A Star is Born (1976)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

A long time ago in a home in Staten Island far far away, a little known pay movie channel with a decoder box called WHT was at it’s height in the mid to late seventies and just so happened to be occupied in this filmgoer’s place. One title I’ve given it through the years was the “Disco Movie Network” which provided movies in the tail end of that decade and one of the many notables during that time was the third version of a story of the rise of a female lead and the downfall of the washed up male that loves her but instead of going into the film industry, this focused into music and two prominent figures of music at that time (my birth year) were both acting in films for a decent while. They were Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson and with their music, the time would be set that A Star Is Born.

It’s the rock world and John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson) is not the rock god he once was. The crowds wait impatiently and even on his best night he can’t remember the words to his own songs and always has to chalk up a story as to how many times he’s sang it and how his next time would be better. On one of his worst nights, he decides to go to a club nearby and cool off to boogie. At this club, he encounters a talent in Esther Hoffman (Barbra Streisand) and sees an attraction in her physically and in her talent. It takes her for a trip and one that has her upstaging him and with him falling with one success comes another one’s failure.

It’s not the smoothest version of the movie but by no means is it increasingly terrible either. There are moments in this movie where this viewer does buy the relationship between Esther and John. Through their music and talent, they gel together better than ever. It’s just the moments away from that in which the struggle continues on and there’s not much hope when every success for Esther turns into one step away from doom for John.

It’s true we have seen this film before done technically three times and this one does look a bit on the economical side in certain scenes but the few things that does save this film are the music by both artists (with a little help from some talented writers such as Rupert Holmes, Paul Williams, Leon Russell and Kenny Loggins) and the performances by both leads with Streisand, the stranger with the golden voice and Kristofferson, the washed up once been that is this close to has been before he’d been done in. The audience knows what happens at the end and knows where it’s going to go and it all happens so fast (even in a long movie like this) but it doesn’t deter from an otherwise decent attempt at updating the tale of one rise and one fall down.

A Star Is Born has its share of shining moments and I’ve always considered Evergreen to be one of the best written songs for a movie, but in the end the film seems to have some rough patches along the way making it more a product of its time and decently entertaining.

Video: How does it look?

A Star Is Born in the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen does it’s best to look great and at times it does but at other times it looks like the transfer has its share of grain and dirt during some of the outdoor and nighttime scenes. Yet it does look wonderful in the beginning, through the middle it has it’s share of visual highs and lows with the end coming together making for some nice bookends but a little bit of spots in between. It does however share that shade of seventies haze that happens to be on many of the films of that time and doesn’t deter too much from the transfer but could use a little less.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track does make use of the soundtrack given to this film (this was the first 35MM film to be give Dolby surround tracks) especially during any of the concert scenes where the music plays wonderfully. The dialogue comes out primarily in the center while the music and effects come from the outer surround channels balancing nicely even for a seventies film and not suffering from too much muteness which occurs in many older films. It combines together for a very nice track. This disc also has a French Dolby track along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Along with the music filled menus, the extras start off on A Star is Born with a commentary by Barbra Streisand and listening was a learning experience as we learned a bit about her and her involvement on the film and a few of her thoughts on the film and the look in present day. Although there is a tendency to be a few gaps here and there, Streisand keeps it chatty enough to be informative, interesting and a worthwhile track. She also does commentary on the deleted scenes (which there are a few but nothing too substantial to add to the film) and the makeup tests (which are interesting to look at the style of the time) which are pretty reactionary and give a little more of a look back at her co-star as well and what she thinks of him.

In addition to all of that, there is trailers to all of the versions titled “A Star Is Born” on this disc.

With all the hoopla given at the time and with the many plays of this film on cable and TV over the years, this particular version of A Star Is Born is not the best version of this story told but one that this viewer can’t help but look back at and remember and it comes with some comments from Streisand that make it a most interesting view, an honest listen, and a not bad but pretty good DVD as well.

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