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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Star Chamber [Blu-ray]

 

(Peter Hyams, 1983)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Video: Starz / Anchor Bay

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:48:46.520 

Disc Size: 20,970,190,283 bytes

Feature Size: 20,919,613,440 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.88 Mbps

Chapters: 11

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 28th, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1264 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1264 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Embedded: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

• None

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Fed up with watching vicious criminals walk on technicalities and loopholes, judge Michael Douglas accepts his older colleague Hal Holbrook's invitation to join "The Star Chamber." This sub-rosa organization consists of nine like-minded judges who endeavor to take the law into their own hands. Essentially, these are robed vigilantes, but Douglas joins them, determining that the end justifies the means. Before long, however, Douglas finds himself balking at sanctioning the murder of freed criminals -- and as a result becomes the target of the Star Chamber himself. Worth noting in the supporting cast of The Star Chamber are Diana Douglas, Michael Douglas' real-life mother, and Frances Bergen, widow of Edgar Bergen and mother of Candice Bergen.

 

 

The Film:

Peter Hyams has shown himself, with films like ''Busting,'' ''Outland'' and ''Capricorn One,'' to be a stylish, flippant director, capable of generating a great deal of suspense as well as action scenes that really pack a wallop. ''The Star Chamber,'' which opens today at Loews Tower East and other theaters, begins so excitingly that Mr. Hyams appears to have outdone himself.

Two undercover detectives, trailing a suspicious-looking man, find a clever way of obtaining his gun without a search warrant. The man, we know, has murdered several elderly women and stolen their welfare checks. When this man gets to court, the very decent and honorable-looking Judge Steven Hardin (Michael Douglas) knows this, too. But he also knows that the gun has been obtained in a questionable manner and that he cannot uphold the legality of the search. So Judge Hardin lets this murderer go free - and the judge's tormented conscience sets in motion the events that turn ''The Star Chamber'' into a tale of vigilante justice.

Mr. Hyams repeats and builds on several more such episodes, which, dramatically loaded and legally questionable as they may be, are very forceful indeed. So it is a great disappointment, halfway into the movie, to find ''The Star Chamber'' so far off the track that its credibility almost entirely disappears. Judge Hardin, who begins the film as a sympathetic and well-drawn character, eventually finds himself much too deeply enmeshed in developments no audience will believe. And the notion of vigilante justice, to which the title refers (this was the arbitrary and tyrannical English court - abolished in the 17th century - with the power to overrule other judicial bodies) becomes muddled and even neutralized by the time the story is over. .

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

Where is the justice, High Court Judge Hardin (Douglas) wonders, when the innocent suffer and the clearly guilty go free on a technicality. In books? In the judicial system he has sworn to uphold? Or is he the law? Reluctantly, he joins The Star Chamber, a clandestine society of judges who re-try and pass sentence on certain 'messy' cases. From the opening sequence - a pell-mell chase through a confusion of colour, movement and sound - Hyams constructs a tense and absorbing thriller; but as in previous filmic efforts to confront this elusive moral issue (...And Justice for All, for example), the subtleties escape faster than the criminals. Just as Douglas discovers that he can go only so far along the extra-judicial path, so the film's line of reasoning twists part-way, falters, then ties itself into tangled and inconclusive knots.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Star Chamber comes to on Blu-ray from Starz / Anchor Bay.  The image has some edge-enhancement halos (see sample below). It's not egregious but it is there. The image quality is fairly inconsistent with many sequences looking inferior to others.  This is only single-layered with a middling bitrate and I doubt it looked 'stunning' in its theatrical release. For the most part this Blu-ray is watchable and the digital manipulation is not offensive although there is some noise and detail is never stellar.  By modern standards this is pretty weak visually although I can guess that dual-layering would advance the contrast and depth. This Blu-ray is probably an improvement over the last DVD but it misses on achieving the fullest capabilities of this format.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edge Enhancement halos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio comes in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround at a modest 1264 kbps. There are instances with separation but I never found it head-turning or particularly crisp. The score by Michael Small (Child's Play, Night Moves, The Driver) seems competent but not overwhelming in the lossless transfer. There are English subtitles accessible via your remotes 'subtitle button' and the Blu-ray disc is region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Nothing - not even a menu.

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The film is marred with weaknesses and, not to be a nitpicker but even the cover image is wrong - in no scene that I recall does Douglas carry a gun. The Blu-ray is pretty abysmal with limitations in most areas (a/v, no extras, no menu). I wish I liked the film more - or that it had a more solid conclusion but we give this a definite 'pass' - save your dough.

Gary Tooze

May 21st, 2013

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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