of the Dolls, Rat Pack larks; say, what have you done lately?) that the picture works as well as it does. In fact, once it gets going (there’s a serious shortage of music in the first, say, 45 minutes), we’re talking an unambiguous net plus. Almost all of this has to do with Mann’s staging of numbers once the picture gets around to it and to Stewart’s cooly commanding performance.

Of the first, the outdoor staging of two big numbers for soldiers positively soars with nostalgia, especially when welcome ringer Frances Langford joins The Modernaires for “Choo Choo” — though I do wonder about whatever inside-baseball stuff led to the exclusion of franchise singers Marian Hutton and Ray Eberle from the movie.  Meanwhile, Stewart is a marvel at suggesting Miller’s discipline and drive while still maintaining all kinds of traits “Jimmy.” (In reality, Miller was something of an authoritarian, and Gary Giddins notes in his recent Swinging on a Star Bing Crosby bio that he had an anti-Semitic streak, though he did regard Louis Armstrong as unmatched.)

Stewart himself turned curmudgeon-ish in later years when his hitherto camouflaged reactionary streak became more “out there” — something addressed a little by Blu-ray bonus commentator (and filmmaker) Jim Hemphill. The latter spends most of his voiceover talking about Stewart and Mann (solo and in tandem) while giving very little to Miller’s own career — a shortcoming he addresses late on by simply conceding it is beyond his field of expertise. This is OK, at least with me, because he’s quite illuminating on the filmmaking team, which busted up to such a degree in 1957 over Night Passage (a Western eventually directed by James Nelson and saved by splendid Technirama eye-massaging) that Stewart barely mentioned the collaboration in later years, despite Winchester ’73, The Naked Spur and The Man From Laramie, to name my three favorites of their dual output. Hemphill gave me an added appreciation for a director I sometimes take for granted in his discussion of Mann’s sometimes subtle camera placements.

The Blu-ray is in 1.85:1, and I’m not going to get into the purist nitpicking of whether it should be at a 2.0 aspect ratio, which was one of Universal-International’s ways to go in those early days when wider-screen movies (both anamorphic and non-) took over exhibition; I’m too old to fight yesterday’s battles and just want to enjoy these things (within limits, of course). I’ve noticed some tepid, though not really negative, chat room responses to the mastering and color quality here, but this release looks pleasing enough to my eye, especially in the performance sequences.

Also featured on this release is the 1985 reissue print that had stereo tracks for the musical numbers — recorded but not used in ’54 because not enough theaters yet had the right equipment. Since GMS won the Oscar for sound recording and the Decca soundtrack album went to No. 1, this is no small deal. The re-issue print is about four minutes shorter, but because the excisions are mostly June Allyson material, I’m glad to have the movie both ways, above and beyond the more robust sound. For her part, Allyson does have a much-admired final scene here.

After years of being able to get foreign-region Blu-rays of Universal product but relatively few from the U.S., it seems that the dam has broken, thanks to Shout! Factory and Kino Classics (just got the latter’s new one of 1955’s Foxfire, the Jeff Chandler-Jane Russell potboiler that became the last three-strip Technicolor feature). This could prove to be new life for Douglas Sirk (who’s already well-represented on All-Region reach imports) and certainly Audie Murphy. Even now, we can tell you to don on your track shoes because fast moving Tarantula! (in both senses) is coming from the former around tax time in what I hope is a more satisfactory rendering than the grainy Region ‘B’ release. Depending on how much the delayed fine print from the tax cut kicks in, it might provide an apropos opportunity to say, “Sic ’em.”

The Glenn Miller Story

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Atomic Cafe’ and ‘The Glenn Miller Story’

Shout! Factory Announces Original Roger Corman Documentary Series

Shout! Factory Dec. 17 announced that its filmed entertainment distribution and production arm, Shout! Studios, has partnered with China’s Ace Film HK Company and Friendship Films to produce “Corman’s Hollywood,” a new multi-part documentary series about the life and works of pop cinema director Roger Corman and his wife and business partner, Julie Corman.

Created, written, and co-produced by Ashley Sidaway and Robert Sidaway from Friendship Films, the 13-episode series explores the career odysseys of the Cormans, uncovers inside backstories on many popular Corman movies, and provides a candid portrait of a trailblazing indie filmmaking duo.

The series follows Shout! Factory and Ace Film HK Co.’s March acquisition of Corman’s New Horizons Picture catalog featuring 270 movies and TV series. Titles include Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, The Trip, The Wild Angels, Death Race 2000, Piranha, Bloodfist, Black Scorpion, Little Shop of Horrors, Eat My Dust! and Humanoids from the Deep, among others.

