Science Fiction - Double Feature
Dr. X will build a creature
See androids fighting Brad and Janet
Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet
Oh-oh at the late night, double feature, picture show.
You know what? A 70mm film print discovered down a salt mine in Mount Isa isn't really the sort of thing you get to see on the big screen very often so who was I to turn down an offer to see it rather my preplanned media screening of (ahem) The Dictator? It turned out to be a bonus that I knew absolutely nothing - literally nothing, I'd never even heard of it before beyond its name being bandied about in conversation once or twice - about the film, Nick Castle's The Last Statfigher, proved to be a bonus as the film itself was as much of a discovery for me that the 70mm film print was to film enthusiasts. Seeing it play alongside fellow 1984 science fiction title, The Philadelphia Experiment, made for a rad double feature. Hey, it was 1984, I can get away with saying "rad", okay?
As for The Last Starfighter, it sure was a blast. Oh sure, the visual effects - two years after Tron revolutionised the tech, but still before computers were the norm and the first time that a on a so-called "Cray X-MP supercomputer" - are dated, hopelessly so at some point, but where this film differs from the aforementioned Tron is that its story and the rest of its creative components are strong enough to withstand the test of time. Tron is terribly boring (as I imagine it was in 1982, despite its eye-popping visuals), but Nick Castle's film belongs to a catalogue of films that Hollywood just doesn't make anymore. Video games and movies can indeed come together and be adventurous, cinematic, and creative after all. Thanks to the earnest (and, it must be said, attractive cast) performance of Lance Guest, some wonderful alien designs, an utterly majestic and captivating score by Craig Sagan, and a healthy dose of Americana - I want to live in the "Starlite Starbrite" trailer park - help raise The Last Starfighter to loftier territory that its nostalgic reputation may suggest.
The scenes in space are sadly less interesting that those on Earth, perhaps because so much time was put into the visual effects that little effort was put into making the sets look less like cardboard, but it's probably also because the humans are actually kinda fun to be around. The assortment of trailer park residents are given attention by a screenplay that knows the lead character's, as well as the audience's, affection for them is important for the final scenes. Don't get me wrong, The Last Starfighter isn't particularly deep, or working on a wholly different level to other teen adventure films, but I appreciated the effort paid to the peripheries. And, I know I've already mentioned it, but Craig Safan's original music score cannot be praised enough. To hear it in 70mm 6-track sound was mighty impressive. Full of orchestral bells and whistles alongside the dreamy space themes, military bombast, and elegiac romance that combine to convey genuine awe and wonder. It's an instant favourite. As for the film? It's an impressive effort and a step above some of the more famous films of the era that attempted similar ideas. B
If I wanted to get serious though I could point out the impressive cinematography of Dick Bush (unfortunate name, that) and the equally fine music by Kenneth Wannberg (which I accidentally typed as "Wangberg" just to keep the phallic theme alive) keeps the quieter moments alive. There is also a particularly well-executed scene of two cars careening through an orchard. Alternating between tight shots deep in the action, and the fluid action filmed from a helicopter above, it's a stand out scene in an otherwise fine film. B-
Michael Pare doing a James Dean impersonation! I mean, the acting's not good, but he's a fine specimen that makes a psuedo-shlocky bit of genre fare go down easier.
AHEM! Now, I was lucky enough to see these two films back to back in a double feature because of the efforts of one place: The Astor Theatre. I and many others have known for a while now that this legendary movie palace will reach the end of its lease in 2015 and their landlord currently has no plans to renew it. That means no more amazing double features like this one, nor any rereleases for films such as Labyrinth, Dr Strangelove, American Graffiti and Two-Lane Blacktop. Not only that, but The Astor is the only cinema in Australia that endeavours to play 35mm and 70mm prints whenever possible, plus 2K and 4K digital when not. 70mm titles like Baraka, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hamlet would all but cease to screen in this country, and I find it highly doubtful that another cinema would pick up the slack and play 35mm prints of Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo and The Holy Mountain back to back (Monday 4 June if you want to be there like I will!)
signs the petition - whether you live in Melbourne and go there regularly or not - then that's just one gesture. Pass it along to anybody else who has a love for film and we can get that number high. Imagine the outcry if The Alamo Drafthouse had to close! There's also a rally organised for Saturday 16 June. As the unofficial home of Rocky Horror, Dr Frank-N-Furter compels you!