Color, 1985, 99 mins. 49 secs.
Directed by Steven Hahn Fries Film Group (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), MGM (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1)
Poised somewhere between Heavy Metal and Transformers lies this ambitious animated feature, the first full-length one to be produced and shown in 3-D on a major international scale. It's also part of the great three-dimensional, sci-fi/fantasy sweepstakes that flourished very briefly with other, similarly long-titled films like Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, though only that last (and least) of the three has been released on Blu-ray in its original 3-D presentation to date.
Enslaved by robotic overlords as a crystal miner, young Orin discovers a mystical sword buried in one of the cave rocks and soon discovers that it holds the key to discovering the vast galaxy up above. Fulfilling his destiny, Orin leaves behind his blind little brother, Calli, and sets off with friend Elan to discover the truth about their evil overseer, Zygon. Along the way he encounters body part-scavenged androids, a Han Solo-style rakish smuggler named Dagg, and a provocative female robot, Silica, all of whom will play their part in his mission to free his people.
In terms of storyline you won't find anything very surprising in what amount to another space opera hero's journey tale, but the colorful execution and sometimes surreal imagery make this one stick in the memory. Zygon makes for a particularly striking villain (so much so that he dominated most of the film's poster art), and the rousing score by Andrew Belling (The Killing Kind) manages to evoke just enough of John Williams to be effective while throwing in some very mid-'80s electronic touches. Not surprisingly, this caught on with more than a handful of impressionable young viewers even if it didn't set the box office on fire, and it's maintained a quiet but devoted cult following ever since.
The first DVD of Starchaser appeared in 2005 from MGM with a decent enough but zoomboxed 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. In 2018, current rights holder Fries Film Group released the film via CAV as separate Blu-ray and DVD editions, and you really have to admire the marketing cheek of plastering a big sticker on the front touting "Blu-ray featuring 3D Lenticular Cover." Only the 2-D version is included here (though a 3-D DCP has been created and is available for exhibition), a perplexing decision given the film's importance to the format and the effectiveness of its 3-D effects on the big screen. Image quality is vastly superior to the previous MGM presentation though, and until someone gets around to giving this one the red carpet treatment it deserves, fans might find it a modest upgrade. Optional English subtitles are offered, though in another puzzler, the Dolby Digital 2.0 English audio is mono rather than the theatrical stereo mix.