Wednesday, March 23, 2016

STAR! (2oth Century-Fox 1968) Fox Home Video

Sixteen years after the death of Broadway's beloved Gertrude Lawrence, 2oth Century-Fox afforded the ‘late great’ a lavish biopic from the award-winning team responsible for catapulting Julie Andrews to super-stardom in The Sound of Music (1965). Billed as “the love affair of the century - between a woman, and the world”, Robert Wise’s Star! (1968) is flashy, often engrossing, and impeccably crafted. It was never meant to be a literal chronology of the life and times of Gertrude Lawrence. That it came at the end of the sixties verve for big and oft’ bloated road shows, and failed to catch even the tail fires of this popular zeitgeist, is a miscalculation in timing only, and yet one from which the film’s reputation continues to suffer. Star! was a colossal flop for Fox at a particular epoch when the studio could scarcely afford another. In a good many books written about the history of the Hollywood musical, Star! is often cruelly cited as one of the reasons why musicals in general fell out of favor with audiences; the other two being Doctor Doolittle and Hello Dolly! (1969). Ironically, all three came from Fox, still riding high on the ether of The Sound of Music.  And yet, none of the aforementioned is quite the disaster – artistically speaking. In fact, Dolly!, Doolittle and Star! are built like tanks; given over to the sort of unadulterated showmanship and razzamatazz all truly great musicals possess in spades, and, with individual merits long since searing their stature in the public’s estimation as ‘classics’ from a bygone vintage we are unlikely to experience again.
After it became quite clear box office was not forthcoming on Star!, a panicked brain trust at Fox withdrew it from circulation, unceremoniously hacking into Wise’s careful construction without his consent or input, leaving nearly 26 minutes on the cutting room floor, and, reissuing the picture under a different title; ‘Those Were The Happy Days’. Clearly, they were not.  Retrospectively speaking, one can see the forest for the trees. Star! is a great musical – undoubtedly ill-timed, but supremely satisfying as a free-flowing travelogue through the finer points that effectively make up Gertrude Lawrence’s saucy backstage badinage. Until Star!, the Teflon-coated persona of Gertie Lawrence had been preserved in two positively gushing and highly sanitized accolades; the first, penned by Lawrence herself in 1945; the other, a postmortem love-in written by her second husband, Max Lamb. In reading either, I suspect Robert Wise was dumbstruck – and more than a little dismayed by the one-dimensional illusion of Lawrence; a reminder, perhaps of Winston Churchill’s rather glib retort to a reporter who once asked if the pugnacious diplomat worried how he would be judged by history in years yet to follow. Churchill’s reply, “Fairly, for I intend to write it.”
Gertrude Lawrence was and remains a formidable talent of the stage; 1941’s Lady in the Dark still regarded by many as the epitome of chic sophistication for which Lawrence was hailed as “a goddess” in the New York Times. But she was also a creation of flesh and blood; as such, mortally flawed by certain inalienable human foibles that, far from debasing her professional reputation, only add compelling back story to the intangible appeal of her magical stage presence. “I talked with a lot of people who knew her,” producer, Saul Chaplin reflected, “…and invariably they all had the same thing to say about her. She couldn’t act, sing or dance…but she was marvelous!”  Wise, Chaplin and their troop of researchers have certainly done their homework on Gertie Lawrence. Star! is neither a hatchet job on the woman nor a gallivanting TripTik through her musical career, though occasionally it veers toward this later pursuit. There are no less than 18 musical numbers interpolated throughout the road show of Star! Julie Andrews warbles all but two of these songs, ably abetted by her co-star, the seemingly effortless and undeniably brilliant, Daniel Massey – playing his godfather, Noel Coward. Coward, then still very much alive, and with a reputation equally as Teflon-coated as Lawrence’s, thought Star! a splendid way to celebrate Lawrence – as well as resurrect many of the shows he had co-written and costarred in with the grand dame. Without hesitation, Coward granted producers the rights to his likeness and back catalog of shows. One down. One to go. Saul Chaplin had also hoped to convince Beatrice Lillie, arguably Lawrence’s best friend (with whom she is rumored to have had a lesbian relationship) to partake of this exercise. Alas, Lillie became exacting and impractical in her demands – idiotically desiring to play herself in the movie. Unable to convince her otherwise, Chaplin’s decision was instead to write her out of the show entirely. Star! gets a lot of criticism for amending Gertie’s personal history. Indeed, Star! all but avoids the last act of her life. And yet, one can sincerely forgive screenwriter, William Fairchild these artistic licenses; especially since, in a good many cases, only ‘names’ have been changed (to protect the…um… ‘innocent’); Fairchild also telescoping Gertie’s many love affairs into an amalgamation with fictional counterparts to satisfy the constraints of time. After all, real life is often messy. Movies strive for a tidier account of ‘the truth’. In hindsight, Fairchild’s achievement is both large-scale and all-encompassing. He gets the big picture right, even if the details are occasionally muddled beyond recognition.  
