Mozert: Star Wards - A New Hype (Blur-ray review)

A space opera based on John Milton's epic sc-fi adventure, "Paradise Mislaid." Twenty-First Century Vixen Home Entertainment HAL2001.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that a member of the highly prodigious and exceptionally prolific Mozert family of musical geniuses would eventually make his way to Tinseltown. Then, several years later, he would arrive in Hollywood, and the rest would be history. This was, of course, Stanley Alfred Akira Orson Ingmar Federico Francis Mozert, Jr. (1823-1947), the celebrated operatic filmmaker who invented sci-fi, love beads, and singing.

Mozert started it all with his space opera "Star Wards - A New Hype" in 1922, and everybody has been waiting in line for its long-overdue release on Blur-ray longer than Christmas. Now, it's finally here in high deaf, episode twenty-three in the celebrated romantic horror-comedy fantasy, docudrama-opera saga that has shaken, if not to say stirred, the Western World. And a few pocketbooks, too. It couldn't have arrived on Ultra-Lofty Definition (ULD) Blur-ray at a better time.

Mozert's opera was directed on film by Georges Méliès ("A Trip to the Orchestra Pit"), produced by Stephan Spiegelburg ("E.T. The Extra Tenor"), and adapted for the screen by Roger Corperson ("The Beast with a Million Songs"), Petar Jacksson ("Sing Song"), Dino Martin Scoresese ("Boxcar Ballads"), and Francesco A. Capella ("A Pox on Your Lips Now"). It's a prodigious effort by a prodigious team of prodigious (and prolific) filmmakers.

"Star Wards - A New Hype," as you all remember from your Opera Film Study classes, is the story of a waif, Lucas Moneymaker (Narc Hemphill, countertenor), who saves a home for retired movie stars that is far, far away and a heck of a long time ago, like before you were even born, even. Well, maybe not that long.

With the help of his faithful companions--the haughty Hand SoLow (Harrison Fairlaine, baritone), the dauntless Princess Pixar (Carrie Mebacktu Olevirginny, mezzanine-soprano), the wise guru Olden-One Nairobi (Guinness Stout, "It's in the book!"), his comic sidekick ChewTobacco (Bert Skoal), and his mascots See-3-PO'D (Tom Hunks) and How-D-Do-D (Denny DaVeto)--Moneymaker rescues untold numbers of old folks from the diabolical clutches of their evil Overlord, Mala Vista (Robert Igor), his adopted son, Asta La Vista (the Honorable Arnold), and Vista's former henchmen, the brothers Mirra and Max (Darth Harvey and Darth Wienstine, bassi profundi), Dark Overseers of the Cinematheque. A cameo appearance by young soprano Sterling Christensen as the cuddly Judo Master, Yogi Teddybeara, completes the cast.

George Burns dubs the singing parts. Marcel Marceau handles the voices.

Bert Skoal
Fans of the complete saga will welcome this first-ever segment in its first-ever ULD Blur-ray edition (after six laser-disc versions, eight DVD incarnations, ten VHS and Beta tape renderings, and 800 semiannual theatrical rereleases since its première in 1913). Fans will also be pleased to note that this episode contains only a single example of the director's prized CGI creations that were so liberally appended to the saga's later remasterings. Indeed, the viewer may find the quaintness of this early movie's live actors a refreshing change of pace from the computer-generated animations so familiar to us today. Unfortunately, the live performers are unable to replicate the myriad visual nuances and facial expressions of their computer counterparts, but it's all part of the fun of this ancient, campy, live-action technology. Mr. Christensen remains the lone CGI-animated character in the film.

Based in part on the myth "The Hero of a Thousand Voices" by the late, great, celebrated PBS talk-show host J.R.R. "Soupy" Campbell and in part on the classic Samurai farce "The Hidden Fat in Chow Yun" by Acura Kurosodoff, "Star Wards - A New Hype" is THE seminal operatic work in early Hollywood's burgeoning retirement-home opera genre. Grounded in strong metaphysical convictions, deep existential philosophy, uncompromising ethical values, and women in flimsy white negligees, the movie is destined to stand the test of time, at least until the next installment comes out in two weeks.

Video:
For this Super-Deluxe, Extra-Elite, 97th Anniversary, Special Edition Blur-ray boxed set, the folks at Twenty-First Century Vixen Home Entertainment have transferred the film, all fourteen minutes of it, to three quad-layer Blur-ray discs, front and back, for optimum AV playback quality. And, of course, the THD-certified ULD-BR audiovisual format preserves the movie's original theatrical-exhibition size, a 360:1 anorexic-ratio, TechnoRabid SwaddleScreen-80 presentation. The filmmakers realize that this format could present some small problem to those viewers whose home theaters are not equipped to do it justice, but by utilizing as simple an array as sixteen 90" curved-screen ULHD televisions in a circular pattern around the viewing area, the film can still provide a fascinating, if somewhat limited, visual experience. Textures are lifelike; flesh tones, particularly light greys and whites, are extraordinarily natural; and the panoramic scenery is, well, panoramic.

