Color, 1988, 78 mins. 39 secs.
Directed by Călin Cazan and Mircea Toia
Deaf Crocodile (Blu-ray) (US RA HD)
Hot on the heels of its eye-popping 2022 Blu-ray release of the psychedelic sci-fi animated freak out Delta Space Mission, Deaf Crocodile strikes again with another film from the same Romanian creative team, The Son of the Stars (Fiul Stelelor). Very obscure outside its native country, this is another one that could play as a wild cinematic trip, a meditative a/v experience, or a fun interstellar adventure for the whole family. Jammed with aesthetic surprises, it's the perfect new discovery if you're a fan of films like Fantastic Planet, Fire and Ice, Wizards, or Heavy Metal-- but with a wild sensibility all its own.
In a galactic void known as the Van Kleef Belt, hazards await any crews unlucky enough to venture inside. When his parents become its latest claims, young Dan (in the best Joseph Campbell tradition) is left to be raised by blobby aliens and the ship's computer who nurture him to manhood. As it turns out, Dan has a proclivity for extrasensory gifts that his companions believe can be a liberating force inside the Belt, in addition to being a way to possibly finding out the fate of his family. Soon that voyage into the heart of the mystery involves lots of cosmic strangeness including a gigantic, powerful floating eyeball.
A stoner space opera par excellence, The Son of the Stars has a hypnotic vibe up there with directors Călin Cazan and Mircea Toia's prior film thanks to its vivid color scheme (a bit earthier and warmer here than what was seen in Delta) and another ear-tickling electronic score that could have been written yesterday. The concept is a straightforward young man on an odyssey story, though the many digressions and flights of fancy are more akin to anime than what was being turned out by Western animators at the time. Just go with the flow though and you'll be absolutely fine.
For its first English-friendly appearance anywhere, Deaf Crocodile has brought this film to Blu-ray in high style with a pristine restoration from the original 35mm negative with an impressive level of detail throughout and a nice rendition of the funky color palette. The DTS-HD MA Romanian mono track is also in excellent shape and features optional English subtitles, though this isn't the the most dialogue-heavy movie around. Samm Deighan provides another informative and well-balanced audio commentary examining the tropes of '80s science fiction, the literary influences including Tarzan, the circumstances of Romania and its political situation at the time, and lots more. The sole video extra here is a substantial one, a 49m34s Q&A over Zoom between Calin Cazan and Dennis Bartok about the film's creation, its status coming after Delta, the desire to make a name for Romanian animation, and his thoughts on the film's legacy. An insert booklet is also included featuring a new essay by the always welcome Stephen R. Bissette examining the artistry of the film's animation, its ties to space-themed comic art, and the distinguishing points of its character designs.
Reviewed on April 6, 2023