Blu-ray Review A Star is Born (1976) Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Cameron Yee, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    ”A Star is Born” for a third time with this 1976 remake starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, though it's the first time this version has appeared on Blu-ray. The fine high definition presentation and decent collection of bonus material make for a solid release, though given the quality of the feature, it can’t be recommended as a blind buy.
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    A Star is Born (1976) Release Date: February 5, 2013
    Studio: Warner Home Video
    Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray DigiBook
    Year: 1976
    Rating: R
    Running Time: 2:20:06
    MSRP: $34.99
    THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video AVC: 1080p high definition 1.85:1 (modified to 1.78:1) Standard definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 1.0, Spanish (Castillian and Latin) 1.0, German 1.0, Italian 1.0, Portuguese 1.0, Czech 1.0, Polish 2.0 Dolby Digital: English 2.0 Subtitles English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian and Latin), Korean, Portuguese, Czech, Polish Various
    The Feature: 3.5/5 For rock superstar John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson), it’s not a matter of if he’ll burn out, but when. His substance-fueled antics on and off the concert stage have given him the requisite rock-n-roll reputation, but it’s beginning to take its toll – certainly on his career, but ultimately on his body and mind. However, when he meets and falls in love with Esther Hoffman (Barbra Streisand), a talented but undiscovered singer doing bar gigs and radio commercials, something changes. No longer interested in his own career, John Norman only wants to make sure Esther gets the attention she deserves, doing everything in his power to ensure she’s heard. When the rest of the world catches on, however, he’ll also find it’s left him behind, calling up his old, self-destructive tendencies that even Esther’s unconditional love can’t tame.
    To really enjoy the 1976 version of “A Star is Born,” it’s best to put aside all comparisons to the infinitely more compelling 1954 version starring Judy Garland and James Mason, and the respected 1937 original starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. Taken on its own, the third iteration of the story (which switches up the setting as well as the character names) features two leads with undeniable romantic chemistry, as well as them giving some truly entertaining musical performances. But considering the well trod tale of how one star becomes the toast of the town while the other becomes persona non grata, the film needn’t go on like it does; at two hours twenty, it’s at least 20 minutes too long. True, the 1954 version is much longer in its restored incarnation, but where that film mesmerizes, this one – at its best – entertains; at its worst it lingers too long on the romantic details of the central relationship and draws out the inevitabilities of the final act (that there are also a couple ridiculous plot contrivances facilitating those inevitabilities doesn’t help). While none of the issues merits outright disregard of this version of “A Star is Born,” it does mean an adjustment in expectations is advised, if not ultimately required.
    Video Quality: 4/5 Modified from its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 to the display-filling 1.78:1, the 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer features inky black levels and a full and uncompromised range of contrast. Overall sharpness is a little variable, with many of Streisand’s close ups looking on the soft side. While it could be a case of soft focusing filtering, the shots tend to lack the telltale visual transparency of that technique and look more like simple focusing errors. Still, this merely means the image looks true to the source and detail and clarity do often look exceptional, especially in the film’s daylight, outdoor scenes (John Norman’s desert property and the early stadium concert venue in particular). Colors have good depth and saturation as well, and instances where characters are bathed in magenta or red concert lighting show no bleeding or blooming problems. A healthy and unmanipulated grain structure also points to the absence of any excessive digital noise reduction, making for a satisfying, filmlike image.
    Audio Quality: 3.5/5 Dialogue and vocals in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track are consistently crisp, detailed and intelligible. Rear surround channels provide light and balanced support for the soundtrack and the film’s musical numbers, though the occasional flourish of environmental noise in the dramatic scenes (squealing tires, screaming fans) comes off as rather blunt and distracting. LFE is non-existent, but the track’s lower registers kick in with the film’s concert sequences, though oddly, other activities, like crowds stomping the floor, have a noticeable lack of depth. Overall, the track is a decent one, with the musical sequences, understandably, being the most sonically engaging.
    Special Features: 3/5 Streisand provides commentary on almost every one of the video pieces, though ultimately it’s the feature length commentary track that provides the most in-depth information. The collectible book offers some similar details, albeit in a more condensed format.
    Commentary with Barbra Streisand: Streisand provides plentiful anecdotes, observations and honest critiques of her work and the filmmaking process, though the frequency of her comments tends to diminish over the length of the film. It’s also telling that she rarely, if ever, mentions Director Frank Pierson, coming off at times as if she directed the movie herself (she served as Executive Producer and had final cut). The fact she used her own clothing for her character’s wardrobe also tends to elicit a few too many remarks about her outfits, but I suppose that’s understandable given her personal connection to the material.
    Wardrobe Tests (3:12, SD): Streisand provides commentary as shots of various used and unused outfits go by. Her comments are mostly reactionary to the various styles on display, but fortunately the video clip is brief.
    Deleted Scenes (16:44, SD): Viewing the scenes with Streisand’s optional commentary is recommended as she provides some needed context, as well as the rationale behind their removal.

    [*] Breaking Bread
    [*] Rehearsing with Chinese Food
    [*] On the Guitar for Johnny
    [*] Tell Me About the Road
    [*] Kid Meets John Norman Howard
    [*] Drunk at the Theatre
    [*] I’m Going Out
    [*] If You Ever Die, I’ll Kill You
    [*] Ext. Ranch at Twilight
    [*] Johnny Faking It
    [*] Bath by Candlelight
    [*] Performance
    [/list] Trailers (6:04, SD)

    [*] A Star is Born [1937] (2:50, SD)
    [*] A Star is Born [1954] (3:56, SD)
    [*] A Star is Born [1976] (3:50, SD)
    [/list] Collectible Book: Incorporated into the packaging, the 40 pages of high quality printed material includes an overview of the film’s production, cast and crew filmographies, and promotional and production photographs from the shoot and recording studio.
    Recap and Recommendation The Feature: 3.5/5
    Video Quality: 4/5
    Audio Quality: 3.5/5
    Special Features: 3/5
    Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5
    Warner Home Video turns in a fine high definition presentation for the third version and second remake of “A Star is Born.” The bonus material provides some decent depth, though most of that is wrapped up in Streisand’s feature length commentary track. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile upgrade from any DVD version fans may own, though first timers to the movie itself will probably want to go with a rental first.
     
