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Frank Pierson
Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson, Gary Busey, Oliver Clark, Marta Heflin, M.G. Kelly, Joanne Linville, Uncle Rudy, Paul Mazursky
Writing Credits:
William A. Wellman (1937 story), Robert Carson (1937 story), John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion, Frank Pierson

Talented rock star John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson) has seen his career begin to decline. Too many years of concerts and managers and life on the road have made him cynical and the monotony has taken its toll. Then he meets the innocent, pure and very talented singer Esther Hoffman (Barbra Streisand). As one of his songs in the movie says "I'm gonna take you girl, I'm gonna show you how." And he does. He shows Esther the way to stardom while forsaking his own career. As they fall in love, her success only makes his decline even more apparent.

Box Office:
$6 million.

Rated R

English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Monaural

Runtime: 140 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 11/28/2006

• Audio Commentary with Actor/Executive Producer Barbra Streisand
• Additional Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Wardrobe Tests
• Trailer Gallery


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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A Star Is Born (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 20, 2007)

Back in the Seventies, Barbra Streisand actually attempted to become a rock star. Actually, “rock star” is a bit of a stretch, as it’s not like she pursued anything particularly intense; Babs stayed with light pop music. Nonetheless, she stretched beyond her usual adult contemporary roots and attempted material with a more current sound for the era.

The flick introduces us to rock star John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson). He engages in substance abuse and shows up hours late for his own performances. Years of this sort of behavior has left his star on the wane despite the best efforts of his road manager Bobby Ritchie (Gary Busey) to get him back on track.

After a show, John hits a small club and sees a female vocal trio called the Oreos. John’s presence disrupts matters, a fact that results in a bar fight when a disgruntled fan takes umbrage at his refusal to sing. John slips out the back with Oreos lead vocalist Esther Hoffman (Streisand) and quickly develops a fixation on her. John gets Esther to come to a big show but he blows it as usual. Not only does he injure himself, but he abandons her at the venue.

Despite these problems, John manages to enchant Esther and they soon become a couple. Her musical talents fascinate him and he works to make her a star. The film follows these efforts and the path their relationship takes.

If you look through Streisand’s films, one recurring thread appears. Many of them seem to exist largely for the Glorification of All That Is Babs. In the case of Star, this means the film holds her up as a paragon of everything right and beautiful in the world.

Love her or hate her, Streisand’s basic talent can’t be denied. However, one can deny that she deserves the God-like status she seems intent to confer on herself. At best, she seems self-involved. At worst, she comes across as a raging narcissist.

That side of things makes Star damned tough to watch. For one, it never makes much sense that John falls so hard for her. Her bar band doesn’t highlight her skills well, so it doesn’t appear clear that he’d take to her as a stellar talent. If the flick gave us a better indication of what she can do, we might buy the prospect that John would become smitten by her abilities, but it doesn’t communicate those elements at all.

This means that we have to accept Esther as a world-class beauty, and that’s absolutely impossible to do. John ladles praise on her looks, all in what appears to be an attempt to hoodwink the audience and make us agree with him. That never happens. Though her silly Seventies perm doesn’t suit her well, Streisand isn’t an unattractive woman. However, she’s nowhere close to being hot enough to dazzle anyone, especially a rock star like John who’s certainly conquered many much sexier women.

This leap of faith causes one major problem with Star, but it’s not the film’s fatal flaw. Its greatest drawback stems from the simply fact that it’s dull. Painfully dull, as a matter of fact. The story moves at a snail’s pace and takes forever to get anywhere. If it used that time for character development, I could accept the dawdling, but it never manages to invest its roles with any real depth. In all the time it takes, we never really get to know our leads, and we certainly don’t care about them.

The film’s atrocious music doesn’t help. Streisand’s pop-rock career was mediocre at best, but I reserve the greatest animosity for the tunes that saddle Kristofferson. John’s supposed to be a rock legend but he gets material without much more edge than Streisand’s pop trifles. John’s tunes are laughably bad and take the viewer out of the story; it’s impossible to believe miserable material like that could have made anyone a star.

This issue becomes more substantial just because Star packs its elongated running time with tons of musical sequences. We get stuck listening to these terrible tracks forever and ever, and they make a tedious tale proceed at an even slower pace. Star suffers from a rambling, bloated story with little drama or anything to interest us.