The painstaking research performed by Robert Wise and his associates in the preparation of Star! goes above and beyond this bottom line; culled from information gleaned in numerous interviews with people who knew Gertie Lawrence through her less than flattering moments. From these eyewitness accounts it became rather apparent there were at least two sides to Lawrence for which literature – either out of genuine reverence or an even greater anxiety to avoid a defamation of character lawsuit - had quietly swept under the rug. Initially, Wise and producer, Saul Chaplin planned to shoot an animated sequence to express the dualities of Gertie’s life and times, counterbalanced by a running commentary provided by Julie Andrews. Thankfully, this approach was abandoned early on; Fairchild substituting a black-and-white newsreel prologue to serve as a bridge between ‘history’, ‘truth’ and fiction, but also to span the passage of years. For concision, as well as for legal reasons, Fairchild's screenplay rechristened, combined and/or excluded some of the real people who had constituted Lawrence’s sphere of influences and circle of friends. To fill in for Beatrice Lillie’s glaring omission, Fairchild concocted, Billie Carleton (Lynley Laurence).  Fairchild also made Lawrence’s first husband, dance director, Francis Gordon-Howley – renamed Jack Roper (John Collin) roughly the same age as Gertie, when in reality he was a solid twenty years her senior. Lawrence’s affair with Capt. Philip Astley was reworked too; the character now renamed Sir Anthony Spencer (Michael Craig), while Gertie’s engagement to Wall Street banker, Bert Taylor was entirely overlooked. In the movie, Gertie briefly procures a burgeoning romance with the fictional Wall Street stockbroker, Ben Mitchell (Anthony Eisley) before moving on to playhouse producer, Richard Aldrich (Richard Crenna).
Even before a single frame had been exposed, Star! was shaping up to be an extravaganza; what with Boris Leven’s meticulous recreations of London’s West End and Donald Brooks’ ravishing array of vintage costumes; 3,040 in all, some 125 changes for Andrews alone. As these exquisite outfits were subsidized by the Western Costume Co. they officially became their property after production wrapped; loaned out for many years on a rental basis before finally being auctioned off in the late 1970s. To choreograph, Wise and Chaplin turned to veteran, Michael Kidd who elected to ‘push’ Julie Andrews beyond her comfort zone; their collaborative efforts producing two irrefutable stand outs: ‘Burlington Bertie from Bow’ and the mammoth finale, built around ‘The Saga of Jenny’; that oft resurrected and much admired Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin song from Lady in the Dark. ‘Burlington Bertie’ marks Gertie’s breakout in a show for famed impresario, André Charlot (Alan Oppenheimer); her nearly three month pregnancy camouflaged in hobo’s drag. Andrews is caustically magnificent as the snobbish vagrant who, with noblesse oblige, refuses to ‘have a banana with Lady Diana’ and has the effrontery to ‘swank it’ using Rothchild’s ‘mail for a blanket’; all the while thinking the hoi poloi damn fools. It is an enchanting bit of music hall nostalgia, excised with Andrews’ inimitable aplomb and transparent affinity for those early and, even by 1968, all but forgotten golden years.
By contrast, ‘The Saga of Jenny’ is an epically mounted super-number, perhaps owing a tad too much to vintage sixties glitz than the glam-bam decadence of the original Lawrence show; Andrews descending from on high on a whirling swing in her navy blue and silver sequined pants suit, thereafter cavorting with an assortment of colorfully attired circus performers; acrobats, jugglers, midgets and clowns. Bounced from buttocks to pelvis, Andrews saucy delivery of the lyrics evokes a deliciously stylized cynicism as she points to the foibles of this fictional bon vivant who, among her other social misfires, lit the candles, but tossed the taper away, only to become an orphan on Christmas Day; got herself all dolled up in satin and furs to land a husband that was not hers; whose searing white hot memoirs inspired wives to shoot their husbands in some thirty-three states, and finally, succumbed to too much gin and rum and destiny at the age of seventy-six.  The Saga of Jenny is a phenomenon unto itself, a musical sequence quite apart from everything else that has gone before it, chiefly due to Wise’s decision to move his camera beyond the proscenium; inviting his audience to partake of its spectacle in close-up. Virtually all of the other numbers are deliberately photographed at a distance to mark their distinction as products of the stage. It is to Wise’s credit, and moreover, a hallmark of his decades of expertise, none of these stage-bound vignettes ever wind up becoming static or dull. Some, like ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ are expertly used as bridges to intercut and/or skip over whole passages of time, while others, ‘Physician’ and ‘Dear Little Boy’ foreshadow more of the plot, as yet to unfold. 
