Title: The Last Starfighter (1984) Rated: PG Written by: Jonathan Betuel Directed by: Nick Castle Starring: Lance Guest as Alex Robert Preston as Centauri Catherine Mary Stewart as Maggie Dan O'Herlihy as Grig Barbara Bosson as Jane Norman Snow as Xur
By Bo Ransdell from Last Blog on the Left
Pre-screening memories: Sure, the plot seems familiar now: A young man, trapped by circumstances of economics and class, struggles to be something more, something different. He knows there’s an “out there,” a world that he could conquer if he could only get free and find the opportunity. That’s the situation that Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) represents, and, to an eleven year old boy in 1984, it was a projection, quite literally, of everything that a pre-teen felt.
Add to that healthy mix of angst the element of technology, specifically the home video game revolution, and you’ll find that same pre-teen, filled with a vague wanderlust, debating with his friends in the schoolyard whether the Atari 2600 translation of Donkey Kong could hold a candle to the arcade version (it can’t) or if Yar’s Revenge was the best in the 2600 library (it was). So, when a movie made escape possible through the medium of video games, the scales had lifted from my eyes. This was a movie I had to see.
I saw The Last Starfighter a lot as a kid, where it found a lot of screenings thanks to premium cable channels and a brand-spanking-new VCR. I still have the tape on which The Last Starfighter resides, alongside The Terminator. Even as a child, I enjoyed juxtaposition. At every viewing of the film, it reinforced the idea that you can truly excel, if only given the opportunity to do so, and it’s a belief I still subscribe to.
New memories: Seeing it as an adult, it’s hard to quiet the thrilled child still inside, the one who still believes everything is possible if given the chance and that Yar’s Revenge is the best Atari 2600 game. Roughly halfway through my mature, well-considered viewing of The Last Starfighter, I gave up trying to silence him. This was and remains a movie that encourages a sense of wonder, a sense of possibility, and, if you remembered it as a special movie when you were young, seek it out. The optimism of the film is there, and a real sense of magic, managed by genuine emotion thanks to a very talented cast. Sure, the effects, revolutionary at the time, haven’t aged so well, but they fit the imagination of the movie. And it’s that part, the spirit of opportunity in the face of adversity that makes this a treasure.
Download Natsukashi’s ‘The Last Starfighter’ podcast here
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Our featured guest: Catherine Mary Stewart
She had first joined us for a chat about Mischief and also spoke about her other cult classic of 1984, Night of the Comet, but Last Starfighter hold a special place in her memories for reasons she recounts for us in the podcast.
After taking a stretch to focus more on being a mom, Catherine is reigniting her career with roles Rising Stars, a film with Fischer that she describes as an anti-American Idol, and a just-announced A Christmas Snow, which she details on her Facebook page (where she personally connects with her fans). You can also follow her at her blog.
Catherine is always a fun, engaging guest and has several tales about working on the set of The Last Starfighter, and we thank her for letting us share them with her.