The fire of Barbra Streisand. The magnetism of Kris Kristofferson. The reckless world of big-time rock ‘n’ roll.
Warner Brothers has really been cranking out the musicals lately on blu-ray- and with more to come (hint, hint). And though my affinity with the musical is limited, especially with more contemporary entries in the genre, there is a great history here.
The latest musical to get the blu-ray treatment from Warner Brothers is the fourth version of A Star is Born, this version from 1976 and starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Though only three versions have born the title of A Star is Born, we are also including the original 1932 version, which was entitled What Price Hollywood, directed by George Cukor and stared Constance Bennett. Best of class of the four is still the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason.
But what about this version? It has an uphill battle to say the least. As others have stated and even more will agree with, time hasn’t been kind to the 1970s in most respects. The same holds true here, though the film is successful in capturing somewhat the aura of the 70s rock scene. Tortured and fatigued rock star Kristofferson takes singer Streisand under his wing, ultimately catapulting her to stardom.
It isn’t a great movie by any measure, but it is entertaining in its own right, with even more entertainment aroused once you learn of the off screen drama that took place during production. Kristofferson famously has stated that making A Star is Born perhaps cured him of making movies and immediately on release director Frank Pierson went public over the grandstanding and difficulties presented by Streisand during filming.
What Frank perhaps didn’t understand then- Pierson passed away in 2012, was what A Star is Born was about. Then and now it is all about Streisand. In spite of the mediocre product on the screen it was a big hit simply because of the almost divine status imparted to her by her loyal fans. If anything, that adoration has grown over time. And A Star is Born is even more about Barbra Streisand now. Lets get a quick look at the supplemental material:
- Commentary by Barbra Streisand
- Wardrobe Tests with Commentary by Barbra Streisand
- Deleted Scenes/Alternate Takes with Optional Commentary by Barbary Streisand
Streisand, in what I believe is her first commentary on any DVD format, would almost by omission let you believe that she not only starred, but also produced and directed the picture. That being said, her commentary is rather good, though it peters out about halfway through the picture. By the end she isn’t saying much, presumably being bereft of any new information.
Most all would agree that the film isn’t the best, but what about the blu-ray?
As usual, Warner Brothers has hit another one out of the park. The video- especially the concert scenes- is of exceptional quality. Even fans in the distance appear clear and crisp without any inherent fuzziness. Colors are vibrant and the blacks are deep and solid. Wacky 70s fashion has never looked so good. Its a flawless presentation.
The audio track holds up well also. Being one of (if not the first) feature film to feature Dolby, the highlights are definitely the musical numbers, which are simply outstanding. The dialogue was also clean, though seemed to pale in contrast to some of the ambient environmental noise of the movie- squealing tires and the like seemed abnormally loud, but perhaps that is just me.
In addition to the above noted features, the blu-ray also features a 40 page book (as part of the traditional digi-book format) and a selection of trailers from the various releases of A Star is Born.
Streisand fans surely have already run out and gotten this, but how about the rest of us? If you are familiar with it and enjoyed the film, the only decision is if it is worth it to upgrade from earlier standard DVD releases. The answer here is yes and this is a great high quality release which looks and sounds great.
If you haven’t ever seen the film, rent it first. It isn’t a film everyone historically has enjoyed.
Thanks as always to Warner Brothers for the review copy.