Not available on Blu-ray disc yet, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was broadcast last night on Universal HD network. The film from 1984 held up surprising well in high-definition, a testimony to the film’s original production. It was shot in Panavision with Metrocolor processing, giving the film punchy color saturation, a characteristic commonly given to plasma television technology.
Seeing the film in high-definition and widescreen (originally shot in 2.20:1) was definitely a treat. I own the widescreen DVD version but the added sharpness really makes the film come alive. The black levels were pretty crunched, but there was enough contrast to keep it looking good. However, you would hope they could improve upon the range of values on a Blu-ray release. While watching the film I realized I actually prefer the quality of the restored original series more than this motion picture. There is something about the color palette of the original series that is like being in a candy store.
The obvious crew shows up in this one, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei and Nichelle Nichols all take the stage. And, you may recall new characters like Klingon Commander Kruge played by Christopher Lloyd and returning characters like Vulcan vixen Lt. Saavik played by Robin Curtis (previously played by Kirstie Alley in 1982’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.)
Special effects held up really well. The banged up Enterprise complete with burn marks and broken taillights looked fairly realistic in hi-def. Even Commander Kruge’s nasty looking dog, wolf, lizard or whatever it was looked less like a puppet than some of the Star Wars “Creature Cantina” characters that barely pre-date ‘Search for Spock.’ To nitpick, Genesis looked more like my neighbors greenhouse than a planet in rapid evolutionary development. If a future Star Trek film returns to Genesis, I’m sure modern day CGI would do it justice.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is certainly a film to catch in high-definition, as are most sci-fi films from the 70’s and 80’s. What’s great about early sci-fi films is the special effects don’t outweigh the script. I had forgotten this line from Mr. Scott that I will now pass on to my grandchildren, “If my grandmother had wheels she’d be a wagon.”