Absurdly budgeted at six million, Star! likely seemed to guarantee its own box office. How could it miss? In retrospect, far too easily. For starters, the movie musical had already passed its prime by 1968; thanks, in part to a slew of ill-conceived and heavy-handed produced clunkers that had soured the public on the genre. But audiences were also increasingly looking for realism in their movies. What had sold tickets a scant four years earlier, now drew jeers if, in fact, the audience was listening at all. Worse, critics had become increasingly jaded by this era of over-budgeted/over-produced fluff; the treacle, too sticky; the staging, fairly weighty and familiar, failing to impress. Finally, unlike some of the more profitable efforts put forth throughout the decade (West Side Story, 1960; The Music Man, 1962, and, My Fair Lady, 1964, among them), Star! was not a Broadway-to-Hollywood hybrid. As such, it had no pre-sold title that could be trumpeted by the marketing department; no precedence either, except among the aging demographic still able to recall Gertie Lawrence in her prime. The trick in the exercise therefore fell to Julie Andrews’ ability to do ‘this star’ justice. Gertrude Lawrence had been a bona fide – if caustic – legend in her own time. Perhaps owing to that daunting iconography, Andrews had, in fact, turned down previous offers to portray Lawrence in the movies. But now, she too was ‘a star’ - her pert and plucky, ‘practically perfect’ and squeaky clean nun/nanny in both The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins (1964) diametrically at odds with Lawrence’s razor-backed ‘uber-wit’ and ultra-chic sophistication.
Yet, in Robert Wise, Andrews felt secure. Moreover, a mutual admiration had been built up between Wise, Chaplin and Andrews during their collaboration on The Sound of Music, ensuring integrity, class and tact as the order of the day on Star!; an ‘A-list’ production to adorn and compliment two great ladies. Besides, Andrews still owed Fox a movie. While Richard Zanuck remained mildly concerned about the declining popularity of big-budgeted Hollywood musicals, he nevertheless felt certain that with Andrews at its helm Star! could be an even greater triumph for the studio. Tragically, it proved the rule rather than the exception, a titanic backfire eviscerated by the critics and all but ignored by audiences. Removed from all its hype and properly placed, Star! today clearly has more virtues than vices to recommend it.  At 120 minutes Star! is a forgivable hodgepodge. At 150 min. it begins to acquire a moody magnificence with glimmered signs of becoming something far greater than the sum of its parts, particularly since Wise never allows the musical program to become arbitrarily episodic. However, reinstated at 170 min. Star! is unequivocally a masterpiece – perhaps, not on the same level as Wise’s The Sound of Music, but equally teeming with intrigued creativity and copious amounts of richly satisfying music.
Julie Andrews and Daniel Massey are sublime casting, the Ying and Yang of the piece as Gertie and Noel respectively. Andrews wisely interprets Gertrude Lawrence on her own terms rather than attempting a caricature of the star’s well-documented behaviors and mannerisms. And Andrews is undeniably in very fine voice – much finer, in fact, than Lawrence ever was in life.  Massey, on the other hand, is an exquisite Noël Coward; uncannily comfortable in the effete playwright's skin, perhaps in no small way because he was meticulously coached in his performance by his godfather - Noël Coward. To listen to Massey warble the incandescent and slightly sordid, ‘Forbidden Fruit’ (a ditty about man’s perilous desire to possess that which, quite frankly, he should not, whether it be peaches atop the highest bow or the adoration of an already married Mrs. Brown) is to give the erudite Coward his considerable due. And the chemistry between Massey and Andrews during the dramatic and comedy bits feathered into William Fairchild’s screenplay, are a veritable feast, occasionally playing fast and loose with the specifics of Gertie’s life and lovers. While no one could – or rather, should – confuse Fairchild’s reflections as the definitive ‘last’ word on Gertrude Lawrence, his narrative retains just enough verisimilitude to be believed as a big and bouncy biopic. With all of its excised footage reinstated Star! eloquently moves through its period recreations, intelligently scripted and impeccably acted.
