BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
When writer/director John Carpenter backed out of Firestarter, he took his adapted screenplay with him. It was probably a good idea. His version had little to do with the Stephen King novel and could probably only be better serviced by his eye. I suspect the critics sided with Carpenter in the split as it seems – especially in retrospect – that their unfavorable reviews of Firestarter, when it was eventually released in 1984, were beyond condemning.
Famed producer Dino de Laurentiis found his next director for the telekinetic-themed project in director Mark Lester, who was experiencing a great deal of favorable buzz due to his cult flick, Class of 1984. Lester and screenwriter Stanley Mann, worked economically, and fashioned a script more connected to the events in King’s book. After all, the rights were purchased. Why not use them? Lester, bucking conventions at the time, filled the low-budgeted film (granted it was more money than he'd ever had for a budget) with a cast that other films could only envy. In what other studio-back horror film do you have the talents of David Keith, Drew Barrymore, Freddie Jones, Heather Locklear, Martin Sheen, Art Carney, Louise Fletcher, and George C. Scott all apearing together in? You don't which makes this move something a bit more special.
Thankfully, through the years, the movie – featuring a stellar score from Tangerine Dream – has found an appreciative audience. Scream Factory, putting the film out on blu-ray with a new 2K scan of the original interpositive and lots of NEW supplemental items, has gone out of their way to insure the film continues to find new fans. After all, one viewing is all you need to know that print critics largely crucified this film at the time of its release for no good reason. Hell, even King – riding the tidal wave of criticism that sunk the adaptation – dismissed the film, yet he was there as a consultant.
But the critics are wrong. This is a film that hits its audience on many levels when it comes to people with special abilities. It’s brutal in its vision of the world where normalcies are embraced and childlike in its ability to dazzle the senses with untapped potential.
The Tangerine Dream score begins. The Universal logo appears and then disappears and the film opens with a plume of smoke before dissolving to Washington DC. A man and his daughter are on the run through the crowded streets. The child is tired and scared. There are men following them in a car. They keep losing the targets, though. Too many people. Andy (Keith) and his daughter (Barrymore, all of 8 at the time of the shoot) are spotted again and they hop into a cab. The man commands the cabbie to drive. Thing is, he doesn’t say a word. He then hands the man a crisp one-dollar bill and tells him it is $500 and that he and his daughter need to get to the airport. The driver celebrates the fact of the money in his hand and slams down the gas pedal.
You see, Andy is a powerful clairvoyant, but his abilities give him nosebleeds and intense headaches. His power to project is causing him to slowly and painfully die. His daughter, Charlie, a nine-year-old with pyrokinetic abilities, is his only reason for living. And he must protect her from the government at all costs. It's either that or she loses her shit and melts the entire world with her fireballs and abilities to create fire. You can probably already guess just how unrelenting the government agencies are in tracking the two down, separating them, and dissecting their abilities at all costs. They are considered enemies of the state.
The truth is that, unless Andy can find someone he can trust to take care of Charlie, all hope is lost; they have nothing but each other and the clock is tick, tick, ticking for him.
Firestarter is loaded with good practical effects. It also tells a rather faithful and shocking narrative filled with violence, angst, and political intrigue as two people hitchhike their way through the united states in an effort to find a place of their own. We know the two people at the center of this story are average everyday citizens with special abilities and we sympathize with their struggles to find a better place to live. It’s something everybody wants. What’s so wrong about that?
Lester’s version of King’s book makes for a damn good movie and it deserves reconsideration. After all, who doesn’t enjoy seeing government men roasted to death on a big family farm? That’s what I thought.
Go ahead and dig for fire. Charlie's got your back.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 114 mins
Director: Mark L. Lester
Writer: Stanley Mann
Cast: Drew Barrymore, David Keith, Freddie Jones
Genre: Action | Sci-fi
Tagline: She has the power . . . an evil destructive force.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Mind waiting until I put my feet out?"
Theatrical Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: May 11, 1984
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 14, 2017
Synopsis: She has the power to set objects afire with just one glance!
Firestarter, based on the unforgettable best-seller by esteemed horror author Stephen King, chronicles the extraordinary life of Charlene "Charlie" McGee. Eight-year-old Drew Barrymore stars as the child who has the amazing ability to start fires with just a glance. Can her psychic power and the love of her father save her from the threatening government agency, "The Shop," which wants to control her... or destroy her?
Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray - March 14, 2017
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A
Scream Factory’s new 2K scan of the interpositive film element presents Firestarter in 2.35:1 with a crisp and clean transfer. The depth on this one is pretty amazing. Colors pop like never before and all the nighttime driving sequences have thick defining lines. Overall, the picture’s clarity is worth the upgrade. Rich in details and colors, there really is nothing to complain about even if this is a relatively “light” feature from Universal. The sound is presented in a solid DTS-HD Master Audio Mono.
Mark Lester provides the film’s commentary. It is worthy of inclusion and fills us in on a lot of behind the scenes moments from the shoot.
Highlighted by an hour-long documentary, the supplemental materials included on the disc are thorough and enjoyable. The documentary includes new interviews from Lester and actors Freddie Jones, Drew Snyder, Stuntman/Actor Dick Warlock, and Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream. Good information is provided about actors and directors on the set and some of the rumors swirling around the film are put to rest. Tangerine Dream is highlighted in the next couple of supplemental items, which is always interesting and this includes a live performance of one of the songs from the movie. Theatrical trailers are also included.
- Playing With Fire: The Making Of Firestarter
- Tangerine Dream: Movie Music Memories
- Live Performance Of "Charlie's Theme"
- Theatrical Trailers
- Radio Spot
- Still Gallery