Quantcast

Sarah T. – Portrait Of A Teenage Alcoholic (Blu-ray Review)

In the early days, the Shout Factory horror line, Scream Factory, tested the waters of made for TV movies of yesteryear with a “TV Terrors” double feature DVD. That didn’t sell too hot, so that line quickly had an end put to it. But recently, we’ve seen them bump back into it, be it more likely the right film comes along. Last year saw the John Carpenter film starring Lauren Hutton, Someone’s Watching Me make its debut on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout Factory. Of course that made sense because of the Carpenter following, popularity and tradition with the distributor’s catalog. Another familiar face is that of Linda Blair. One of her more notable and praised efforts in the 1970s aside from The Exorcist was the TV movie Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic which attempted to portray the very real issue of teen alcoholism. With a pretty star studded cast including Mark Hamill and Larry Hagman, Shout Factory seems to have made a good move here. They’ve really polished it up with a 2K scan and brought Blair and Donner in for new interviews. You can pick this up at the end of the month or pre-order using the link below.

Sarah Travis (Linda Blair) is an average teenager who is introduced to drinking alcohol at local parties. As a means of coping with problems in her life, most notably her parents’ divorce, Sarah starts to drink regularly and tries to keep her addiction a secret, even from her boyfriend (Mark Hamill). Eventually, Sarah’s increasingly severe drinking almost leads to tragedy, and she enters Alcoholics Anonymous, beginning an ongoing struggle to get sober and stay that way. Teenage drinkers like Sarah are often alcoholics at 12 and 13 and some even sooner. They’re raiding their parents liquor cabinets and bribing older friends to buy it for them. Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic takes both a shocking and compassionate look at one girl’s story as she falls through the cracks and makes her way to rock bottom.

Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic was an important film for its time and plays for its drama, but due to the passage of time has taken on a bit more of a campy factor. If we can have some chuckles at something like Reefer Madness, we can surely giggle during some of the overdone or “extreme” moments in Sarah T. What it has over that piece of ridiculous propaganda, is that it boasts a genuine heart and features competence both in front of and behind the camera.

Linda Blair’s showcase in Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic is very much a “gather the family around for this important moment” film from the 1970s that they used to put on television well through the 1990s. These films often try hard to push a heartfelt message over potential problems of the era with kids and adults. While their minds and hearts are in the right place, these movies often push things to an extreme and do their best to put out a WARNING that this is what is happening everywhere and to all kids and parents. Heck, they used to take these TV movies and use them as educational tools in schools when I was growing up. Hell, I think I watched the Bernadette Peters/John Glover/Lawrence Bro one called “David” like 3 times between elementary, middle and high school. And I still have no idea why they kept repeatedly showing us a film about a father who kidnaps his son and burns him in a hotel room.

This movie has a itself an eye-poppingly stacked cast. And there are probably some people who were more notable in the era that their popularity or relevancy has just faded and I’m not giving them their due. Linda Blair is actually pretty damn good in the film, despite some of the scenes being written in extreme ways. A young Mark Hamill shows up as her boyfriend which is pretty fun to go along with William Daniels as her step-dad. My favorite however, Larry Hagman (The distant father), might’ve been my absolute favorite. He’s more of a cameo than anything, but his brief moment came across as absolutely hilarious to me.

I’m pretty sure this film’s time has passed to be effective, but as a piece of camp to return to and a relic of its era, its pretty entertaining for the most part. The film is actually an important one in the Linda Blair canon, too. Richard Donner (YES, he directed this) would go on to direct The Omen the following year and the rest of that is history. Mark Hamill would shoot Star Wars the very year following this film. Dallas was 3 years away. In many ways, Sarah T. is a terrific time capsule movie to not only get some introspective of TV movies at the time, but also to pinpoint an interesting time in many of the people involved’s careers.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic sobers up onto Blu-ray with a 2K scan of the original film elements. This print is in terrific condition and the transfer is very impressive. The image features a sharp amount of fantastic detail with a healthy, well kept layer of grain natural with the image. The image features some solid depth and good color saturation on display. This thing could have been an afterthought, but really care was put into this restoration and it shows.

Depth:  Spacing is quite good with a great depth of field between the foreground and background imagery. Characters move around freely and nothing suffers from any sort of compression. Movement is natural and cinematic in nature. No image distortions carry from rapid movements.

Black Levels: Blacks are impressively deep and really help to compliment details and sharpness in scenes. No real issues with details disappearing occur. They are pretty close to natural looking. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are very 1970s looking in their appearance, but plenty bold with stronger, deeper primary colors popping well like reds, blues an greens. The many shades and tints come across with good saturation in any moment of the film.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features are incredibly impressive, especially in close ups. The texture looks almost touchable and you can see blemishes, make-up brushing, freckles, moles, lip texture and acne that’s being hidden by cosmetics.

Noise/Artifacts: There are no digital issues, but the print does carry some specs and little scuffs that are there if you can squint and make them out at times. If anything, these things contribute to a more authentic look of the picture quality.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Sarah T. has a pretty solid mono D T….s track (golf clap) accompanying it. There is plenty of depth in here, with good breathing room for the vocals, score and sound effects sharing the same space. The only place its sort of lacking is in the lower frequency sounds as the film overall is a bit more high pitched.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. There is a hint of analog his to go along with a little bit of peaking when people yell or squeal at times.

Extras 

Linda B. On Sarah T. (HD, 16:53) – A conversation with Linda Blair. She opens up with where William Morris was pushing her career to cash in on her following The Exorcist. I love her blunt honesty and facial expressions when discussing things that comes across in the interview. Blair credits Mark Hamill with being very instrumental in her career in with monologues, change-overs and blocking teaching. “Billy Friedkin, Richard Donner, Mark Hamill…those are my teachers.” Larry Hagman playing her father (And wanting to be that role) made her feel like she was in a dream world at the time. She still feels the film could be used as a helpful tool today and is most proud of the lives its changed.

Richard D. And David L., Portrait Of A TV Movie (HD, 19:30) – A conversation with director Richard Donner and producer David Levinson. Levinson mentions that he was an alcoholic at the time he was offered the project which originated as trying to do a remake of Lost Weekend (But the rights never were acquired). There are interesting things pointed out with the direction of the film (Even more booze direction than I noticed when watching it). Donner actually had to push to have a number for people to call for help at the end. A center in Chicago reported that their phones didn’t stop ringing for 3 days following the airing of the movie. Both credit Linda Blair with a lot of the reason the show was successful in both drawing on audience and the “phenomenal” understanding and performance of her character.

Photo Gallery (HD, 4:01)

Summary 

Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic is a pretty fun film to return to. Its an interesting piece of television and the people in front of and behind the camera’s history. Shout! Factory has done a fantastic job in restoring the film with an impressive picture quality and terrific audio. They’ve also gone the extra mile and done brand new interviews with Linda Blair and Richard Donner. You’re not going to see much better of a release for this TV movie probably ever!

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments