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Blue Underground presents
Starstruck (1982)

"I want a band. I want amplifiers. I want, I want, I want."
- Jackie Mullens (Jo Kennedy)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: October 07, 2005

Stars: Jo Kennedy, Ross O'Donovan, Geoffrey Rush
Other Stars: Margo Lee, Max Cullen, Pat Evison, John O'May, Ned Lander, The Swingers
Director: Gillian Armstrong

MPAA Rating: PG for (adult situations, brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:35m:29s
Release Date: July 26, 2005
UPC: 827058200998
Genre: musical comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- AA-A A-

DVD Review

Camp was king in the films of the late 1970s and into 1980s, and most of the classics of that era were musicals like Grease 2 and Phantom of the Paradise. 1982's Australian import, Starstruck, is the perfect example of the hold that this type of films had on audiences. However, this little-known project never had much of an audience to begin with, which is a real shame, given the film's shockingly high entertainment value.

I really couldn't believe I was enjoying this as the movie went on, but it's hard not to get roped in by its many charms and catchy music. This is one of those movies that you're embarrassed to be caught watching, but will try to sneak in as many viewings as possible. And as we all know, that pretty much defines a cult film, and Starstruck takes that classification and runs with it.

The central figure here is Jackie Mullins (Jo Kennedy), a young fire-red-haired Aussie who has aspirations of making it big by singing in a band. She is managed by her young cousin, Angus (Russ O'Donovan), whom she lives with in the Waterview Hotel and Pub in Sydney. Their family happens to run this "home," and, while they truly do love their family, both Jackie and Angus would rather be out on their own and successful. One day, Jackie pulls a wild tightrope stunt (with fake breasts on the outside of her clothing, I might add) in an attempt to get noticed, and that, along with her crashing of a club's open mic night, eventually garnering her some attention.

Her foot ever-so-slightly in the door of the entertainment biz, Jackie hears of a contest to perform at the Sydney Opera House on New Year's Eve in which the winner is to receive $25,000. She's also very excited that the contest will be hosted by pop show host Terry Lambert (John O'May), but winning the money soon overshadows everything after all of the money in the Waterview's safe goes missing. Jackie and Angus soon realize that seeing their dreams come true is much less important than the survival of their beloved hotel.

Sounds like a rather involved plot for a campy musical, huh? Don't worry, much of the plot only exists for structural purposes, as the film is a ton of fun and often a barrel of laughs. Anyone who has ever seen a conventional musical can pretty much guess the path of the film (as well as its conclusion) from its opening reel, but none of that matters. Starstruck is pure fun, and you'll be fighting yourself to keep from jumping up and dancing along with the songs, which will stay in your head for days.

Still, the lasting appeal of Starstruck lies in the insanely catchy songs. Performed by a New Wave band called The Swingers (who were allegedly chosen over the higher profile Men At Work and INXS), the tunes are amazing. The lyrics in songs like Starstruck, Body and Soul, and (the best song) The Monkey in Me are as cheesy as they come, but you just can't help but bounce along to their energetic beats, which are aided immensely by Ms. Kennedy's excellent voice. Her unique delivery is the perfect fit for these tunes, which are the centerpieces of some decent, yet loosely choreographed dance numbers.

Jo Kennedy is the real revelation here. While not the beauty that Olivia Newton John or even Rocky Horror's Susan Sarandon are in their campy musicals, Kennedy has an odd charm to her, with her appeal capped off by her aforementioned lovely voice. This is one of those films, like one of my all-time favorites, Purple Rain (it never gets any better than the master, Prince), that would have been a complete failure had big-time stars played the major characters. It's always great to see a director have such confidence in young talent, and Starstruck's helmer, Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career) had just that in those who made this modest musical classic what it is.

Just a minor note: Starstruck is rated PG, but there is a brief moment near the beginning when Jo Kennedy appears topless. Until I saw this, I forgot that back in the '70s and '80s there were many PG films that featured brief nudity. Today, such pictures would be extremely lucky to even get a PG-13. It's amazing just how much the MPAA has changed through the years, especially when the NC-17 rating was supposed to revolutionize the practice of film ratings, when, instead, it's nearly corrupted it.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is intact, and it has been anamorphically enhanced for this DVD set. There's image detail in this presentation that I never thought possible, especially having seen older prints of Starstruck. The color scheme is still slightly muted, however, the "what were they wearing" costumes are visible in all their tacky yet appealing glory. This transfer isn't completely without blemishes, but they are in the form of the kind of dirt and grain that you would find in even the most refined of '80s films on DVD.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: A few options are offered; there's a low-key Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, but the choice comes down to whether to listen to the DD 5.1 EX or DTS tracks. These feature much more aggressive use of the surrounds, providing listeners with a full-on enveloping concert experience during the musical numbers. Nice bass presence is featured, but I give the slight edge to the DTS due to its wider dynamic range. The dialogue is easy to understand in all three tracks, despite the heavy Aussie accents, and everything works in perfect tandem with the music and other sound effects.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
5 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Producer Richard Brennan
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Poster & Still Gallery
Extras Review: The extras are plentiful and worthwhile, with the main feature on Disc 1 being an audio commentary with producer Richard Brennan. He spends most of the time discussing how the film evolved from casting to its production, but he also touches on an earlier, much longer version of the film that never made it to theaters. It's too bad this cut wasn't included in this set, but it was still nice to hear about, and some of the deleted scenes on Disc 2 give us a better idea what this version was all about.

Disc 1 also houses a pair of theatrical trailers for Starstruck, as well as a poster and still gallery, and the ability to jump to a scene that features the musical number of your choice.

Disc 2 has a pair of pieces on the making of the film, beginning with the 41-minute documentary, Puttin' on the Show. This piece has clips from the film, but mostly consists of interviews with director Gillian Armstrong, producer David Elfick, and cinematographer Russell Boyd. They talk in great detail about the film's origin, going into how they discovered the band that's featured, and how it was to work with Jo Kennedy. Screenwriter Reflects is a 19-minute interview with writer Stephen MacLean. He comes to us from Pattaya Beach in Thailand, where he speaks, quite smugly, about his role in making Starstruck.

There are also five alternate, extended, and deleted scenes, many of which shed some light on what the longer cut would have been like.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Those who are sick of the humdrum of today's theatrical releases should jump into the '80s time machine and pick up an almost totally forgotten musical gem, Starstruck. Director Gillian Armstrong has crafted a solid film with a killer soundtrack that features some of Australia's best (at the time) young musical talent. Blue Underground's excellent, long-overdue two-disc DVD set gives the film its due, and then some. The audio and video couldn't be better, especially for a film of this age, and the bevy of extras really provide some interesting insight into how the film came about.

 


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