  2. DP 70

    DP 70 Supporting Actor

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    Its good the WB and First Artists Logos are back, wil be viewing this over the weekend.
     
  3. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    I assume by this you are saying that this is the first time the 1976 version has appeared on blu-ray. The 1937 and 1954 versions are already on blu.
     
  4. Malcolm Bmoor

    Malcolm Bmoor Stunt Coordinator

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    .....It’s also telling that she rarely, if ever, mentions Director Frank Pierson, coming off at times as if she directed the movie herself. Somewhere online you may still find Frank Pierson's agonising description of the production process, which was subject to the whims, extragances and moods of both Ms S and her then boyfriend, promoted from hairdresser to producer. Good isn't the word for this film but I enjoyed it for the 70mm 6 track spectacle.
     
  5. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Indeed. Hopefully my revision made it more clear.
     
  6. DP 70

    DP 70 Supporting Actor

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    I enjoyed the 70mm 6 track prints in Dolby and also the 6 track non Dolby prints they had at the time before some cinemas installed the CP100. I think this a great movie.
     
  7. Ken Volok

    Ken Volok Stunt Coordinator

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    Streisand performs the songs as if they were Broadway show stoppers, not rock songs. That was one huge annoyance to me. Technically isn't this the fourth remake if you count "What Price Hollywood?" (c. 1933) on which the 1937 "A Star is Born" was based?
     
  8. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I guess that gets into what constitutes a remake. For the sake of simplicity, I chose to go with the re-use of the film title as the deciding factor, even though the character names are different with essentially the same story. While it has the same story, "What Price Hollywood" has both a different title and different character names, and if we call that a remake, then by that definition we would also have to call "The Artist" a remake.
    Well, that's probably pushing it, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.
     
  9. Ken Volok

    Ken Volok Stunt Coordinator

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    What further muddies the waters is the Selznick connection. Don't get me started on "The Artist"! It makes this '76 remake look wholly original IMHO!
     
  10. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    In a ridiculous film, the most ridiculous scene occurs when the Kristofferson character halts his own show to bring out Streisand's character to sing instead. In front of a crowd of angry, drunken 70s rock fans, an unknown woman sings DANCE POP and they all love it!
    The movie's just Streisand's love letter to herself...
     
  11. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    If we're complaining about the ridiculous, I couldn't believe the female reporter in bed with John Norman tries to conduct an interview with Esther while naked in bed next to him. Sure, the character was probably high off her gourd, but they couldn't come up with anything better than that? The next is when Esther hears the recording of John Norman and the worker comes out with the tape player and says, "Hey lady, how do you turn this off?" Seriously, he doesn't know how to turn off a tape player? Couldn't she just walk in on the worker listening to the recording and not have him say anything at all? Was that extra looking to get his SAG card or something? Then that's followed by a self-indulgent scene where she interacts with the tape player and complains, "You lied! You lied!" I didn't have much of a problem with the movie up until the female reporter shows up in the pool. After that it's just one ridiculous thing after another, and Streisand's closing number does nothing to salvage it.
     
  12. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    Never cared for this version when it played Theatres and still don't. Although I have a lot of friends that ridicule me because I don't.
     
  13. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    Oh, well. At least there's the upcoming remake starring Rihanna to look forward to. Why don't they remake something good---like Valley of the Dolls? :P
     
  14. Eric Vedowski

    Eric Vedowski Second Unit

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    Track down Pauline Kael's review for a bulls-eye take down of Streisand's ego and this movie, well deserved IMHO.
     
  15. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    I've never seen this but it sounds almost fun in a way that Mommy Dearest is fun.
     
  16. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    For me it doesn't come close to MOMMY DEAREST fun. There not on scene that comes close to NO MORE WIRE HANGERS or.I AM NOT ONE OF YOUR FANS.
     
  17. Louis Letizia

    Louis Letizia Supporting Actor

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    While the Golden Globe Awards still come up as a suspicious organization, it was never more so in the 70s/80s when the Best Musical/Comedy categories nominated such atrocities as JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, THE LITTLE PRINCE and FUNNY LADY for the top prize. A STAR IS BORN was the GIGI (and LAST EMPEROR/LORD OF THE RINGS:RETURN OF THE KING) of the Golden Globes-sweeping all 5 awards it was nominated for(Picture/Actor/Actress/Score/Song). It is probably something that can no longer happen today (1980s THE JAZZ SINGER had Neil Diamond and Lucie Arnaz as Best Actor/Actress nominees!). A STAR IS BORN is not considered a cult classic by the people who love it like MOMMIE DEAREST is beloved for its campiness , A STAR IS BORN is just beloved. MD is bad/good...STAR is just BAD.
     
  18. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    Wait - your friends make fun of you because you DON'T like this film?
     
  19. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    They like all things Streisand. She can do no wrong. She is a very talented woman and I enjoy many of her songs and films. Just not this one. It is a personal decision :)
     
  20. davidHartzog

    davidHartzog Cinematographer
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    I liked the movie at the time, tho it is too long. KK is good but i wonder what first choice Elvis would have done with the role.
     

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