The Film (3.5/5)
Andy McGee (David Keith, The White Of The Eye) meets Vicky (Heather Locklear, T.J. Hooker) when they both volunteer for an experiment with a low grade hallucinogen named Lot 6. While the experiment concludes with some horrific circumstances for some, Vicky gains the ability to read minds while Andy can control them. They have a daughter Charlie (Drew Barrymore, ET, Scream) that can see into the near future and has pyrokinesis. She's a FIRESTARTER (my apologies to those that had The Prodigy immediately come to mind) and a mutant (please don't tell Marvel; I'm sorry about The Prodigy thing.) Naturally the government can't leave well enough alone and one day while Andy is at work, agents from The Shop kill Vicky and abduct Charlie. For nefarious purposes, naturally. Andy causes two agents to go blind by simply telling them that they cannot see, rescues Charlie and on the run they go.
Andy and Charlie stay one step ahead of goons while Andy struggles to help Charlie control and even suppress her firestarting ability. While hitchhiking they're picked up by Irv (Art Carney, The Honeymooners) and he takes them back to his farm for lunch with his wife Norma (Louise Fletcher, Exorcist II: The Heretic). While there, the Shop agents surround the farmhouse and despite Andy's warnings, are quickly toast. Literally.
Captain Hollister (Martin Sheen, The Dead Zone, President of The United States Of America) as head of The Shop enlists Agent John Rainbird (George C. Scott, Dr. Strangelove, Patton) to retrieve Andy and Charlie. He succeeds by shooting them with tranquilizer darts from a distance and both are brought back to the compound for testing with the goal of weaponizing both. Rainbird masquerades as an orderly/janitor to win Charlie's trust as Andy is force fed drugs to keep him manageable. How will it end? Fire? (Yes.)
Firestarter, based on the 1980 novel by Stephen King, came to us in the third year of King, also known as 1983. In fact according to my research, 1981 and 1988 are the only two years that there wasn't a theatrically released film based on a work of his. The film looks great. Mark L. Lester (Class Of 1984, Commando), quite competently directs and the widescreen cinematography from Giuseppe Ruzzolini (Short Night Of Glass Dolls) is top notch. The soundtrack from Tangerine Dream comes amidst their outstanding run of 80's soundtracks and may be their best in my opinion. Standouts from an acting viewpoint are Drew Barrymore and George C. Scott. Barrymore, one of the most successful child actresses of all time is cute and world weary at the same time. George C. Scott's Rainbird is psychopathic and oddly likable from one scene to another. The problem with Firestarter is that for stretches, it's, well, dull. I feel about 20 minutes could have been cut to make the pace more lively.
It's pretty well known that John Carpenter was supposed to direct Firestarter. After The Thing didn't do great box office, Universal slashed the budget and he walked away. He directed Christine after The Thing and that's a shame because while that's not a bad film, I'd have loved to seen what he did with this material. Whatever it was, I venture it would not have been boring. From what I've read, Carpenter's version would have been written by Bill Lancaster, son of Burt and screenwriter of The Thing. Again, I stress that while the Firestarter we got isn't a bad film, a possible Carpenter helmed project does remain one of the 80's biggest genre film what ifs.
Scream Factory presents Firestarter with a new 2K scan of the interpositive film element and it is indeed sharp looking in 2.35:1. I didn't detect DNR and the blacks were pretty solid. I'd say this is the best Firestarter has looked, considering I've read the studio bluray had some crush issues. I can't confirm that since I don't own it, but color here is stable and the film grain is consistent.
The audio is presented in a Mono DTS-Master HD track and it's decent. I'd like a stereo track to hear the Tangerine Dream better but there are English subtitles. I'm a big fan of subtitles.
Scream Factory loads up the disc with a new audio commentary from director Mark L. Lester, a new making of documentary, an interview with Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream as well as a new live performance of Charlie's Dream. Theatrical trailers, a radio spot and a still gallery round out this packed disc.
Firestarter was either a film we rented early in the VHS days or was a laserdisc rental the one time we rented a laserdisc player. I can't remember which. I do know that I hadn't seen it since then. I feel like I was fair to the film and didn't let nostalgia taint my view. I think it holds up, but only to a certain degree. It's overlong and dull in spots but as always Scream Factory has put together a very nice package. Sorry about The Prodigy thing.