Blu-ray Review: Firestarter (Collector’s Edition)

The legacy of Firestarter is more than what was shown on the screen. Italian film legend Dino de Laurentiis brought his crew to North Carolina to adapt Stephen King’s novel in 1983. They shot locations from the coast to the mountains in the Tarheel State. He learned that the land best known as the fictional location of Mayberry had a lot to offer. Instead of just going back to Hollywood, Dino set up his own studio in Wilmington and over the next 30 years, the film industry grew to include 100s of productions including many beloved films. Firestarter: The Collector’s Edition commemorates the cinematic blaze it launched in one state.

Andy McGee (Heartbreak Hotel‘s David Keith) and Vicky Tomlinson (Dynasty‘s Heather Locklear) meet during a drug test. The couple are given a hallucinogen called LOT-6 which doesn’t just put them on a trip, but makes them telepathic. The two are so in tune with each other that they don’t notice that the other guinea pigs are freaking out on a major scale. The duo end up getting married and have a daughter (E.T.‘s Drew Barrymore). Turns out the drug experiment is genetic and gives her the power to set things on fire. The secret government agency isn’t happy that there’s a kid with pyrokinetic abilities roaming the streets. The head of the agency (Dead Zone‘s Martin Sheen) wants her for further study. His best man (Patton‘s George C. Scott) hits the road to scoop her up after other agents end up blind and burning. When the father and daughter are caught, they’re brought back to the lab. During experiments, she exposes the depth of her power by setting cinderblocks on fire. The head of the agency sees her as the next big weapon to be used on on America’s enemies. The father wants them to escape, but he can come up with a scheme to jump the fence with his daughter in hand.

There’s a lot of fine elements that make Firestarter still entertaining. Drew Barrymore is such a sweetheart even when the wind blows her hair and she sets people on fire. The dad character is consistently inept. He doesn’t seem to get the big picture of his situation. When he’s on the run, he uses his powers to get quarters out of pay phones. Why isn’t he in front of a bank making the automatic teller cough up big bills? He knows killers are after him and he wants to tell the truth to the New York Times. Instead of high tailing it to Manhattan, he hides out at a relative’s lakehouse where The Show are obviously going to be staking it out. Even when there’s a sniper nearby, he stays in the open instead of hiding. His final scene has him screw his order. If he only did one stupid thing, he’d be a lame character. But constantly blowing it makes things right. George C. Scott’s killer must be the persona Steven Seagal ripped off for his movie roles. Scott has his long hair pulled into a ponytail, kills with efficient moves and wears an Indian jacket. Seagal lacks the depth Scott brings to his psychotic government snuffer.

The film lacks a bit of tension thanks to the bumbling score from Germany’s Tangerine Dream. The pioneering synth trio appear to have made music for a completely different film or an add for frozen peas. They had done fine work building atmosphere and drama in Thief, Sorcerer and Risky Business. But their music in Firestarter is a wet dishcloth that doesn’t add to the heat. The special effects audio blows away their work. This story goes that Tangerine Dream didn’t designated where the music went in the movie so director Mark L. Lester (Class of 1984) made his own choices. But this is not Lester’s fault since none of the piece have a “that would have worked better in this scene” feel. This movie reminds us how music if done right enhances everything.

Firestarter sticks close to the storyline in King’s novel so the action builds at a proper pace for the material. The fire effects look great after all these years. It’s exciting to see Drew throw fireballs at people. You get to see Heather Locklear’s waving around burning kitchen mitts. This is a film that’s aged better than imagined. While the movie wasn’t a blockbuster, its true legacy is that it allowed filmmakers to view North Carolina as a viable place to make movies outside of Hollywood and New York City.

The videos is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the glow in Drew’s face as she becomes a junior pyro. The audio is Mono 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Things sounds crisp and clear including the audio effects when Drew summons her burning power. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary With Director Mark L. Lester has him express his love for the film. He praises the Tangerine Dream soundtrack. He admits that Tangerine Dream just sent him songs and he placed the music wherever he wanted it placed. This might be part of the disconnect in which the music didn’t “seal the emotional deal” between film and viewer. He talks about plenty about shooting in North Carolina. He doesn’t wall to wall gab.

Playing With Fire: The Making Of FIRESTARTER (52:40) features interviews with Director Mark L. Lester, Actors Freddie Jones, Drew Snyder, Stuntman/Actor Dick Warlock and Johannes Schmoelling Of Tangerine Dream. Lester talk about how Dino wanted to work with him after his success with Class of 1984. Lester wanted to make Year of the Dragon, but Dino needed him to do Firestarter after Universal didn’t want John Carpenter to make it after the box off thud of The Thing. Lester was the one who suggest Dino check out North Carolina.

Tangerine Dream: Movie Music Memories (17:07) allows Johannes Schmoelling to give a history of the West German synth trio. He joined the band during their soundtrack era. He discusses how they came about with the music on Firestarter when they became popular in Hollywood.

Live Performance Of “Charlie’s Theme” By Johannes Schmoelling Of Tangerine Dream (2:33) is him playing the piece on his home piano. It’s a nice gentle piece that seems more in tune for a gymnastics routine at the Olympics than burning down a house.

Theatrical Trailers (3:43) sells us on how the little girl from E.T. is ready to set the world on fire. They promise lots of explosions.

Radio Spots (4:34) takes you back to cruising around when movies were plugged between Culture Club singles.

Still Gallery (5:57) feature plenty of pictures involving Drew Barrymore and fire. There’s even an autographed cast photo along with posters from around the world.

Scream Factory presents Firestarter: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Mark L. Lester. Screenplay by: Stanley Mann. Starring: David Keith, Drew Barrymore, Freddie Jones, Heather Locklear, Martin Sheen, George C. Scott, Art Carney & Louise Fletcher. Running Time: 115 minutes. Rated: R. Released: February 28, 2017.

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