As a band singer guided to heights of show-business success by an alcoholic ex-matinee idol, Judy Garland performs one superb song after another (most by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin) in a production – also starring James Mason and directed by George Cukor – that exhilarates with its craft and style even as it moves toward a heartbreaking finale. Shortened after its 1954 premiere and reconstructed to near its original length in 1983, A Star Is Born endures as one of Hollywood’s supreme triumphs.
We didn’t get cable TV right away and even when we did, they didn’t have channels like AMC and TCM, so to catch an older film you needed to either stay up late or watch TV on weekend morning and afternoons. Late night meant horror and sci-fi, but on the weekends you could catch anything. As a young film buff I was up for anything and fell in love with most every genre of films, including musicals. Now the problem with musicals on broadcast TV is that they tended to show very popular ones over and over again. So even though one might be brilliant, you would never catch it.
I almost missed the entirety of A Star is Born when they broadcast it locally in the early 80s. I think I caught the last 25 minutes, but that was enough to make me curious (it seemed darker then standard musicals). So when the movie finally came out on VHS I made it a point to rent it. While Garland would appear in many musicals over the years and will always be most famous for her role as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, A Star is Born is arguably the best showcase for this very talented performer and it just happened to be filmed at the height of that talent.
With cable TV now, you can usually catch a musical whenever you want, and I have watched A Star is Born many times over the years, but when I heard it was being released in HD, I figured now would be a good time to pick up my very own copy. I was not disappointed.
To start off with Warner Bros did a major digital restoration of the film, based on a reconstruction of the film from 1983 and it looks amazing. Crisp and vibrant, it is unlike any other copy of the film I have ever seen. I understand that they had unveiled this print on the big screen at a film festival last year. I can only imagine what an experience that might have been. You can get an idea of the pic by checking out this youtube clip (at the very least you can see how talented Garland is):
I tried playing around with the sound, but I do not really have the setup to experience the movies DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. I do not have a super sound setup, but on my TV it sounded good. I cannot imagine what they could pull from audio that is nearly 60 years old to make it better, but I would enjoy hearing from someone with a better audio setup then mine.
Just on the merits of the picture, I would say people should put this in their buy column, but the Blu-Ray version is also chock full of extras including:
* A Short Introduction Featurette
* 22 Minutes of deleted scenes
* 11 Minutes of Alternative Takes
* When My Sugar Walks Down the Street Outtake
* Pantages Premiere TV Special
* Newsreel Montage
* Premiere in Cinemascope
* 100 minutes of Audio Outtakes
* Report by Jack L. Warner
* Film Effects Reel
* Looney Tune’s A Star is Bored
* 3 Theatrical Trailers
* A 40 page Booklet
Impressive right? So if you like musicals and this one is a whopper why not pick up a copy for your collections. You can get it in three flavors:
* A Star is Born on Amazon Digital Download (rent or buy)