I am always elated when any studio announced the Blu-ray release of older catalog titles that I never thought would see the light of day. From the Marilyn Monroe’s and Hitchcock’s of last year to the Chuck Norris films and classic horror that has been finding its way to hi def, I have been a happy camper. This year the studios seem to be shifting some focus to action films and thrillers and this summer we will be seeing the release of films like Passenger 57, Rolling Thunder, Shane, The Shadow, Ninja III, Cohen and Tate, Action Jackson, Body Double, The Presidio, Death Hunt and many more. And that is just what has been announced so far. But to start off the season we have one of my favorite 80s thriller/drama’s, The Star Chamber.
Judge Hardin (Michael Douglas) has just been forced to dismiss the case of a 10-year-old boy’s assault and rape due to legal technicalities. Frustrated with the system, Hardin seeks the counsel of an old friend, Judge Caulfield (Hal Holbrook), who tells him of a secret Star Chamber, a group of judges who dispense justice outside of the law. But when their judgement turns out to be incorrect, Hardin wants out. The Star Chamber has different plans however, as nobody gets out of the group alive.
The Star Chamber is just an awesome example of 80s thriller filmmaking at its most fun. The plot is great, the pacing brisk, and the acting is solid across the board (but especially by Douglas and Hal Holbrook). The story is engrossing and disturbing even today. As our crime rates are still out of hand and violence in the news is as commonplace as it has always been, the thought of vigilante justice is just as topical as ever. And Star Chamber tells the story well and with lots of entertainment value.
The Blu-ray from Anchor Bay shows the age of the film, but is still a great improvement over any previous versions of the film. The 80s grain is apparent but not overwhelming, the colors are muted but solid, the detail and clarity trump old DVD versions but are still not 100% up to current standards, and the soundtrack is passable. All in all though, this is a solid transfer that more than makes me happy considering such a film may never have even seen the light of day. Let’s hope this release trend keeps up.
Available May 28, 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD.