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Blu-Ray Review: Deaf Crocodile’s The Son of the Stars (Collector’s Edition)

The Son of the Stars

The Mad Geniuses at Deaf Crocodile are back at it, this time with the Romanian-produced ‘80s psychedelic sci-fi animated epic The Son of the Stars.  

The Film 

Co-Directors Călin Cazan’s and Mircea Toia spiritual sequel to the trippy Delta Space MissionThe Son of the Stars, is a worthy cinematic predecessor.  It’s the sort of grand adventure and exploration of space that feels more akin to Frank Herbert and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  

A husband-and-wife team of space explorers attempts to rescue a fellow marooned explorer that appears to be 800 years old.  The mystery of the Van Kleef Space Belt is too much for them to pass up and leave their young son Dan in the care of their ship’s computer B.o.B.  The space belt not only destroys and kills Dan’s parents but causes the ship to crash on a planet inhabited by creatures who solely communicate through their minds.  As Dan grows up, secrets are revealed, and his destiny is attained.  Through a series of ever increasingly difficult – and psychedelic – trials, Dan begins to see clearer and clearer his destiny and the possibility he may be able to save not only his parents, the marooned explorer but all the creatures that have been trapped in the Van Kleef Belt.

The Son of the Stars is the type of expansive head-trip grand adventure that recalls – as many have pointed out – the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and specifically Tarzan.  Co-Directors Cazan and Toia have created a wonderful film that pops with colors and inventive in its design.  The Hanna-Barbera-inspired animation style gives the film a timeless feel that is as beautiful as it is unique to the Science Fiction genre.  

One will see certain troupes and archetypes used in familiar ways – as is the case with most ‘80s sci-fi.  Yes, The Empire Strikes BackDune, and Alien all loom over the film but they only loom in the faintest of shading.  The Son of the Star revels in its own codifying and styling around those details. Take the trials/training montage that shows Dan being tested, the way this plays out is just different enough from other films of this type.  Even the ending and how Dan must resolve the issues against the “force” – pun intended – he is facing, plays out in a way that you would not expect.  Though if one knows the era and place this was produced in – e.g. Communist Romania – one will not be surprised.  

The Son of the Stars is as lovely and grandiose as Cazan and Toia’s Delta Space Mission.  Further refining the beautiful animation style and storytelling they began with their first effort.  It’s the kind of Moonage Daydream that David Bowie sang about so rhapsodically fifty years ago. 

The Transfer

From Deaf Crocodile; 

New 4K scan of THE SON OF THE STARS from the original 35mm negative and sound elements with digital restoration by Craig Rogers of Deaf Crocodile Films. 

Much like their Delta Space Mission Blu-Ray, the Sorcerers at DC (looking at you Craig Rogers) have worked their magic to give us another flawless transfer.  The sharp image is colorful and verbose with no artifacting or ghosting present.  It cannot be stressed enough how DC understands film restoration and presentation isn’t merely cleaning an image up.  They understand that the biggest part of the restoration is persevering the theatrical experience in the way that these artists intended it to look.  That translates to a transfer with a beautiful patina of film grain, something that has the look and feel of an archival 35mm print.  Deaf Crocodile continues to be at the forefront of film preservation breathing life back into titles that many of us cineastes knew existed.  

Between this and their recent revelatory work on Solomon King this reviewer is beyond excited to see their work on Assault on Precinct 13 and equally as important … the other films they are releasing we don’t know about.  

The Extras

  • New commentary track by film journalist Samm Deighan 
  • New interview with co-director Călin Cazan

The all-new commentary track by film journalist Samm Deighan opens with production details and what makes the film fascinating to her and where it lines up in Romanian film.  Some of the other details include how closely the film hues to Rice-Boroughs Tarzan and its archetypes, the connections to Delta Space Mission – it’s essentially a “loose sequel”, a larger conversation about the various influences the film pulled from, the origins of the film similar to Delta Space Mission as it began as a series of short episodes, the Romanian film industry at the time – as a Soviet Controlled Nation – and their access to more western films, the sci-fi genre and how it pulls – in this film – from fairy tales, folklore, fantasy, exploration/adventure, a discussion of how Dune relates to The Son of The Stars, how this film deals with the themes of what Romania was going through politically during the time, the censorship and process they had to go through to get Delta Space Mission and The Son of The Stars, the regime changes that caused them to not be able to make a third animated film, some of the Romanian Authors that influenced the film and larger science fiction works, the English Language Authors that included the film, the rise of “Socialist Realism” rather than genre in Romania and the Eastern Bloc in general – and how the genre material got through and how The Son of The Stars was influenced by this, a side conversation about a book called “It’s Hard to be a God” and how it relates to the film, a discussion of John Carter of Mars and its closeness to the film, a historical account of the Romanian occupation by Russian – and context of how artists were allowed to create more “liberal” Communist/Socialist government and not as oppressive and how this relates and correlates to their Science Fiction output, On the Silver Globe – another science fiction movie that its director was banned and took years to finish, a discussion of the Romanian Secret Police – who happened to be the worst of the Secret Police of the Eastern Bloc, and a further discussion about the oppressiveness and eventually the resistance that came about out of it, the rise of animated film in the Eastern Bloc and how it relates to director Călin Cazan and his production Company, a discussion about what makes The Son of the Stars so special and so unique within the sci-fi genre and much more.  Much like she did with Zero Grad, Samm Deighan, delivers another exhaustive, thoroughly researched, enlightening commentary track.  Those unfamiliar and familiar with Romanian films, the work of Călin Cazan will be delighted by her track.  

Interview with Co-Director Călin Cazan (49:34) – in this all-new with co-director Călin Cazan, the director discusses The Son of the Stars.  Interviewed by Deaf Crocodile co-founder Denis Bartok via Zoom, this is essentially a continuation of their conversation that began with Delta Space Mission.  Some of the details include their pitching of The Son of the Stars how it butted up against the completion of Delta Space Mission, the development of the look and design of the film, the inspiration he pulled from Tarzan, Robinson Caruso on Mars, The Jungle Book [the Sabu starring version], the heavy influence of The Empire Strikes Back, the way they produced the film – as shorts first then combining them to make a film like Delta Space Mission, how he worked/collaborated with co-director Mircea Toia, the release and how it was received by critics, a great conversation about where the telekinetic aspect of the film came from, a deep dive into the production process on this animated film and how it was produced, a discussion of rotoscoping and how it was used here – and some great visual examples of how this is particular process is produced, his love and inspiration of Hanna-Barbera Productions, the casting and working with the voice cast, the multiple titles of the film, and much more.  Bartok as a host knows exactly how to guide this fascinating conversation and what everyone wants to know about this truly special animated film.  

The Final Thought 

The Son of the Stars continues Deaf Crocodile’s amazing curation of rare gems of cinema.  Picture, sound, and extras are all what we are beginning to come to expect from the Boutique label.  Highest Possible recommendations!!! 

Deaf Crocodile’s Blu-Ray edition of The Son of the Stars is out February 28th