Trivia note: look for Robert Englund – aka Freddy Krueger - as the annoying fan in the bar who starts a fight.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

A Star Is Born appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Star provided a consistently good visual experience.

Sharpness looked pretty solid. A little softness affected some close-ups, a fact I’d guess came from “glamour” photographic techniques. Those created minor concerns, as overall, the movie was concise and accurate. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. Despite the age of the movie, it seemed surprisingly free of defects. A little natural grain appeared, and a smattering of specks manifested themselves, but these weren’t a serious issue.

Colors stood out as positive. Within the production design, the hues came across as rich and distinct. I noticed no issues related to bleeding, noise, or other concerns, as the tones were lively and dynamic. Black levels were deep and rich, while shadow detail looked clean and clear. The image wasn’t flawless, but it looked quite good.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of A Star Is Born, it presented a distinct series of highs and lows. On the positive side, much of the music sounded absolutely great. The tunes boasted good stereo imaging, and they often showed solid dynamics. Though a few of the numbers were a little lackluster, most demonstrated quite fine clarity and range. The music acted as the clear highlight of the mix.

As for the negatives, I’d focus on everything else. Speech tended to be dinky and distant. I often found it tough to hear what the actors said and found the quality of the lines to seem thin at best.

Effects fell into the same lines, as those elements were wan and without much definition. Since they played a small role in the proceedings, that wasn’t as much of an issue as the poor speech, though. Effects usually stayed focused on the front center, though some elements like crowd noise spread to the rear.

Other than the music, this wasn’t an ambitious mix. And other than the music, this wasn’t a good mix. The high-quality tunes earned a “B+” but the rest fell into “D+” range, so I ended up with an overall “C+”.

A mix of extras fills out the set. The prime attraction comes from an audio commentary with actor/producer Barbra Streisand. She offers a running, screen-specific discussion. Streisand covers how she got into the project and her role behind the scenes, casting and the other actors, music and performances, cinematography, editing and costumes.

Quite a few good notes emerge here. We learn how Elvis almost played the John Norman Howard role, and her insights about her hatred of lip-synching are nice. However, a few flaws mar the program. The main issue stems from the many long gaps that appear. There’s lots of dead air on display, and that makes the track tough to take at times.

In addition, Streisand devotes much of the discussion to the Woes of Fame. She often notes how difficult it is to be a star, and she really sounds whiny. I understand her complaints but geez, she’s been a major star for four decades, and I’d think she’d be over all these issues by now. I can’t imagine hearing McCartney or Jagger gripe like this. Streisand manages to provide some nice notes, but the mix of drawbacks makes this an erratic commentary.

We hear more from Babs during three minutes and six seconds of Wardrobe Tests. Streisand narrates the otherwise silent footage and gives us some notes on what we see. The footage is moderately interesting as it shows ideas for outfits, and Streisand’s remarks add a few useful bits of info.

12 Deleted Scenes run a total of 16 minutes and 12 seconds. Most of these pad out the John/Esther relationship, and virtually all of them seem redundant. We get the needed information in the final film, so none of this material would have contributed to matters. One annoyance: the DVD doesn’t present them in a logical order, so we don’t see them as they would have come in the movie.

You will find unintentional comedy, though. We get alternate angles of the movie’s concluding musical performance. Streisand’s insanely emotive rendition of the tune is bad enough via the straight on take in the flick, but here we see her go fully epileptic. The horror! The horror!

We can watch these with or without commentary from Streisand. She offers a few general notes about the clips and usually tells us why they got cut. Nothing essential appears, but the remarks fill out matters acceptably well.

Finally, the disc presents three trailers. We discover promos for the 1937, 1954 and 1976 versions of Star.

Back in the Seventies, many regarded the 1976 A Star Is Born as a misfire, and nothing has changed perceptions over the last 30 years. Tedious, boring and bloated, the flick exists as a love letter to its star and nothing more. The DVD presents pretty solid picture and erratic audio as well as a few interesting extras. Leave this clunker for die-hard Streisand fans. If you don’t love her already, you won’t find any reason to dig her here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 16
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