Son of the Stars, The (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Mar 21, 2023
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Son of the Stars, The (Blu-ray Review)


Calin Cazan, Dan Chisovski, Mircea Toia

Release Date(s)

1985 (March 28, 2023)


Animafilm Studio (Deaf Crocodile/Vinegar Syndrome)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B-
  • Extras Grade: B

The Son of the Stars (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


The Son of the Stars (aka Fiul Stelelor) is a 1985 animated science fiction/fantasy adventure film produced by Animafilm Studios in Romania. It was a follow-up to their previous effort Delta Space Mission (aka Misiunea spatialã Delta), and like that film, it had both a complicated production history and an equally complicated release pattern. For whatever reason, Animafilm had rules against creating feature projects, so it was actually completed as a series of ten short films collectively called Ultima Misiune, or Ultimate Mission. However, lead director Mircea Toia and co-directors Calin Cazan & Dan Chisovski always planned to edit the series into a feature film, and that’s how it was eventually released in Romania, though it never received international distribution in either form. It did eventually make its way to VHS, at least in Australia, dubbed into English and divided into two parts, starting with The Last Assignment: Volume 1 in 1991 (although it’s not clear if there was ever a Volume 2). Aside from that version, it’s been largely unavailable outside of Romania until now.

The Son of the Stars opens aboard a spacecraft named the Argos, which is on its way back to Earth after an eight-year research mission. The ship is manned by Roxana, Alex, and their young son Dan (who was born in space after the mission began), as well as a supercomputer called BOB. As they pass through the heavy gravitation of the Van Kleef Belt, they receive a distress signal from a pilot whose craft disappeared 850 years previously. Roxana and Alex need to repair some damage done to the exterior of the Argos, but they end up becoming castaways in the process, so BOB is forced to land the ship on a nearby planet to keep Dan safe. Dan’s inquisitive nature gets the better of him, and he goes off to explore the new world against BOB’s wishes. He ends up being adopted by an alien race, who raise him and teach him their powers over time and space. As Dan grows into adulthood, he uses those gifts to go beyond this alien world in search of his parents, as well as the pilot who was marooned nearly a millennium earlier.

The Son of the Stars is an interesting mixture of hard science fiction and surrealistic fantasy. While it generally remains safely in the realm of space opera, there’s some clever world building along the way, such as Roxana and Alex’s repair craft that walks along the surface of the ship on three legs, using suction to keep it from drifting away from the ship. Still, pragmatic scientific details like that are little more than texture in The Son of the Stars, since the story has much loftier goals in mind. Ultimately, everything takes a metaphysical leap toward the end that’s not too far afield from Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, as well as the way that Clarke and Stanley Kubrick developed the story for 2001. There’s more going on in The Son of the Stars than may meet the eye, and the challenges that Dan faces are serving a larger purpose, one that has enormous implications for the future of mankind.

Befitting a film that blends science fiction and fantasy, the animation in The Son of the Stars fuses its realistic style with some flamboyantly surrealistic imagery. The human characters were created by rotoscoping real actors, so they often have a Ralph Bakshi look to them (with more than a touch of Heavy Metal thrown in there for good measure). Yet the alien creatures are much more cartoonish, with the group that raises Dan looking like floating legless versions of Shmoo from Al Capp’s L’il Abner. At times, The Son of the Stars feels like characters from Fire and Ice who are living in the world of Yellow Submarine, and the dialectical clash between the two extremes is what gives the film its own unique vitality.

There’s some obvious cost-cutting in the animation, like holding on static images or looping cycles of cels, and yet there’s some surprisingly ambitious and time-consuming work as well. For example, the opening shot of the Argos approaching the camera and then flying over it doesn’t take any short cuts like zooming in on a static painting, but instead is fully animated, one frame at a time, so that the foreshortening changes as it gets closer. It’s clear that The Son of the Stars was a labor of love for all who were involved, and it’s a testament to the kinds of things that a group of talented artists can achieve regardless of artificial constraints that are placed upon them, or even any exigent political circumstances. It’s also a though-provoking examination of the evolution of humanity into its next plane of existence.

The Son of the Stars was produced via traditional cel animation and photographed on 35 mm film, framed open-matte at 1.33:1. This new version was produced using a 4K scan of the original camera negative done by The National Film Archive/Romanian Cinematheque, with digital restoration and grading performed by Craig Rogers and Tyler Fagerstrom at Deaf Crocodile Films. The results respect both the nature of the original animation and the quality of the film medium itself. Any cel dirt from the animation process has been left alone, as has the grain of the film on which it was shot. That gives everything the tangible sense of texture that’s simply missing from modern digital animation. Aside from a few stray scratches, there’s no significant damage visible. (There are a few moments where things suddenly fade out and then back in again, sometimes right in the middle of a shot, but it’s not clear if that was to cover sections that had too much damage, or if it’s just awkwardly placed linkages between the original episodes.) The stylized color scheme appears to have been reproduced accurately, and thanks to the usual fine work by David Mackenzie at Fidelity in Motion, there aren’t any compression artifacts to get in the way of the lovely textures on display.

Audio is offered in Romanian 2.0 mono LPCM, with removable English subtitles. It’s clear enough, though it sounds a bit thin, with no real low-end presence at all. It’s also somewhat harsh at times, with excessive sibilance in the dialogue. Still, there’s little in the way of noise or other artifacts, so it sounds as good as it can given the limitations of the source material.

The Deaf Crocodile Blu-ray release for The Son of the Stars includes a reversible insert, as well as a 12-page booklet featuring an essay by Stephen R. Bissette, filmographies, and brief restoration notes. There’s also an embossed and spot gloss slipcover available directly from Vinegar Syndrome, limited to the first 2,000 units, that was designed by Scott Saslow. The following extras are included:

  • Audio Commentary by Sam Deighan
  • Interview with Co-Director Calin Cazan (HD/Upscaled Zoom – 49:34)

Author and film historian Sam Deighan analyzes the story, themes, and style of The Son of the Stars, placing it into context with other Eighties science fiction and fantasy, and describes it as adult animation that’s still family-friendly. She examines the literary antecedents for this kind of tale, and spends some time drawing parallels to Frank Herbert’s Dune, among others. She also talks about the political circumstances under which the film was made, and the challenges of getting anything approved under Nicolae Ceaușescu’s repressive regime. They wanted popular entertainment with international appeal, but ones that still promoted Communist ideals. Considering how unfamiliar that most people will be with Eastern Bloc animation like The Son of the Stars, Deighan’s commentary is a great place to start learning more about it.

The interview with Calin Cazan was conducted online by Deaf Crocodile’s Dennis Bartok. They discuss the genesis of the story, including how it ties in with Delta Space Mission, as well as how it was influenced by disparate sources including Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Jungle Book, and even The Empire Strikes Back. They cover practical and technical details ranging from the rotoscope process to why the film had to be produced episodically. They also talk about the successful release of The Son of the Stars in Romania, debate the merits of the different titles, and reveal why the directors never made another feature film after that. If you already own the Blu-ray for Delta Space Mission, this interview makes a nice companion piece to the one that was included on that disc.

Part of Deaf Crocodile’s mission statement is to bring lost or little-seen films back into the public eye, and as usual, they’ve done just that with this Blu-ray release. The Son of the Stars was a completely overlooked and nearly forgotten example of the creativity exhibited by animators working behind the Iron Curtain, and it always deserved a wider audience. Thanks to this lovely restoration, it now has the opportunity to find one.

- Stephen Bjork

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