***½/**** Image A- Sound A-
starring Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel
screenplay by Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon
directed by John Carpenter
by Bryant Frazer Strange as it may sound, back in the early-1980s this gentle yet seriously weird fantasy about a woman who drives a socially-challenged clone of her dead husband across the U.S. (so he can rendezvous with his spaceship) was actually considered a safe commercial bet for the embattled director John Carpenter. Carpenter was always an avowed fan of traditional Hollywood entertainments, and he claimed to be attracted to making Starman as a contemporary version of It Happened One Night, Frank Capra's prototypical screwball comedy about an antagonistic couple who learn to love one another on the road. It seemed like an unlikely gearshift for Carpenter, who had recently remade The Thing from Another World as a tense, supremely chilling, and truly horrific metaphor for paranoia. But for the man who had his ass handed to him when that masterpiece had the bad luck to open not only in a moviegoing environment that had turned hostile to horror, but also directly opposite the ripely sentimental box-office juggernaut E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Starman represented something else. It wasn't merely an opportunity for Carpenter to helm a fundamentally good-natured, optimistic science-fiction film--it was possibly a chance to rehabilitate his career.