A Star is Born (1976)Release Date: February 5, 2013
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray DigiBook
Running Time: 2:20:06
|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: 3.5/5For 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: 4/5Modified 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: 3.5/5Dialogue 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: 3/5Streisand 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
- A Star is Born  (2:50, SD)
- A Star is Born  (3:56, SD)
- A Star is Born  (3:50, SD)
Recap and RecommendationThe 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.