The Last Starfighter The Last Starfighter
Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen
16x9 Enhanced
5.1 Dolby Digital Surround
Commentary with Director and Production Designer
Captioned in English
Subtitled in French
Film Highlights
Production Notes
Talent Bios
Theatrical Teaser
Theatrical Trailer
Production Photographs
Universal Web Links
Dual Layered
101 Minutes
Rated: PG
Catalog #: 20519
Amaray Keep Case Packaging
Average Bitrate: 7.56Mb/s

Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is trapped. He dreams of escaping the life he has known in the trailer park where he lives. He has been turned down for a student loan which would enable him to enter college and become more than the trailer park "Mr. Fix It". His only escape is Starfighter, a video game which is located outside the general store. When he breaks the record on Starfighter, he is whisked away to an alien planet where he is recruited to defend The Frontier against the enemies of the Star League. After a bit of convincing, he dons a flight suite and begins the impossible mission of saving the worlds of the Star League from the advances of the evil KO-DAN.

Universal has presented the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the first time in the United States with this DVD release. The previous US release was a Pan & Scan LaserDisc which lost too much information on the sides. Universal produced a Japanese "Collectors Edition" of the film, through Pony Video, mastered in CAV and Digital sound in 1987. That version, while composed in the correct aspect ratio, was a bit soft and was lacking in detail. This new transfer is exceptionally sharp and clear with much better visual detail than any previous video release. On the down side, it has been darkened a bit from previous versions. It's not bad, but it did bother me.

Universal has returned to the 4-track magnetic master from the 70mm theatrical release for this edition, encoding it into a 5.1 Dolby Digital track. The front three channels are exceptionally well defined and the LFE track is quite active as well. I could not detect any presence of split surrounds during my viewing. The rear channel includes some atmospheric audio effects and music, but not much else. In any case, the audio is very well presented.

Along with the film, we are presented with a commentary track with Director Nick Castle and Production Designer Ron Cobb. The commentary is recorded badly and both men are too far away from the microphones which, couple with the overall low volume, tends to create too much echo. For the content, there is some mildly interesting information presented, but nothing that is earth shattering. There isn't much detail given as to the actual construction of the special effects and so forth. The commentary is recorded in stereo with Nick Castle in the left channel and Ron Cobb in the right. Accessing the commentary is rather tricky. Universal typically offers access to the commentary track through the "Languages" section of the main menu and through the "Bonus Materials" menu. With this title however, the track is only available through the "Bonus Materials" section.

The disc also features a documentary, Crossing the Frontier: Making The Last Starfighter. The 32 minute program is hosted by Lance Guest and looks back on the ground breaking special effects. There is loads of information here on the creation of the CGI effects as well as behind the scenes footage from the set. I was hoping to see more of the actual "nuts and bolts" of the computer generated graphics, presented in a similar fashion as was done in the Toy Story Special Edition LaserDisc from Disney / Pixar.

Also included are the Theatrical Teaser & Theatrical Trailer both presented in 1.85:1. There is also a section of production photographs, presented in a series of 9 groupings. Inside each group, stills play out over the course of a few minutes. Since still frame archives are not easily workable in the DVD environment, the disc steps to a new frame every six or seven seconds. Each still is also placed at a chapter stop which allows for easy forward and reverse stepping of the segment. Stepping forward is further simplified by pressing the "select" button on the remote.

Universal has unleashed a new graphical icon set with this title, which is also included on all the June 1999 titles. In theory, it should standardize the feature set to help make navigation easier. It's interesting to the bitrate on the disc. The first 58 minutes are encoded at a constant bitrate of 8.3mb/s and the final 43 minutes drop to a variable bitrate. Even in the variable bitrate area, it never drops below 5mb/s. I mention this only because I believe this is the first non-DTS disc from Universal to use a constant bitrate for at least part of the program. The new Collector's Edition of Psycho (1998) also uses an insane bitrate, 8.0mb/s on average, but it is a variable datarate signal.

There is a LaserDisc edition, part of Universal's Signature Collection, which includes all of the same materials available on this DVD. It was not available for review at the time of this writing.

The Last Starfighter has been a personal favorite of mine since I saw the film at a sneak preview in 1984. I was so captivated by the story and the visuals. I had an instant crush on Catherine Mary Stewart and was always eager to see her in other films, like the very under rated Night of the Comet. You really feel for the characters and actually care what happens to them. What a perfect way to end an adventure - the hero not only saves the day, but comes back to get the girl. For years I would use the name "Alex Rogan" as the name of my pilot in various flight simulator games. Watching it again, as the film celebrates its 15th anniversary, the technology behind the graphics may be old, but the film is still as fresh and enjoyable as it was that day I had to sit in the first row, getting a kink in my neck from being only 10 feet from the screen.

Overall, I am somewhat disappointed in the supplemental materials, and as a result in the ratio of extras to price. That aside, this new Collector's Edition is well representative of a wonderful film and is an excellent addition to the DVD library.

Updated: May 22, 1999
Copyright ©1999 Blam Entertainment Group