• Star Time

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: March 27th, 2018.
    Director: Alexander Cassini
    Cast: Michael St. Gerard, John P. Ryan, Maureen Teefy
    Year: 1991
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    The Movie:

    Henry Pinkle (Michael St. Gerard) has issues. His social worker Wendy (Maureen Teefy) tries to help him, and to an extent she does, but she can’t quite get through to him the way she wants to. Henry’s also obsessed with a TV show called The Robertson Family, so much so that when Wendy goes away for a month and the show gets cancelled, Henry tries to kill himself. But he doesn’t, because before he can jump off the roof of an industrial building he’s interrupted by a grey-haired man named Sam Bones (John P. Ryan). Sam takes Henry back to his ornate home and tries to give him a purpose, to help him live up to those impossible standards that everyone else is holding him to. Sam promises to make Henry a star.

    Soon enough, Sam has convinced Henry to put on a plastic mask and chop up suburbanites around Los Angeles. The media dubs him ‘The Baby Face Killer’ and before you know it, he’s on all the news stations all the time – and Sam’s input even seems to dictate how it’s edited before being broadcast. When Wendy comes back she does what she can to help Henry, believing that Sam must be imagined on Henry’s part. But when Sam demands that Henry choose him over Wendy, things get increasingly grim for all involved.

    Not quite the slasher film that some would have you believe, Star Time is nevertheless a pretty interesting mix of arthouse style and horror trappings with some solid black humor and social commentary thrown in to keep things interesting. Made on a seriously modest budget, the film isn’t particularly effects heavy nor is it all that flashy but it does manage to create a distinctly lonely vibe, clearly reflective of Henry’s mental state. The art direction really helps this one work, with frequent shots framing any one of the three central characters in almost absolute darkness, some interesting lighting creating an effective atmosphere and some great camerawork enhancing tension and mystique (one shot in particular where Henry lies naked next to Wendy’s bed with his mask on while she sleeps is particularly chilling!). Blake Leyh’s quirky free-jazz score suits the strange tone of the movie quite well.

    It’s important to note that Henry remains a sympathetic character right up until the end of the movie. He’s not a deranged, unstoppable killing machine the way that typical slasher characters are, rather he’s seriously damaged and, yes, very alone. This is established very early in the film so that when Bones shows up and starts manipulating him the way that it does, we’re able to accept that this might actually be possible. The movie also makes some very pointed barbs towards the media’s treatment of murder and the ways that it often objectifies women (there are multiple scenes where nameless women that Henry sees on screens are shown only as body parts, never with faces).

    The performances play a big part in making this one work. As stated, Henry remains pretty sympathetic, and a lot of how and why that happens has to do with Michael St. Gerard’s portrayal. He never goes over the top but keeps things very human, adding quirky mannerisms to Henry without over doing it. Maureen Teefy, who was married to director Alexander Cassini at the time the picture was made, is quite likeable in her role. We have no trouble accepting that her concern for her case is genuine, she plays her role with compassion but never overdoes it or brings it into corny, melodramatic territory. John P. Ryan makes the most of his part as Sam Bones, not quite hamming it up but definitely laying on the ‘Hollywood charm’ really, really thick. The black comedy that does work its way into the picture does so through his character, and Ryan is fantastic in the role.


    Star Time arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. While the image is naturally grainy at times, there’s virtually no print damage to complain about at all. Detail is generally quite strong and there’s good depth and texture to the image as well. Color reproduction looks just fine while skin tones remain nice and natural looking. There are no noticeable problems with compression, noise reduction or edge enhancement – this is a nice, film-like transfer of some elements that seem to have been more or less immaculate!

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track sounds nice and clean, with properly balanced levels and clear, crisp dialogue. There are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion and the score sounds pretty swell here too. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

    The commentary track with director Alexander Cassini, which is moderated by Vinegar Syndrome’s own Joe Rubin, is an interesting talk. They cover the films that Cassini counts as an influence on this picture and on his directing style, they talk about the performers and what each of the three leads really brought to the film, the locations that were used for the shoot, the photography, the score and pretty much everything else that you’d hope would be covered. It’s a very good look back at the making of the movie.

    Also worth checking out is Shooting Star Time, an extensive thirty-two-minute interview with cinematographer Fernando Argüelles wherein he speaks about how he got into the industry, working with Scott Spiegel on The Intruder, what drew him to working on Star Time and his thoughts on the movie itself, and working with Janusz Kaminski on some of the material that he was unable to shoot himself.

    Vinegar Syndrome has also included The Great Performance, a five-minute short film by Cassini that once again casts Maureen Teefy, this time alongside Mark Arnott in an amusing treatise on the pros and cons of fame. Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie. The first 1,500 copies of Star Time bought through Vinegar Syndrome’s website will come with an exclusive slipcover. The disc also comes packaged with some nice reversible cover art.

    The Final Word:

    Star Time takes a little bit of time to get going but once it does, it turns out to be a really well-done picture. Those hoping for a traditional horror picture might be put off by the way that all of this plays out but viewers with a taste for offbeat genre cinema should find much to appreciate. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release is another solid release for the label, featuring excellent presentation quality and a nice selection of extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!