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Conspiracy thriller debuts on Blu 3.5 Stars

Lamont Johnson (1922-2010) had a varied career as director in Hollywood. While he first got his break as an actor, he settled into a niche directing in television – as evidenced by his two Emmy Awards and seven additional nominations – working on a wide range of projects such as episodes of The Twilight Zone to a mini-series on the life of Abraham Lincoln. He also occasionally worked on big screen fare, with The Groundstar Conspiracy – a thriller with a mélange of different genres mixed in – being among them. Previously released on DVD by Anchor Bay, Kino Lorber has licensed the movie from Universal for it’s Blu-ray debut.

The Groundstar Conspiracy (1972)
Released: 21 Jun 1972
Rated: PG
Runtime: 103 min
Director: Lamont Johnson
Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery, Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Cast: George Peppard, Michael Sarrazin, Christine Belford, Cliff Potts
Writer(s): Leslie P. Davies (novel), Douglas Heyes (screenplay)
Plot: A government investigator tries to find out the truth behind the break-in at a top secret research facility.
IMDB rating: 6.0
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 43 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 10/06/2020
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 3.5/5

A violent explosion at the top secret Groundstar Research Complex results in the facility being destroyed, six scientists fatally burned to a crisp and the lone survivor, John David Welles (Michael Sarrazin), barely clinging to life and onto national security documents. After being brought back from the brink of death, Welles is interrogated by the no nonsense government investigator Tuxan (George Peppard), who wants to know why Welles was involved with the explosion and the identity of those he’s working with. However, Welles can’t remember anything and thus begins a ruthless cat and mouse game involving a beautiful young woman (Christine Belford) and a search for the truth about Welles’ past featuring a final twist that brings everything into focus.

Although released in a year which a certain crime in Washington D.C. would soon become the national focus, The Groundstar Conspiracy is more than just a typical conspiracy thriller that would soon become a popular subgenre. For starters, there’s a mix of the spy film (involving the theft of top secret information) and the crime film, with even a few nods to Hitchcock; another genre the movie could probably fit in is the neo-noir, as the movie has some scenes staged and lit in that manner. Director Lamont Johnson, long a veteran of television, manages to maintain a level of intrigue and suspense throughout, rarely letting the plot get bogged down in the overly talky low points. If there’s only one problem here, it’s that some of the dialogue feels quite clumsy and cumbersome, diminishing much of the impact in some key scenes – especially the final twist, which can leave the viewer feeling both surprised and a bit dissatisfied at the same time – and making other scenes feel longer than they should; also, the inclusion a key cliché – the kidnapped woman who reluctantly helps the wronged man – feels a bit tired in comparison to some of the other themes here.  Missteps with the dialogue and a plot element or two aside, The Groundstar Conspiracy is still a well made thriller that manages to mix its many genre influences effectively and helped to set a template for later conspiracy thrillers to follow.

Although much of his later film parts were lacking in substance, George Peppard gets one of his better roles here as the relentless Tuxan; he, of course, would go on to achieving TV immortality as Hannibal in the ’80s Tv classic The A-Team. Although a bit out of his comfort zone, Michael Sarrazin does a solid job as Welles; the part came right towards the end of his high point in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Under contract to Universal at the time to begin her career, Christine Belford is adequate but not given much to do as the woman who becomes key to both Welles and Tuxan; horror fans will recognize her as the mother to Keith Gordon’s Arnie Cunningham in John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine (1983). Rounding out the cast here are Alan Oppenheimer as the Air Force general, James McEachin as a partner of Tuxan helping him track down Welles, Tim O’Connor as the head of the Groundstar project, James Olson as the US senator backing the project and Cliff Potts as a reporter who may be more involved with the conspiracy than it first appears.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The movie is presented in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new 2K master created for this release. Film grain is represented faithfully, along with shadows, fine details and color palette, including even skin tones. There’s very little issues like dirt, dust, scratches, tears, warping or reel markers present here, which means that this Blu-ray likely represents the best the movie will ever look on home video.

Audio: 5/5

The film’s original soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is both strong and clear, with Paul Hoffert’s jazz influenced score and the sound mix both given faithful representations; there’s very minimal cases of problems like hissing, distortion, drop outs or crackling present here. All in all, this is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video and a huge improvement over the Anchor Bay DVD.

Special Features: 3/5

Commentary by film historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer & film critic Scout Tafoya – Recorded for this release, Kremer and Tafoya talk about the movie, the cast and crew and where this movie falls in the era of burgeoning conspiracy thriller movies.

Theatrical Trailer (2:37)

Bonus KLSC Trailers – P.J., Newman’s Law & The Reincarnation of Peter Proud

Overall: 3.5/5

While it made a minor impact with critics and audiences, The Groundstar Conspiracy is still a tight little thriller that’s worth checking out for its unique blend of several genres. Kino’s Blu-ray release should aid in its reappraisal, with a great HD transfer and an informative commentary track as a supplement. Highly recommended and easily worth upgrading from the Anchor Bay DVD.

Amazon.com: The Groundstar Conspiracy [Blu-ray]: George Peppard, Michael Sarrazin, Christine Belford: Movies & TV

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Robin9

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2006
Messages
6,584
Real Name
Robin
Thank you for this review. I'll probably buy this disc when I've got through buying dozens of others which came out recently.
 

Wayne Klein

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
124
It’s a pretty darn good movie. The ending is a bit of a let down. It needed to have more of a bang up ending. George Peppard is excellent.