Thursday, October 11, 2018

STARCHASER: THE LEGEND OF ORIN (1985) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Fries Film Group

Rating: PG
Duration: 100 Minutes 
Region Code: All  
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Steven Hahn
Cast: Joe Colligan, Carmen Argenziano, Noelle North

Synopsis: Deep within a subterranean Mine-World, a tribe of humans forced into a grim life of servitude by malevolent overlord Zygon knows nothing of the surface world or of hope... until a brave young boy named Orin discovers a sword with mysterious powers that only he can unlock! After escaping the Mine-World with his weapon, Orin teams with rogue smuggler Dagg, a beautiful princess and some trusty robots on an intergalactic mission to free his enslaved people and defeat the evil Zygon.

The animated Star Wars: A New Hope knock-off Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985) takes place in a galaxy far, far away, on the mining planet Trinia, where human descendants have lived as slaves for a millennia, living underground where they mine precious crystals for a "god" named Zygon. Here we have a hard-luck kid from the wrong end of the universe who finds a sword buried in the rock,you know, like the legend of Kind Arthur. This is a magic sword that holds the key to Orin's people's salvation, from the sword projects an image of an old wizardly looking man, not unlike R2D2 beaming the image of Obi-wan Kenobi, informing Orin that he was quest for the sword to free his people, and then he disappears along with the blade of the sword, leaving behind only a hilt.

When bad-guy Zygon kills Orin's gal pal he sets off on the quest, leading him to dig upwards to the planet's surface which his people have been told leads to Hell. Of course this is all a lie perpetuated by Zygon to keep his slaves from escaping, but he does find trouble on the surface, including half-man, half-cyborg creatures out to tear him apart to supplement their own grotesque bodies. He also makes friends with smuggler named San Holo... just kidding, the smuggler's name is Dagg Dibrimi, an anti-hero stereotype modeled after who else - Han Solo - who has a pair of sparring robots on his hot-shit smuggling vessel - the Starchaser.  One of the robots is really the Starchaser's nav-computer while the other is a sexy-fembot named Silica who definitely has a thing for Dagg. The only thing missing here is a princess, ow wait, nope we have a love interest for Orin, a Governor's daughter named Aviana. 

So yeah, this is a total rip of A New Hope, but having watched so many cheap Italian knock-offs and Roger Corman produced b-movie crap shoots it was nicely refreshing to have a full-on hand-drawn cell animated film with some computer 3D generated space crafts, which looks real cool, as do some of the alien background paintings. Zygon is the Darth-styled baddie here, aided by an arsenal of robot minions comparable to Storm Troopers, from a design standpoint they were my least favorite of the animated creations here, otherwise I think the design and animation team here did some astounding work. I'd say a good comparison of the animation style and of the movie as a whole is Star Wars: A New Hope by way of animated anthology Heavy Metal (1981).   

This is a PG film but it's way darker than the rating implies, we have slaves and kids being kicked around, Orin's girlfriend is straight-up strangled to death, and there's a finale kill that seems to predict Darth Maul's demise, which is funny considering this is a knock-off of Star Wars to begin with, the universe decided it would be fun to return the theft twenty-five years later!

Audio/Video: Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985) debuts on Blu-ray from Fries Entertainment Group, from what I can tell this is their first HD release - the catalog title is RE 01. The film is presented in 108p HD widescreen (2.35:1), grain is present and the image shows some grit and debris throughout, the animation can be uneven and wobbly at times, but overall I was pleased. Colors looks good, it's not a crisp image, but on occasion the animation is does have a nice pop to it, but it's pleasing, just not eye-poppingly vibrant. Audio 
is unfortunately handled by a lossy Dolby Digital stereo track, like the video presentation it is serviceable but doesn't showcase the best the format has to offer, the decision to go with lossy audio seems particularly lazy to me, optional English subtitles are provided. 

There are no extras of any kind on this release, not even a trailer for the movie, very disappointing. The main menu is animated, offering options to play, scene selection and optional English subtitling. This was initially released in cinemas as a 3D offering, one of the first 3-D animations ever, so it's a shame we do not get the option to view it as such, especially considering that the rights holder apparently has a 3D DCP in their arsenal! For what it's worth there's a thread on one of the forum's where screenwriter Jeffrey Scott seemed to confirm that a 3D HD version is in the works, so keep your double-dipping money handy.  

The single-disc release comes in a standard keepcase with a sleeve of artwork featuring baddie Zygon on the cover, the reverse side features scenes from the film and an original one-sheet, but this is not a reversible style artwork. This release also includes a 3-D lenticular cover - which I think is kind of a slap in the face all things considered, a 3D slip for a 2D version of a 3D film  - featuring Orin holding the legendary sword with the main in the background as floating heads. The slip artwork is not representative of the animation style, though the wrap artwork is, the same artwork used on the slip is featured on the disc itself.

It only took me thirty years but glad to have finally caught up with this slice of 80s animation, a solid film with more than a few nods and thefts from Star Wars: A New Hope, but with enough original elements and fun sci-fi action fun to keep me glued to the TV the whole time. It really is too bad we don't get this in 3D with some extras, but glad to have it HD just the same, but be prepared for the possibility of a double-dip for a potential 3D Blu-ray. 

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