Ask a film buff for his list of Top 10 sci-fi flicks and Phyllis guarantees that John Carpenter's Starman won't be on it. Amid the onslaught of showy extraterrestrial films of that era, this earthbound gem got lost in the shuffle. Which is really too bad, because Jeff Bridges' performance as an alien who crashes to the rural Wisconsin earth on a gunned-down meteor is one of the more memorable moments in the annals of paranormal film.
Copping his earthly image from a preserved hair follicle of Karen (Animal House) Allen's dead husband, Bridges has three days to make it to a crater in Winslow, Arizona, to rendezvous with his galactic countrymen (and, one presumes, Glenn Frey). At first Allen's character makes halfhearted attempts to flee what she views as a freaky kidnapping, but Bridges woos her by using his spaceman powers to reanimate a deer shackled to some hunter's hood and generally endears himself to her via his wide-eyed efforts to assimilate American culture on the fly.
Again, though, what cements Starman's status is Bridges' balls-out performance. There's no boilerplate for how to play an ethereal being who assumes the identity of a foreign species without any logical understanding of how that species is to act. It's not like Bridges could watch a couple Bogart flicks and say, "Okay, got it." Left to his devices, Bridges moves like C-3PO crossed with a parakeet and overenunciates every syllable to the brink of hilarity. The interpretation is so deliciously close to a boldly miscalculated train wreck that it elevates the entire movie from a sweet little alien-meets-girl road flick into something that sticks in the craw for twenty years and counting.
Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.