For any fans of 1980s sci-fi and hand-drawn animation—and we know they are still legion!—Deaf Crocodile Films has a treat in store for you I guarantee you have never seen. The Son of the Stars, a rare 1987 Romanian adventure from Călin Cazan and Mircea Toia, directors of Delta Space Mission, has been fully restored and remastered for Blu-ray and is now available for pre-order from OCN / Vinegar Syndrome.
A fast-paced mashup of The Empire Strikes Back, Alien, and Tarzan, The Son of the Stars (aka Fiul Stelelor / Ultima Misiune) takes place some forty centuries in the future when a husband-and-wife team of explorers abandon their young son Dan on ship to search for a female astronaut who disappeared decades ago. When that ship crashes on a strange planet, Dan must learn to navigate its strange terrain and foreign creatures, including weirdly globulous beings and gardens of space creatures frozen into stone-like statues.
As Dan grows up, he learns to master new powers just like Luke Skywalker, and he is charged with bringing down an evil empire and learning the truth of his parents’ disappearance. Like Star Wars, Cazan’s and Toia’s story is based on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey monomyth, but the adventure takes him through bizarre, even hallucinatory lands where Cubist art meets disembodied eyeballs and floating tentacles. Armed with a sassy red amulet and garbed always in his trusty tracksuit, Dan comes face-to-face with a Vader-like Space Knight clad in medieval armor, speaking in riddles and harboring a big, big secret.
The artwork, especially given the loving restoration, is simultaneously crude and elaborate, with simple hand-drawn animations rendering an array of hallucinatory, phantasmagoric adventures on the kinds of planets children (and imaginative adults) dream of. The new 4K version, restored from rom the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements, is the result of a collaboration between Deaf Crocodile, the Romanian National Film Archive and Cinematheque, and the Romanian Film Centre.
Deaf Crocodile’s press release quotes co-writer and co-director Cazan; Deaf Crocodile Co-Founder and Head of Acquisitions & Distribution, Dennis Bartok; and Craig Rogers, Co-Founder and Head of Post-Production & Restoration on the film’s origins, inspirations, and upcoming Blu-ray release.
Speaking about the influences and inspirations for The Son of the Stars, co-director Cazan comments from his home in Bucharest: “The Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels were important books from our childhood. You may know that Animafilm producer and director Victor Antonescu made a film from Robinson Crusoe, as well as short films from the Brothers Grimm. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was another inspiration, and life in the jungle as depicted in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. We knew the Walt Disney version, and the earlier live-action version by Alexander Korda.”
When asked about the influence of more contemporary science-fiction films on The Son of the Stars, Cazan remembers, “It was a strange Cold War here in Romania in the 1980s. We were able to see the movies from America one year later after they launched in the U.S. We saw Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and maybe we were inspired by them. They remained important points in our moviemaking.”
“The Son of the Stars is a truly amazing fusion of different styles and storytelling traditions in animation, from Eastern European mythology with sword-wielding medieval Space Knights, to early ’80s Japanese anime, to classic lost-child narratives like Tarzan and The Jungle Book,” says Deaf Crocodile Co-Founder and Head of Acquisitions & Distribution, Dennis Bartok. “Of course, comparisons to George Lucas and the Star Wars universe are very strong as well—but the incredible thing is how unique, psychedelic, and incredibly entertaining Călin Cazan and Mircea Toia’s synthesis of all these elements is in The Son of the Stars. For fans of 1980s animation and sci-fi, it’s a major rediscovery.”
“I’m always excited when we get to work on a vintage animated film. I enjoy finding the balance in the restoration process of making the film look as good as possible but being sure always that it retains its hand-made analog feel. All that ‘imperfection’ is what sets it apart from the all-digital animation of today,” adds Craig Rogers, Deaf Crocodile Co-Founder and Head of Post-Production & Restoration.
The Blu-ray release of The Son of the Stars, available for pre-order at Vinegar Syndrome, features:
- A new 4K scan of The Son of the Stars from the original 35mm negative and sound elements, with digital restoration by Craig Rogers and Tyler Fagerstrom for Deaf Crocodile Films.
- A new video interview with co-director Călin Cazan, moderated by Dennis Bartok of Deaf Crocodile.
- A new commentary track by film journalist Samm Deighan.
- A new booklet essay by comics artist, editor, and publisher Stephen R. Bissette (Swamp Thing).
- And Blu-ray authoring by David Mackenzie at Fidelity In Motion.