Color, 1982, 95m. / Directed by Gillian Armstrong / Starring Jo Kennedy, Ross O'Donovan, Margo Lee, Max Cullen, Ned Lander, Pat Evison / Blue Underground (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DTS/DD5.1, Umbrella (Australia R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DD2.0

Following the international success of her feminist period piece My Brilliant Career, Australian director Gillian Armstrong veered in a completely unexpected direction with this off-the-wall New Wave musical comedy, the obvious inspiration for such later films as Muriel's Wedding, Strictly Ballroom, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Splashy and colorful, it established a new style of Aussie filmmaking now firmly ingrained in the Hollywood consciousness.

The basic "let's put on a show" storyline follows young red-haired dreamer Jackie Mullens (Kennedy) and her cousin, aspiring "business manager" Angus (O'Donovan), through a series of mishaps on the road to local stardom. With the encouragement of her pub-owning Nana (Evison), she hones her showbiz skills at home and talks Angus into a number of wild schemes (dressing up in a red kangaroo outfit to get them into a local club to perform and walking a tightrope across a busy city intersection while wearing a huge pair of comedy breasts being the most memorable). In between musical numbers and Jackie's romantic fumblings with another singer, Robbie (Lander), they gradually climb their way to a splashy television finale on The Wow! Show at the Sydney Opera House where the spotlight allows Jackie to raise some much-needed cash for her family and perform for the adoring public as well.

Easily one of the best '80s musicals, Starstruck has been largely forgotten today thanks to the impossibility of tracking down video copies or TV screenings in most countries. Too bad, as it's immensely enjoyable, day-glo-colored fun with one catchy tune after another. The standout "Body and Soul" became an Australian chart hit, but the other songs like "The Monkey in Me" will lodge in your head for days afterward; though briefly available on vinyl, the soundtrack has been screaming for a CD release for years. The oddball Kennedy makes an appealing lead with her quirky line delivery and chirpy singing, while everyone seems to be having a lot of fun whether dashing around in goofy jumpsuits or performing an impromptu shark-themed dance routine in a swimming pool.

Fans still clutching onto their ancient Embassy laserdiscs can thankfully chuck them aside after seeing this one DVD, with both options from the US and Australia presenting a new anamorphic transfer and a host of extras. The film looks sharper and far more colorful than before, while the widescreen framing restores some much-needed composition to the song and dance numbers. However, the Australian print is surprisingly battered and features an unusual number of scratches and speckles, while the Blue Underground version has gone a considerable amount of additional clean-up. The stereo surround on both versions does the music justice, though the dialogue was recorded a bit low and still sounds muffled in spots (as it always has). The Blue Underground version also offers a DTS-ES 6.1 mix and a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, which still sound a bit thin due to the recording of the original material but offer a bit of an upgrade for audiophiles. Producer Richard Brennan turns in an audio commentary for the main feature in which he runs down the entire production process from start to finish, telling stories about even minor performers and explaining the musical scene Down Under at the time.

On the extras side, the discs are fairly comparable with Blue Underground offering the bonuses on a separate second disc. Armstrong appears with co-producer David Elfick and cinematographer Russell Boyd for a featurette, "Putting on the Show," in which they swap memories of the film. Most surprising: Armstrong reveals she got the directing gig for MGM's heavy period drama Mrs. Soffel based on this film, not My Brilliant Career! Writer Stephen MacLean contributes a video interview in "A Screenwriter Reflects," a leisurely chat apparently filmed beachside in which he looks back with amusement at some of the critical reaction to the film ("they say it's all about sex and matriarchal figures") and recalls sitting in on a repertory screening with wildly varied reactions to the film. Other goodies include a teaser, the American and Australian theatrical trailers, a stills gallery, and alternate and extended scenes (some of which were in the original first run Australian prints running around 102 minutes). The Australian disc also tosses in a clip of Kennedy and company performing "Body and Soul" on the TV show Countdown, presumably excluded from the American disc for licensing reasons. It's cute but not that much of a loss.

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