It is impossible not to find at least something to amuse, and quite often more than a mere something to stand up and cheer about. Star! sings its way into our hearts as only Julie Andrews in her prime could. Perhaps, one of the reasons it so completely failed to be discovered in 1968 has to do with Wise’s deliberate studio-bound approach to the material. By 1968, most movie genres, including musicals, had left the confines of the back lot; the ‘opening up’ of traditional stage works lending an air of quaintness and, perhaps, formaldehyde to musicals made only a decade earlier. In this regard, Star! very much plays like a movie musical conceived for the 1940's; its sets obvious; its numbers staged almost exclusively as works taking place on the stage – framed by walls, a painted backdrop and a curtain, thus adhering to its nostalgic music hall revue tableau.  Because of this, the truth of the piece and invariably its own time period are exquisitely preserved. Still, Star! is undeniably a throwback, and regrettably not what audiences wanted to see in 1968. A shame too, because the story as crafted by Fairchild is a very rich tapestry, imbued with an almost lyrical fondness, and, more than able to poke fun at the foibles of then contemporary society, both upper-class snobbery and lowborn slum prudery, equally with a modicum of tongue-in-cheek waggishness and spellbinding professionalism.
Wise’s film begins in earnest with a faux ‘main title’ sequence shot in B&W, framed in the traditional Academy aspect ratio of 1:33:1. Wise had to get permission from 2oth Century-Fox to use their pre-Cinemascope logo, the ‘credits’ paying homage to Gertrude Lawrence with vintage photographs of the star as a baby and little girl. These snapshots segue into a montage of vintage newsreels cobbled together with new footage shot for the film but appropriately distressed to provide a seamless backdrop of Gertie's childhood and early teenage years. When the newsreel introduces Gertie’s father, Arthur (Bruce Forsyth) we hear a note of protest off camera and are startled by the suddenly glamorous appearance of Gertrude Lawrence (Julie Andrews) rising from her chair in sumptuous color by DeLuxe, the screen expanded to its large gauge aspect ratio. We are in a projection room; Gertie, with movie shorts producer, Jerry Paul (Damian London), about to set the record straight. It wasn’t all hearts and flowers, Gertie explains; her dad, a bumbling old rapscallion and something of a lady’s man who left her mum when Gertie was still a child, and whose portly paramour, Rose (Beryl Reid) is costarring in their latest of many forgettable music halls engagements in London.
Gertie, now a teen, salvages their busker routine with a brash intervention, winning the audience’s respect after Arthur is pelted with tomatoes. Backstage, Arthur is incensed – perhaps, more wounded pride than anything else – even as he announces he and Rose are leaving for a tour of South Africa in the morning. Once again, Gertrude is left to fend for herself. Landing a minor part in an ensemble all-girl's act, Gertie attempts to distinguish herself – at first quite by accident, but later by grandstanding – her decision to upstage the act, infuriating the others. Gertie's next stab at stardom is as flawed. She falls through a stage trap door imbedding a mattress coil in her backside while crashing the auditions for London impresario, Andre Charlot. Her accidental 'entrance' reunites Gertie with childhood pal, Noel Coward and also convinces Charlot to cast her in the chorus.
Gertie, however, fancies herself a star. So, during a performance by matinee idol, Jack Buchanan (Garrett Lewis) she upstages the other chorines - a move that utterly infuriates Charlot, who reiterates he “does not employ unprofessional amateurs!”  Gertie, who never holds anything back, is about to reply in kind, but is encouraged by stage manager, Jack Roper to hold her tongue. Over drinks at a local pub, Roper promises Gertie her moment in the spotlight when all he really wants is a way into her bed. Flattery can get him almost anywhere – and in short order. The two are married. But Roper's plan to hasten Gertie's retirement by getting her pregnant creates a rift in their marriage; along with Roper’s alcoholic binges and the birth of their daughter, Pamela (Jenny Agutter). So, Gertie and Jack divorce. Meanwhile, Noel initiates an awkward ‘cute meet’ between Gertie and dashing guardsman, Sir Anthony Spencer (Michael Craig). While Tony is quite smitten with Gertie from the beginning, it takes some time for her to warm to him. But Spencer is the patient sort, and arguably the right man for our temperamental star. The two eventually become lovers.  Regrettably, Tony’s debut of Gertie in polite society is an ill fit.  While she aspires to these finer fashions and ideals, Gertie is undeniably a very rough diamond. After learning she has skipped out on a performance for a date with Tony, Charlot sacks Gertie from his new musical revue. To make ends meet during this fallow period, Gertie becomes a fashion model, painfully bored by the work. Once again, Noel - whose star has been steadily on the ascendance - comes to Gertie's rescue, coaxing Charlot to take her back for his new show.
