Here’s a good example of why I need to clean out my DVR more regularly:
I recorded the 1983 legal thriller, The Star Chamber, off of Starz on March 14th. I know what you’re saying. “Big deal! That wasn’t that long ago.” Well, did I mention that it was March 14th, 2017?
That’s right! The Star Chamber sat on my DVR for over a year before I finally got around to watching it last night. You’d be justified in asking why it took me so long and I’m afraid that I really couldn’t give you a definite answer. I can, however, tell you the four main reasons why I recorded it in the first place:
- I’m always intrigued whenever I come across a movie of which I haven’t previously heard.
- The movie was described as being about a conflicted judge and I just happen to love legal films.
- I really, really liked the title. The Star Chamber? Did that mean it took place in a room full of stars?
- Before I recorded The Star Chamber, I only had 55 films on the DVR. Since I don’t like odd numbers, recording The Star Chamber took care of that problem.
As for the film itself, The Star Chamber is another one of those movies where a group of vigilantes end up getting pissed off because liberal California judges are letting too many murderers go free because of pesky, constitutional technicalities. The twist here is that the vigilantes are the same judges who keep tossing out evidence and ruling that confessions are inadmissible in court. After spending their day setting free the dregs of society, the judges all gather in a nearby house and review the evidence before voting on whether or not they believe the accused was actually guilty. If the verdict is guilty, the judges promptly hire a hit man who proceeds to clean up the streets.
The newest member of this tribunal is Judge Steven R. Hardin (Michael Douglas). Hardin is haunted by the technicalities that forced him to toss out a case against two accused of child murderers. (Making things even worse, the child’s father commits suicide afterward.) Despite his initial reservations, Judge Hardin signs off on hiring an assassin to take the two men out. But, when it becomes apparent that the two men actually were innocent, Judge Hardin is horrified to discover that there’s no way to call off the hit…
The Star Chamber is an oddly constructed movie. When the movie starts, it feels like a typical police procedural. From there, the movie turns into a rather talky examination of the U.S. legal system, with Judge Hardin trying to balance his idealism with the often frustrating reality of what it takes to uphold the law. The movie then briefly turns into a conspiracy film, featuring middle-aged men in suits holding secret meetings and debating whether or not they’re serving the greater good. And then, towards the end of the movie, it turns into an action film, with Judge Hardin being chased by two drug dealers, a contract killer, and a suspicious police detective (Yaphet Kotto). Judge Hardin may start the movie as a conflicted liberal but he ends at someone who can blow up the entire second floor of a drug lab. In many ways, The Star Chamber is a deeply silly film but, as directed and co-written by Peter Hyams, it’s also just pulpy enough to be entertaining. The dialogue may be over-the-top but so is Michael Douglas’s performance so it all evens out in the end.
It may have taken me a while to get around to watching The Star Chamber but I’m glad that I finally did. It’s a ludicrous film and all the more entertaining as a result.