Filmed over four months in Los Angeles, “Corman’s Hollywood” draws on a filmography spanning seven decades. The series offers viewers access inside the Cormans’ cinematic universe and features extensive in-depth interviews.

Corman and his wife share stories and defining moments from their movies, recall talent and young filmmakers they mentored, as well as provide behind-the-scenes perspectives for the films they produced.

Corman, recipient of an honorary Oscar in 2009, produced more than 350 films and directed 60 others. He influenced a generation of Hollywood filmmakers and screen talent, including Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Ron Howard, Peter Fonda, Jonathan Demme, Gale Anne Hurd, Diane Ladd, Tommy Lee Jones, Harry Dean Stanton, Sandra Bullock, Bruce Dern, Talia Shire, Charles Bronson, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich and Sally Kirkland.

Julie Corman worked with Demme, John Sayles, Catherine Hardwicke, Robert King, Bill Pullman, Martin Sheen, Peter Billingsley, Jon Lovitz, and Mario Van Peebles, among others.  She was chair of the graduate film department at NYU.

“It has been a rewarding and emotional experience to share some of the great moments and memories from so many of our films over seven decades,” Roger and Julie Corman said in a statement. “We have been privileged to work as independents in Hollywood that in a way has allowed us to bring our stories to the screen for audiences around the world. Our hope is that audiences get as much pleasure and fun from this series as we had making these films.” 

Calling Corman one of the most “prolific” producers and directors in Hollywood, Shout’s founders and co-CEOs Bob Emmer and Garson Foos say his and Julie’s ingenuity and independent spirit resonate far beyond the silver screen and today’s entertainment industry.

“It’s important that their insights and stories continue for generations to come,” Emmer and Foos said.

Shout! Studios will distribute the series in North America across multiple formats. Red Sea Media is handling international sales, excluding Asia where Ace Film will handle distribution.

Shout! Factory to Distribute ‘Bojack Horseman’ on Disc

Multi-platform media distributor Shout! Factory has formed a multiyear strategic distribution alliance with Michael Eisner’s The Tornante Company to bring Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman” to Blu-ray and DVD.

Shout! Factory has exclusive home entertainment rights to the first four seasons of the Tornante Company-produced series for distribution in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. The deal also covers seasons two through four in Australia and New Zealand.

Five seasons have run on Netflix and season six will premiere in 2019. Reruns air on Comedy Central.

“’BoJack Horseman’ crosses boundaries, defies expectations, challenges, entertains and generally blows your mind, often through laughter. We intend to give fans something they need to own with great extras and packaging,” said Jordan Fields, VP of Acquisitions at Shout! Factory.

“Passionate BoJack Horseman fans will carry these DVDs around wherever they go, like Linus and his blanket”, said Michael Eisner, founder of The Tornante Company.

The show centers on the title character (voiced by Will Arnett), an anthropomorphized horse who is a troubled former sitcom star struggling through life with whisky and failed relationships. Now, in the presence of his human sidekick Todd (Aaron Paul) and his feline agent and ex-paramour Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), BoJack is primed for his comeback. The series also stars Alison Brie and Paul F. Tompkins.

Scream Factory Releasing New Blu-ray of Stallone’s ‘Cobra’

Shout! Factory’s horror imprint, Scream Factory, Jan. 22 releases a new collector’s edition Blu-ray of Sylvester Stallone’s 1986 cult-classic actioner Cobra.

Stallone stars as Lt. Marion Cobretti, aka Cobra, a street-tough, big-city detective who does jobs nobody else wants or dares to do. Directed by George P. Cosmatos, the cast also includes Brigitte Nielsen and Reni Santoni.

The new Blu-ray offers a new 2K scan of the film and several new extras, including “Stalking and Slashing,” an interview with actor Brian Thompson; “Meet the Disease,” an interview with actor Marco Rodriguez; “Feel the Heat,” an interview with actor Andrew Robinson; “Double Crossed,” an interview with actress Lee Garlington; and “A Work of Art,” an interview with actor Art LaFleur.

Additional extras include an audio commentary with Cosmatos, a vintage featurette, photo galleries and the film’s trailers.

Shout! Factory Celebrating 30th Anniversary of ‘When Harry Met Sally’ With Special-Edition Blu-ray Jan. 8

Shout! Factory will release a 30th anniversary collector’s edition of the iconic romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally on Blu-ray Jan. 8.

The release features a new transfer restored from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, and includes a new bonus interview with director Rob Reiner and star Billy Crystal.