At this juncture, the movie’s narrative becomes slightly jumbled; skipping through a series of vignettes covering six years in a mere four and a half minutes. Charlot takes his revue to America where it is a big hit and Gertie an even bigger one. In New York, she meets Wall Street banker, Ben Mitchell (Anthony Eisley) and then Charles Fraser (Robert Reed), a somewhat pretentious madcap. Both men relentlessly pursue her. Temporarily smitten, Gertie has a tryst with each. But these passing fancies grow dim, especially after Tony arrives at Gertie’s ultra-chic New York penthouse on the eve of a lavish Roman toga party at which Gertie elects to stand out from the crowd by going as Madame de Pompadour instead. Despite the fact she obviously prefers Tony to either of the new men in her life Gertie sends all of them away in the end. Forlorn after everyone except Noel has gone home, Gertie is encouraged to send for Tony. He will come back if only she asks him. But it’s no use. Gertie is already married…as Noel pointed out earlier – to her career. The reason for Gertie’s bittersweet rejection of Tony is never entirely explained. Herein, Wise inserts an intermission instead, after which we move into the next phase of Gertie’s life; her very strained mother/daughter relationship with Pamela - now a teenager. Gertie has elected to take Pamela on her summer holidays off the coast of France, along with her social secretary, Dorothy (Mathilda Calnan). Although a mutual longing within persists for these two to become closer, neither Gertie nor Pamela is capable of making the necessary move to reach out. Pamela instead goes home to England to finish her schooling. Sensing how unfulfilled and lonely Gertie is once again, Noel encourages her return to the stage in Charlot's new revue. Nothing has changed. Gertie is an even bigger hit. However, almost immediately, she is charged with tax evasion - a gross mismanagement of her assets by the ill-equipped Dorothy, leaving Gertie horrendously in debt. To repay what she owes, Gertie plunges headstrong into a breakneck workload; performing on the stage, appearing in nightclubs, newsreels, and, dance halls until she suffers a complete physical breakdown.
Hospitalized and disheartened, Gertie takes Noel's suggestion to go to America for an extended respite. While performing in Noel’s Private Lives, Gertie meets producer, Richard Aldrich (Richard Crenna) who operates a small playhouse on Long Island. The romance between them is tempestuous at best; fueled by a mutual disdain that ironically grows into hot-blooded lust. Aldrich produces 'Lady In The Dark' - Gertie's most enduring stage success up to this point in her career. He also manages to win Gertie’s heart at long last. Curiously, Star! never ventures beyond this moment – omitting what is arguably Lawrence’s most celebrated stagecraft - as Anna Leonowens in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I. Instead, after performing The Saga of Jenny from Lady in the Dark, we end with another flashback – or rather, flash-forward, to the projection room where our story began. Gertie reminisces “Well, that’s the way it was,” the inference, of course, being her relationship with Aldrich has not survived. Presumably, to satisfy the conventions of the traditional ‘all’s well that ends well’ in Hollywood musicals, Wise does not end his movie here. Instead, we regress to the day of Gertie’s wedding to Aldrich; the couple inundated by well-wishers pitching rice. Aldrich and Gertie hurry into the backseat of a waiting chauffeur-driven car. She utters the identical – and prophetic - words once said to Jack Roper, “I shouldn’t have married you.” However, unlike Roper – who fluffed off this confession with laughter, Aldrich casually tells Gertie if she would prefer they can drive straight to the courthouse and have their marriage annulled. This, of course, incurs Gertie’s ire. She flies into one of her trademark tirades, leaving Aldrich mildly amused – the couple’s car driving off into the countryside for a ‘life together’ that we already know is doomed to fail.
