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Groundstar Conspiracy, The
Based on the novel by L.P. Davis, 1972's The Groundstar Conspiracy, directed by Lamont Johnson, begins when a massive explosion rocks The Groundstar Research Complex, a clandestine laboratory run by the American Government. In the explosion, a half dozen very important scientists lost their lives, clearly setting things back quite a bit! It turns out the man responsible for the blast was none other than John David Welles (Michael Sarrazin), an employee. He was found alive but injured, holding some top-secret documents that he had stolen from the facility.
To try and get to the bottom of how and why this happened in the first place, the Feds bring in Tuxan (George Peppard), a tough as nails investigator who isn't afraid to do what it takes to get the job done by whatever means necessary. As he starts looking into the event and the people involved with it, he learns that Welles' memory has somehow been erased, which will make it tough to get much out of him in the way of information. When Welles manages to escape, Tuxan, of course, gives chase. Soon, Welles has teamed up with a beautiful woman named Nicole Devon (Christine Belford) and he begins to slowly but surely rebuild his memories, but the more he learns about his own peculiar past the less he likes it as the events pull him deeper and deeper into what appears to be a very high level conspiracy.
The Groundstar Conspiracy is ninety-five-minutes well spent. The film won't change your life, but it does deliver some really solid entertainment, particularly if you've got an affinity for seventies espionage and conspiracy pictures, a genre that this picture obviously falls into. The story features some interesting ideas and some solid twists, the whole ‘lost memory' maybe a bit of a cliché but it is played up well in this picture. Lamont Johnson directs well, controlling the pacing and delivering just enough information at just the right speed to keep viewers intrigued. There's some decent action set pieces in the pictures as well, and a strong score. Production values are, generally speaking, up to snuff and occasionally even impressive.
The cast is pretty decent too. Peppard is the star of the show and he makes the most of it. He may have been fairly typecast as an actor but Tuxan is the type of role that he excelled at, even if he didn't always come across as an actor with the most range. But he's good here, fun to watch and convincingly surly at times, playing the tough guy role well and making it look easy at the same time. Michael Sarrazin is pretty solid in this picture as well, playing the man with the missing memory stereotype pretty effectively and doing a nice job of keeping us guessing as to the truth behind his character's actions and motivations. Christine Belford isn't given as much to do as the two male leads, her character is rather underwritten, but that's hardly her fault. She handles the material that she's given just fine.
This isn't a perfect film, mind you. Some of the twists you'll see coming and the movie definitely feels dated (though isn't that half the charm of seventies conspiracy thrillers in the first place?). There are moments where we could have had better and stronger character development than we get. Overall though, if you go into this with realistic expectations you can have a lot of fun with it, and watching George Peppard kick ass for an hour and a half is genuinely entertaining.
The Groundstar Conspiracy arrives on a 50GB region free Blu-ray disc from the Kino Lorber with the feature presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35.1 widescreen taking up 30GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The transfer, which is taken from a new 2k master, is a good one, offering nice detail, great color reproduction and strong black levels. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, nor is there any evidence of noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about, the picture always looks nice and filmic, the grain looking maybe a little thicker here than your average film, but not in a bad way at all. There is some occasional softness inherent in the source material and maybe just a slight bit of crush in a couple of the darker spots, but otherwise this looks very nice on Blu-ray.
The main audio track on the disc is an English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The audio here sounds just fine. The levels are nicely balanced and the track is free of any hiss or distortion. There's a good bit of depth here and the dialogue is always clear, the score has some moments of impressive depth. No complaints about the audio on this release.
The main extra on the disc is a new audio commentary by Film Historian and Filmmaker Daniel Kremer and Film Critic Scout Tafoya. It's a good talk, covering the film's origins, the life and times of its director, details about the cast and crew, lots of info about Peppard in particular, thoughts on the effectiveness of some key scenes and lots more. They keep it consistently engaging, it's like watching a movie with two really knowledgeable friends.
Rounding out the extras is a theatrical trailer for the feature and bonus trailers for a few other Kino Lorber properties. The disc also comes with menus and chapter selection.
The Groundstar Conspiracy is a solid spy thriller with some good moments of tension and fine performances form the cast, Peppard in particular. Kino Lorber brings this one to Blu-ray with a very nice presentation of the feature and a good audio commentary as its main supplement. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.