The Blu-ray is being released through the Shout Select imprint, which focuses on special editions of classic and cult-favorite films.

The film stars Crystal and Meg Ryan as buddies who deal with the question of whether sex will ruin a perfect friendship between a man and a woman. The cast also includes Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby.

The When Harry Met Sally: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray also includes legacy bonus content from earlier Blu-rays such as a Reiner audio commentary; a commentary with Reiner, Crystal and screenwriter Nora Ephron; the “How Harry Met Sally” Documentary; deleted scenes; a Harry Connick Jr. music video; the theatrical trailer; and additional vintage featurettes.

2018 World Series Recaps Coming to Disc Dec. 4

The Boston Red Sox victory in the 2018 World Series is being commemorated on Blu-ray and DVD with two releases arriving Dec. 4 from Shout! Factory in association with Major League Baseball.

The first is the annual World Series documentary that summarizes the champions’ run to the title with highlights and interviews from the players, coaches and others involved.

The World Series documentaries are a tradition dating back to 1943, when the U.S. State Department commissioned Major League Baseball to create a recap of Fall Classic highlights for troops stationed overseas during World War II.

The 2018 World Series, available on DVD and as a Blu-ray/DVD combo back with downloadable digital copy, is narrated by Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is the New Black”) and uses a multitude of original high-definition and archival footage to showcase Boston’s run to a ninth World Series title, as they won a team-record 108 wins in the regular season as a prelude to cruising through the postseason with wins over the New York Yankees in the division series in four games, the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series in five games, and the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, also in five games. Extras include regular season highlights, clinching moments, postseason highlights, a “How They Got There” featurette and scenic footage from the duck boats at the World Series parade.

Also available will be The 2018 World Series Collector’s Edition: Boston Red Sox, an eight-disc collection on either Blu-ray or DVD containing the network broadcasts of seven games from Boston’s championship run. In addition to the five-game World Series, the set also includes the final games of both the ALDS and ALCS.

Of note is that the third game of the World Series, won by the Dodgers in 18 innings, is presented on two discs, with nine innings on each. The game lasted more than seven hours to become the longest postseason game in Major League history.

The special edition includes printed game stats and trivia in the packaging, and each game includes four audio options — the English and Spanish network broadcasts, the Red Sox radio feed, and the opposing team’s radio call.

Shout! Factory Releasing ‘We, the Marines’ in 4K

Shout! Factory will release the documentary We, the Marines in a 4K UHD Blu-ray combo pack with digital copy Dec. 11.

Narrated by Gene Hackman, the film guides viewers on an action-packed adventure into the experience of becoming and serving as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.

We, the Marines was produced by MacGillivray Freeman in association with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, and presented by The Boeing Company, for permanent exhibition in the Giant-Screen Medal of Honor Theater at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The Ultra HD Blu-ray release of We, The Marines is Shout! Factory’s first foray into HDR10+, allowing for an unparalleled level of detail via frame-by-frame adjustments through dynamic metadata.

Scream Factory Sets ‘Candyman’ Collector’s Edition Blu-ray for Nov. 20

Shout! Factory will release a two-disc Blu-ray collector’s edition of 1992 cult hit Candyman Nov. 20 through the indie distributor’s Scream Factory horror imprint.

The thriller follows a graduate student (Virginia Madsen ) whose research summons a legendary spirit (Tony Todd) who haunts a notorious housing project. Written and directed by Bernard Rose, executive produced by Clive Barker, and with music by Philip Glass, Candyman also stars Xander Berkeley and Kasi Lemmon.

The Blu-ray set includes both the theatrical and unrated cuts of the film, with a new 2K restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative. The new scenes for the uncut version are high-definition inserts sourced from an archival film print.

New bonus material with the theatrical cut includes audio commentary with Rose and Todd, and another commentary with authors and horror experts Stephen Jones and Kim Newman. The theatrical cut also includes two previously released commentaries.

Additional new extras include the featurette “A Story to Tell: Clive Barker’s ‘The Forbidden,’” with writer Douglas E. Winter discussing Clive Barker’s seminal Books of Blood and Candyman’s source story, “The Forbidden”; and “Urban Legend: Unwrapping Candyman,” a critical analysis of the film with writers Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes.

The Blu-ray also includes new interviews with Todd, Madsen, actors Kasi Lemmons and DeJuan Guy, production designer Jane Ann Stewart, and the film’s makeup artists.

Legacy extras include “Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos” featuring filmmaker and cast interviews; 2014 interviews with Barker and Todd; storyboards; and promotional material. The Blu-ray also includes a BD-ROM screenplay.