Michael Apted (director)
21 October 2019 (released)
21 October 2019
STARDUST (1973) is the sequel to the 1973 drama THAT’LL BE THE DAY and once again sees singer David Essex in the role of aspiring rock star Jim MacLaine. Considerably grittier in tone, the film also serves as a parable about the trappings of success and the dangers it can bring.
STARDUST continues where the previous film left off and the main characters are all on board again with the exception of road manager Mike, who is now portrayed by British music legend Adam Faith (in the previous film it was Ringo Starr). It’s now the mid-60s and Jim MacLaine has formed his very own band The Stray Cats, again with Keith Moon as drummer J.D. Clover and various other members. After the usual hardship and hiccups the Stray Cats land a recording contract and before they know it the lads, in particular good-looking Jim, are on their way to rock ‘n’ roll superstardom. Cue for the first fatalities (though so far only symbolically speaking) when some top dogs in the biz decide that ‘sheepish’ Johnny (singer/actor Paul Nicholas) has to go. As the band’s success continues to rise, so does the number of female fans and we witness scenes reminiscent of ‘Beatlemania’ and ‘T.Rextasy’.
But success comes at a heavy price and soon the first cracks appear in the seemingly untainted façade: Jim’s band members grow increasingly jealous over the fact that Jim is the undisputed star (and teen idol) while they are mere ghosts in the background. To make matters worse, quick-thinking yet well-meaning manager Mike is now in cahoots with unscrupulous American business manager Porter Lee Austin (Larry Hagman, in an inspired piece of casting!) and Porter always has his finger on the pulse! Soon Jim and his band are made into puppets… with the Svengali-like Porter pulling the strings as he sees fit. An exhausting tour across the US culminates in Jim indulging in increasingly heavy drug use and causal sex, with female companion Danielle (Ines Des Longchamps) and Mike trying in vain to keep him grounded.
As Porter conjures up ever new business deals (even the almighty US Baptist church is being considered) and Jim – despite his growing protests – feels trapped and no longer his own creative man, the film chronicles almost a decade in the life of our disgruntled rock superstar - emphasized through different hairstyles, fashion, and of course various musical styles with a ‘religious’ rock opera that Jim composed in memory of his mother (in a previous scene he briefly returns to the UK for his mother’s funeral, only to be confronted by his own demons).
Jim is now on his personal highway to hell and as the pressure grows too much, so does his erratic behaviour and his substance abuse. In a delusional attempt to get away from it all and to rest, rest, rest, Jim buys and renovates an entire decrepit castle in rural Spain. Only Mike understands what’s really going on but at the same time he also understands that in the fickle world of music, Jim can’t hide away forever or he’ll be off the radar for good. Cue for the return of Porter Lee Austin and his latest scheme of luring Jim out of self-imposed retirement. In a worldwide satellite TV-stunt the reclusive star is supposed to talk about his life and his new projects but in a spaced-out state pays tribute to women instead. Then disaster strikes…
STARDUST (with it’s tagline ‘Show me a boy who never wanted to be a rock star and I’ll show you a liar’) succeeds in portraying the pitfalls of rock ‘n’ roll stardom without piling up the clichés. Of course, the film benefits from the participation of real-life musicians. When David Essex/Jim MacLaine sings his own song Stardust:
“Ah, look what they've done to the rock 'n' roll clown
Ah, rock 'n' roll clown, look he's dead on the ground
Well he used to high fly but he grassed out the sky”
we all get an inkling of things to come. Adam Faith was nominated with a BAFTA for this portrayal of music manager Mike, while Ray Conolly won a BAFTA for Best Original British Screenplay.
STARDUST is presented in a brandnew restoration with Bonus Features.