In this penultimate moment of farewell Star! defines itself as a very elaborate undertaking; its imperfect subject matter brilliantly reconstituted as the big and glossy Hollywood musical. Fairchild’s exposition and Wise’s direction have conspired on a first-rate entertainment.  For the most part, Star! is a genuine treat, sustained by its delicate balance of intelligence, humor and sentiment; slickly packaged and handsomely mounted. Julie Andrews achieves the stature of another great lady without devolving into lampoon or rank mimicry.  Her Gertie Lawrence is nothing short of a revelation; the tartness of this diva somehow reconciled with Andrews more plucky onscreen personality.  Star! plays far better minus audiences expectations for Robert Wise to deliver another ‘Sound of Music’. It really is an ‘apples to pomegranates’ comparison; Star! a far more introspective and subtler critique of the garrulous Gertie. Right at the start, Andrews’ mordant maven orders producer, Jerry Paul not to analyze her too closely; perhaps, a bit of foreshadowing on Wise’s part as to where the rest of the film is headed. For Star! is as much a critique of the intangible variables that made Gertrude Lawrence uniquely a star as it typifies a certain derivative of highly stylized movie-making in general – and, of course, making movies musicals in particular.   
Star! plays like a beloved snapshot of this bygone era; perhaps the only ‘living’ record to remind us of its’ musical hall vintage. Star! also comes with an interesting footnote. In 1971, a fire inside the Fox’s film vaults was thought to have destroyed the only surviving elements of the complete roadshow.  For decades, Star! was thought to be a lost film; referenced only as a flop. Time, however, does very strange things to art – both real and ‘reel’ – and in 1994, the full 175 minute cut miraculously resurfaced in Britain – the elements virtually preserved by having lain dormant in storage all these years. After considerable coaxing from Saul Chaplin and Robert Wise, Fox agreed to a limited theatrical reissue of Star! in North America where it suddenly garnered notoriety and much praise from the critics – some of who had poo-pooed it as a disastrous misfire back in 1968. Released to home video on LaserDisc later that same year, the roadshow edition of Star! proved to be a very popular seller, one resurrected on DVD in 1999. Since then, it is a genuine pity Star! has not found its way to Blu-ray.
Star! originally contained an overture, intermission/entr'acte and exit music. Regrettably, only the overture survives on Fox’s DVD. The LaserDisc of Star! also properly framed the Panavision image in its original 2:20 aspect ratio. The DVD exhibits a slightly cropped image; albeit one superior in its rendering of colors, with far better contrast levels. One other bit of controversy dogs the DVD. The newsreel footage interpolated throughout the movie was originally photographed in B&W and framed in 1.33.1. While the DVD retains the proper aspect ratio for these segments, it has inexplicably tinted these monochromatic inserts to sepia – an oversight hopefully corrected if Fox ever gets around to remastering Star! on Blu-ray. I should point out that overall, these are very minor complaints. In fact, on the whole, I am quite impressed with how well this standard def release holds up when up-converted. Colors on the DVD are impressively vibrant, allowing Ernest Laszlo's cinematography to shine. Regrettably, age-related artifacts are present and, at times the image seems to suffer from slightly boosted contrast with intermittent edge enhancement. Star!'s original six track stereo has also been distilled into a remastered 5.1 Dolby Digital. The main benefit is, of course, we get to hear Julie Andrews' sing most of her songs in stereo for the first time since the movie's debut. But Star! also deliberately incorporates several mono recordings to appropriately date the supposed vintage flashbacks. These have been faithfully reproduced in mono.  Back in 2000, Fox licensed the complete score to Star! on a 2-disc CD set – all of the tracks remastered in stereo, though regrettably, due to a rights issue, some only existing in the truncated ‘album cut’. That CD is regrettably out of print today. The hope is that if Star! does come to Blu-ray, its soundtrack will be remastered to include as an isolated stereo score for everyone’s listening enjoyment.
Star! on DVD is a flipper disc. Side A contains the 175 minute cut of the film with a very insightful audio commentary from Robert Wise. On Side B, we get an original 1968 featurette and a vintage short from 1994 entitled ‘Silver Star’ shot for the reissue reunion party and featuring principles, Robert Wise, Saul Chaplin, Julie Andrews and Richard Crenna. There is also a ‘stills’ galleries, but this is regrettably a hodgepodge of overlapping images – some so unflattering, Julie Andrews ought to have insisted the originals be burned. There are also extensive liner notes on the making of the film to toggle through with your remote control. Personally, I would have preferred a comprehensive documentary on the making of this great movie instead – but there it is. Bottom line: Star! is a great musical – period! It may not be what audiences expected to see in 1968, but today it can most assuredly take its rightful place as a bona fide classic.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)


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