I have to confess, I haven’t bought a copy in a long time and didn’t stick with it too far into the 80s either, as I felt it focused too much on TV for my liking and I was never that big a fan of Dr Who. But those early editions were amazing and I read them eagerly from cover to cover, often picking up stray spares wherever I could (I remember finding one - no. 52, with the Krull front cover - at a Bring-and-Buy sale held at my school). Starburst was perfect for me, not only keeping me well informed but also acting as an important stepping stone, bridging the gap from Look-In to my later discoveries of Photoplay and Premiere (and then Empire and Total Film beyond those).
Looking back at the issues in my collection now, some 40 years after the fact, they still seem as fresh and exciting as they were then. It doesn’t matter that they were produced without the huge technological leaps in magazine publishing we've experienced since then or that the lay-out is a bit blocky (those were the typeset days, after all, with titles produced with sheets of Letraset), the content more than made up for it.
The news section (called "Things To Come", it featured, among a fair amount of gossip, some real gems - I hadn’t remembered that we knew The Empire Strikes Back was called that as early as 1978), the articles and book reviews, in-depth features and film reviews (that weren't afraid of saying exactly what they thought), the design and writing, all of them gave Starburst a distinct identity. Wonderful writers - like John Brosnan and Tony Crawley, amongst many others - were opinionated and enthusiastic, genre-savvy and full of confidence and their words dance off the page. Sometimes things clunk badly - John Brosnan wasn’t the biggest fan of Empire and Tony Crawley didn’t think Halloween (1978) would endure but had a good feeling about The Black Hole (1979) - but you can’t deny the passion with which they made those statements. In fact, the only thing that hasn’t worn well is the reproduction quality of the photographs, which look a bit washed out and are sometimes hard to discern. Certainly, whilst the coverage of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978) is thorough and well-written, the photos make it seem a bit seedy (which I like) while one of an explosion is little more than a blob of white. But regardless, reading Starburst made me feel as if I belonged to a group of like-minded folk, in the same way that reading early Fangoria issues later on in the 80s would.
I got a lot out of Starburst as the 70s eased into the 80s (and looking at some of the films covered, it truly was a wonderful time to be a genre fan) and re-reading them now in celebration has been a lot of fun (and illuminating, in a few cases). 40 years on, it’s clear to see the debt owed by today’s film magazines but I wish they had at least half as much swagger as Starburst did back in the day.
Happy birthday Starburst and thank you, for showing a young film fan the promise of a much bigger world out there.
|issue 5, December 1978 (the first one I remember owning)|
|issue 8, March 1979 (this includes those wonderfully seedy images from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers)|
|issue 12, July 1979 (including a fantastic 5 page interview with the great Derek Meddings)|
|issue 14, September 1979|
|issue 22, May 1980 - this must have seen my first brush with David Cronenberg (never heard him described as the King Of Fantasy before...)|
|issue 23, June 1980 (in which John Brosnan reviews Empire thoroughly - he wasn't overly keen, especially on it being open-ended.)|
|issue 24, July 1980 - Star Wars, Alfred Hitchcock AND Caroline Munro? Wow! The Hitchcock appreciation by Tony Crawley is wonderful and the Mark Hamill and Caroline Munro interviews are interesting.|
|issue 33, April 1981 - what a terrific cover! And nice to see David Cronenberg has been promoted to the King of Horror!)|
|issue 34, May 1981|
|issue 40, November 1981 - I love the juxtaposition of this cover, the incredible bloodiness of American Werewolf (which I wrote about here) alongside Disney. Would a print magazine get away with that cover now?|
|issue 51, October 1982 - not a big fan of the new logo|
|issue 52, November 1982, the one I found at the bring-and-buy sale|
|issue 53, December 1982 (Tony Crawley, whose writing and style I liked, wrote the terrific biography The Steven Spielberg story", published in July 1983, which I read a lot)|
|issue 61, August 1983 - probably one of the last issues I bought|
scans from my collection except issue 1 from Dez Skinn
Dez Skinn on Starburst
Starburst at Crivens! Comics & Stuff