• Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout Factory
    Released on: January 29th, 2019.
    Director: Richard Donner
    Cast: Linda Blair, Mark Hamill, Larry Hagman, Verna Bloom, William Daniels
    Year: 1975
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    Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic - Movie Review:

    Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, a made-for-TV movie which was released at the height of afterschool specials and fixing kids through the magic of television, tackled a taboo and, to most, unfamiliar topic in the mid-1970s - teenage alcoholism. Sarah T. (aka Sarah Travis), played by Linda Blair, is a fifteen-year-old from a broken home. Her parents, played by Verna Bloom and Larry Hagman, divorced during her pre-teen years. Sarah struggles with living with her mother and stepfather, played by William Daniels, and dealing with the everyday emotions and stresses of a teenager, feeling more of a connection to her father than her mother. Sarah longs to be with her father, who she perceives as a dreamer that her mother tried to stifle, but in reality has a drinking problem and lacks motivation in life.

    When Sarah and her mother and stepfather move to a new town and Sarah starts at a new school, we see that she has a hard time making friends, is very shy and lacks self-confidence. Her mother decides to play matchmaker and talks a neighbor into having her son, Ken, invite Sarah to a party. Ken, played by Mark Hamill, is older, popular, athletic and intelligent but Sarah, of course, is mortified when she finds out he was pushed into taking her out. Still Sarah’s mother forces her to go and Sarah ends up at a party with no shortage of underage drinking and shenanigans. She wants to leave as she feels so out of place, but Ken convinces her to have one drink to loosen up in hopes of her having fun. We slowly catch on that this is far from Sarah’s first drink and she definitely loosens up. One party-goer busts out a guitar and Sarah ends up singing the song she had attempted at glee club try-outs that she bombed with because she was too nervous. With her liquid courage she wins everyone over with her singing ability and Ken, who’s been a really good sport thus far but is clearly not interested, realizes there’s more to her and that she’s “not like the other girls.” The night continues with Sarah’s drinking continuing and Ken ends up having to bring her home to her mother and stepfather a drunken mess. He takes responsibility for pushing her to have one drink not aware that she was finishing people’s leftover glasses every time someone wandered away from it.

    She starts lying to everyone and ends up in the guidance counselor’s office, along with her mother who’s been called, for skipping classes and makes up excuses to try to make them feel sorry for her. The guidance counselor points out all of Sarah’s self-destructive behavior and suggests that if she continues down the road she’s on, it could end with suicide. Cheesy you may say, but this is actually a pretty dramatic film thus far. The counselor suggests a psychiatrist for Sarah which her mother is completely against. As the story progresses, Sarah and Ken connect and their relationship grows to the point that Ken wants her to stop drinking and Sarah wants more out of their relationship. With the way things are going, he doesn’t seem to want that and that sends Sarah into more of a downward spiral.

    I remember, as a kid, watching Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic on television multiple times. I wasn’t born when it first came out, but it was rerun a lot in the 80s. As a fan of afterschool specials for the exploitation aspect (of course, not knowing what that meant at the time…) this was a step up - more intense with more messed up characters. For some reason I enjoyed watching movies about people with problems and, honestly, I still do to this day. I haven’t seen this movie in over twenty years and figured, at this point, that it would be pretty hokey, but actually it’s well-acted and just as relevant today when you think about people of all ages suffering from alcoholism as well as other forms of addiction. It’s quite possible someone who’s never seen this won’t appreciate it. I’m always amazed how I can remember stuff like this in such great detail, but can barely remember the movie I watched yesterday. I enjoyed in in the 80s, I enjoyed it now. Linda Blair fans will like it because it’s Linda Blair. Fans of Richard Donner will find this early full-length feature of his interesting, as he had mostly done television episodes previously.

    Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic - Blu-ray Review:

    Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, which runs 96 minutes, boasts a new 2K scan of ‘the original film elements’ and is presented in a 1080p HD 1.33:1 transfer. As this never made it to DVD, this Region A Blu-ray release is the best the film has ever looked on home video. It looks great for what it is, especially considering it was originally made-for-tv. It was shot on film and it retains that film-like look throughout. The disc is well-authored, with no noticeable issues.

    The disc contains an English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio Mono language track with optional English subtitles. Audio is clear and subtitles are on point. Balance is fine and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion.

    Extras include two new featurettes, one with actress, Linda Blair, and the other with director, Richard Donner, and producer, David Levinson. The first runs approximately sixteen minutes long in which Blair talks about how she felt pressured to be in films at a young age. She really wanted to have a normal life and be in school to someday become a veterinarian and her stardom, at times, made her uncomfortable. She contrasts the differences in the way she had to prepare for the dialogue in this film compared to films like The Exorcist and Airport ’75. She remembers her friendship with Mark Hamill and the respect she had for him in helping her to become a better actress and think outside the box as she had no experience with the type of role she had to play in this film. She speaks of him quite fondly and cites him as an important part of her life growing up. She shares the impact this film had on fans that would come up to her and tell her they quit drinking because of her. Overall, she seems quite proud of being in a film with a message.

    In the second featurette, which runs approximately nineteen minutes, Richard Donner and Donald Levinson have a casual conversation about their memories and impressions of this film. They discuss its origins including how certain people got involved. Donner, who originally expressed no interest in directing Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic because he felt it was sensationalistic and not relevant, came on board after Levinson took him to an AA meeting and he realized that, at the time, alcoholism was, indeed, a problem for teenagers and children even younger than Sarah. Donner, as an accomplished director, says this film has always stayed with him as well as others involved that he is still close with. Levinson talks about the importance of the film having a positive message and laughs about the fact that some of the writers wanted Sarah’s character to die at the end. He tells us that when this film was originally aired, a phone number was displayed for people struggling with alcoholism to get help. Supposedly the phones were “ringing for three days straight.” A controversial concept, maybe, but one that resonated with more folks than expected.

    A still gallery with pictures, lobby cards and more is also included on the disc.

    Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic - The Final Word:

    Saying that this release of Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic was a lot of fun might seem a little odd considering the subject matter, but it really is an enjoyable piece of nostalgia for those who grew up watching it. Linda Blair has her own cult following and it’s neat to see Mark Hamill in the role of Ken two years before Star Wars became a thing. It’s also of historical interest to Richard Donner fans, being one of his first full length features. In the world of nerdom, this is an awesome release on so many levels. And hey, Shout! Factory… Born Innocent should be released next! Yep.

    Click on the images below for full sized Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      So would you say this one's not really good for unintentional laughs? I was going to pick it up, but I'm more interested in having a laugh than being moved.
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Pretty goofy. Probably even more so to someone who's never seen it.
    1. Maureen Champ's Avatar
      Maureen Champ -
      What an irony to starring in TVM about alcoholism in adolescence for Linda Blair who began drinking at 1980s
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Quote Originally Posted by Maureen Champ View Post
      What an irony to starring in TVM about alcoholism in adolescence for Linda Blair who began drinking at 1980s

      She was 21 by 1980...
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      Wasn't she fucking rock stars by the mid 70s?
    1. Maureen Champ's Avatar
      Maureen Champ -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alison Jane View Post
      She was 21 by 1980...
      just sayin'