Those who say that 'Star' is the performance of Garland's career are not exaggerating - this is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest musicals of all time.
It has a whole array of cracking songs, from the opening dance number 'Gotta Have Me Go With You' to the marvellous 'Born in a Trunk' ensemble and, of course, the classic 'The Man That Got Away', of which Garland's recording is undoubtedly the definitive version. By and large I'm not a huge fan of Ira Gershwin's lyrics, but this film proves that a great song is about great emotion, and some of these provocative numbers will surely get your heart pounding.
What sets 'Star' apart from other classic musicals is that, despite having great songs, these aren't what the film is about. This is a genuinely moving tale of tragedy, sublimely acted by the two leads; Garland displays real vulnerability and yet also power, while Mason shows the depth of a man on the edge of oblivion, fighting with alcoholism and his inner demons. Some of these incredibly heartfelt scenes bring a tear (or more) to the eye.
So, a fantastic film, but it’s immeasurably enhanced by this two-disc 50th anniversary edition. The version of the film included here is the completely restored 169 minute cut, containing original scenes and stills lost over the years in various re-releases. Of course, it’s been digitally remastered and is presented in beautiful 2.55:1 widescreen format with 5.1 digital sound – the perfect presentation of Warner Bros’ first Cinemascope production. The second disc is devoted entirely to extras, and there’s a marvellous selection here. It begins with three alternative versions of ‘The Man That Got Away’ which, aside from being great to watch and listen to, also provide tremendous insight into the filmmaking and design process. There’s also a short clip featuring ‘When My Sugar Walks Down the Street’, a song originally filmed for the ‘Born in a Trunk’ sequence but not included in the final cut. There’s full coverage of the Hollywood premiere of the film, with a newsreel, full 30 minute TV special and speeches (including Garland’s) from the after-show party. There’s also a short promotional video from Jack Warner (one of the brothers) and a few audio clips.
Quite simply, ‘A Star is Born’ is an essential purchase for fans of Garland, good musicals, or emotional drama in general, and this wonderful package just makes the experience even more special.