Audio:
The sound reproduction is sound, offered up in the director's preferred configuration, lossless Dolby Digits TrueTH Atmospheric LucasEar 60.8 AX AuralSurround-500. Listeners with fewer than the optimal ten speakers per bank--ten front, twelve back, twenty sides, thirty ceiling, and forty-seven floor, with eight 36" subwoofers--will still get a kick out of the all-enveloping nature of the audio playback. Even as few as 43.6 speakers are adequate for the job, so almost anyone can enjoy the beauty of LucasEar's phenomenal monaural soundtrack. Highly recommended, especially if you don't like your neighbors.

Extras:
Discs one, two, and three in this ten-disc Blur-ray set are devoted, as mentioned above, to the movie itself, with six separate audio commentaries to enjoy. The first commentary, as expected, is with the director, cast, crew, and stars. The second commentary is with the stars, cast, director, and crew. The third is with everybody already cited plus the guy who cleans up after the lights go out. The fourth is with the best boy. The fifth is with the best boy's best girl. And the sixth is with the gaffer, a compilation of his very best gaffes.

Spoken languages come in Danish, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Lappish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Canadian, Texan, Stallonean, Nabuccon, Freishhok, Bombastic, and Toolouyie; with subtitles in Pitouy, Zha*#/-^sh, Orwellian Doublespeak, and Portlandian Redneck. For an additional charge, you can order English. Scene selections are on the light side, however, at two, including one for the closing credits. It's a small price to pay for perfection.

Discs four through ten contain the major bonus items, including documentaries, featurettes, poster galleries, interactive recipes, interviews, e-mails, private telephone conversations, Easter eggs, duck eggs, Fabergé eggs, scrambled eggs, National Be-Kind-To-Your-Ferret-Day eggs, and plenty of commas. Then there are behind-the-scenes photos of really old retired people (some as old as their fifties and sixties); and other stuff you'll never look at again.

Here, too, you'll find various theatrical trailers and tractors for "Star Wards" prequels, sequels, continuations, and spin-offs, including teasers for the new Ultra-Deluxe, Extra-Elite, Further Anniversary, Special Edition Blur-rays of the movie, plus all the other films in the series that are coming out next month with even more extras than this one.  "Buy now, buy later" is the industry motto. The present discs conclude with promos for various "Star Wards" paraphernalia, including video games, board games, card games, dice games, dart games, graphic novels, comic books, cartoon strips, action figures, thumb screws, razor blades, maps, hats, masks, gloves, ears, noses, eyebrows, laser guns, power drills, jackhammers, ball-peen hammers, and other merchandise the studio hopes to con you into buying before they're through.

Also included: "The Mozert Family Tree," suitable for framing, mounting, or planting. You, too, can grow little Mozerts in your garden. Who knows? Maybe someday one of them will write a sequel.

Finally, tucked away neatly in a back pocket of the beautifully illustrated metal-foil slipcase is a full-scale, foldout cardboard replica of Hand SoLow's lighter-than-air jet aircraft, the Millennium Buzzard. Fully expanded, the airplane measures some 300 feet, nose to tail, with functional cockpit and cargo bays. A word of caution about this item, however. It is designed as a simulation only and will not actually fly. Early reports have indicated that some beta testers apparently attempted to launch their vehicles from garage roofs with less than satisfactory results. The studio warns that such misuse of the product may be hazardous to the model and its occupants and could do irreparable damage to both. This is a full-size likeness only, kids, and should be treated as such. For safety's sake, if you have a 300-foot dresser in your bedroom, that's where you should properly display your Buzzard.

Parting Shots:
In addition to this latest complete edition of the initial chapter in the "Star Wards" saga, the marketing directors at Twenty-First Century Vixen are making available for the first time a special five-shelf Blur-ray disc bookcase to house the over 1800 re-releases so far in the series. As this bookcase will only accommodate Blur-ray discs, however, the studio advises buyers to hang on to their old bookcases to store any BDs, DVDs, videotapes, and laser discs already obtained. Do not, however, attempt to mix or match Blur-ray discs, BDs, DVDs, tapes, and LDs as the formats are not compatible and serious damage could result.

"Star Wards - A New Hype: Part XXXV1, A Space Opera" on Blur-ray may be purchased individually for $59.95 or in a complete box set of all seventy-two episodes (so far) for a MSRP of $6,876.40. Nevertheless, a perusal of the Dark Matter Web reveals several outlets discounting the price considerably, with several on-line stores offering the entire box for $9.95. A shipping and handling fee of $6,866.45 should not deter the dedicated buyer in search of a bargain.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this movie's soundtrack, click below:
 

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa