I was re-watching the film Starman this weekend when I realized three things, not particularly in this order: I really like Starman, John Carpenter made a big batch of my favorite films in the late 1970s and 1980s and I had a major crush on Karen Allen when I was a teenager.
Let’s start with Starman from 1984, which I hadn’t seen it in a long time. Like most of the best of Carpenter films it is a genre film in the realm of science fiction that crosses over into suspense and romance territories. Carpenter likes to blend genres, which is good, because he usually takes out the best ideas from one genre and sticks in the best from another.
Starman has kind of a slowness to it that combines with an overt romance story that makes it different than other good Carpenter films from his peak period. I can’t recall any Carpenter film I’ve seen with such an up front love story and it’s kind of surprising to see such an element in one of his films. Of course, there are sci-fi, suspense and comic moments, but it is the film’s love story that ultimately propels it forward and makes you care about the characters.
John Carpenter was on a complete roll when Starman came out. By 1984 he’d already made Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, The Thing and Christine—all of which I consider classics from my youth. He’d make two more great films in the ‘80s—Big Trouble In Little China and They Live—but the ‘90s saw him drift away into “bad movie” abyss. I absolutely love the eight films mentioned in this paragraph but Carpenter hasn’t made a film since then I’ve seen and really enjoyed.
A few months ago I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and remembered how fetching and terrific Karen Allen was at this same time. Those freckles! Animal House! So, seeing her in Starman just made me curious why she disappeared into b-movie hell after two high profile roles. There was Scrooged in 1988 and a few small roles here and there but her days as a leading actress in a bigger release was pretty much over. Maybe the idiots in Hollywood have a thing against freckles?