DVD Review: Telstar

STUDIO: Inception | DIRECTOR: Nick Moran | CAST: Con O’Neill, Kevin Spacey, JJ Feild, Tom Burke, Pam Ferris, James Gordon
DVD RELEASE DATE: 3/20/2012 | PRICE: DVD $26.98
SPECS: NR | 119 min. | Biographical drama | 2.40:1 widescreen | Digital 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


The 2008 film Telstar looks at the life and career of England’s Joe Meek, music producer who turned recording rock ‘n’ roll into a science, with producers in lab coats fiddling with a roomful of electronics while Teddy Boy rockers bowed to his often terrorizing whim in the next room next door. A lesser-known but equally important contemporary of Phil Spector, Meek is wholly deserving of this biography, particularly as his life is full of the sort of drama you just can’t make up: Meek was flamboyantly gay at a time when it was illegal (he was arrested), tone-deaf, drug addicted, paranoid, an occultist and inept businessman. He was also a tragic figure, as this superbly paced, music-filled biopic confirms.

Telstar movie scene

Con O'Neill is British producer Joe Meek in Telstar.

Con O’Neill (The Kid) gives a star-turn performance at Meek, one that should have launched him beyond his British TV status, as the high-strung producer who draws into his circle very talented musicians (among others, Ritchie Blackmore, later with Deep Purple; John Leyton, later a movie star) and composers, including spiritualist Geoff Goddard who channels insanely catchy melodies from beyond. Their big hit with the Tornados, the titular “Telstar,” cranks up the pop machinery that eventually will include Gene Vincent, Screaming Lord Sutch and Billy Fury, all of it financed by prim industrialist Major Wilford Banks (Kevin Spacey, Horrible Bosses).

JJ Feild (Captain America: The First Avenger) plays Heinz Burt, the romantic interest who becomes a major pop star but is reduced to painting buses when Meek breaks up with him and fails to pay him his royalties. The riff between the two begins the downward spiral that leads to an inevitable tragedy that’s depicted with tasteful grace by actor-turned-director Nick Moran, who shows solid skills handling both the story and technical details in his first feature film.

Sadly, there are no bonuses in what could have been a bonus bonanza of music videos, vintage photos and clips and more detailed “where are they now” bios than what appears during the credits. Still, Telstar should click with anyone with an interest in the history of rock or just a crackling good how-they-did-it story.

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About Buzz

Buzz McClain reviews DVDs for Playboy magazine and is a former critic for Video Business magazine. But what he really wants to do is direct.