Out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week: A starman returns to find his son, and is hunted by the government; a 747 pilot survives his own plane's crash, hunted by those who didn't; and a detective tracks a death ray, hunted by the feeling that what he's doing isn't making any sense.
Wow--two weeks in a row, the nostalgic, unlooked-for DVD release of a little-remembered TV spin-off of a milestone sci-fi feature film. And like the Gregory Harrison Logan's Run, the small-screen version of Starman converted the suspense of the film into a long-term quest, with slight changes to the mechanics of the premise and an enemy close behind, and stars a good actor known for better performances elsewhere (in this case, Airplane!'s Robert Hays). And, like Logan's Run, the network wrote the series off and forgot about it while it was still airing--though Starman at least got to finish out its 22-episode first (and only) season. It's pretty well written (the creators' other credits include The China Syndrome, Reasonable Doubts, and Star Trek: The Next Generation), with a fairly leisurely format (just check out the 90-second opening credits below) allowing for Incredible Hulk-style personal interactions and introspection--and its rescue from the oubliette and onto DVD (though without any bonus material, sadly) was a good deed.
The story: The alien returns to Earth 14 years after his first visit. Taking on the identity of Paul Forrester, a dead freelance photographer, he succeeds in finding the son he fathered, Scott, but learns that Scott and his mother have been separated. Together they search for her, but they’re hounded by a paranoid and malevolent government agent.
Starring: Robert Hays, C. B. Barnes (The Brady Bunch Movie), Michael Cavanaugh.
Features: None, but it's "newly remastered" and fresh-baked just for you (i.e., it's manufactured on demand).
This adaptation of the James Herbert horror novel is an Australian-made film with British leads, and serves as an useful example of how supernatural horror has drifted away from carefully crafted suspense over the last 30 years.
Directed by: David Hemmings.
The story: Only the pilot survives a jumbo-jet crash, but he needs a psychic's help to remember it.
Starring: Robert Powell, Jenny Agutter, and Joseph Cotten.
Features: Watch this in "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" format with our Hostess Katarina Leigh Waters or Play Feature Only; Brand New 16x9 widescreen (2:35) of the longer 99minute cut; Audio commentary with Producer Anthony I. Ginnaine moderated by Katarina Leigh Waters; Original Trailer.
A feature compilation of the 15-episode serial, which remade a 1927 silent serial, and its origins betray it: despite the opportunities offered in mixing crime drama with sci-fi, what we get is a lot of the kind of confusion the results from writing in order to get things up on the screen, not toward an end. The screenplay is by Basil Dickey, who later did better work involving Tarzan Flash Gordon, and Captain America (the 1944 serial).
The story: Sir James Blake has retired from Scotland Yard so that he can assist his niece Hope and her friend Jerry in developing an apparatus they have invented. Sir James thinks that their invention has the potential to prevent wars, and plans to donate it to the League of Nations. But a gang of criminals led by the elusive "Scorpion" steals the device, and Blake and his associates must recover the invention and determine the identity of the "Scorpion".
Starring: Ralph Byrd, Joan Barclay, Lloyd Hughes.
Directed by: Robert Hill.