26th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘The Legend of the Stardust Brothers’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Shingo Kubota, Kan Takagi, Kyoko Togawa, Kiyohiko Ozaki | Written and Directed by Macoto Tezuka


The Legend of the Stardust Brothers was made all the way back in 1985. I was only two years old; Back to the Future, The Goonies, Weird Science and The Breakfast Club (among many others, because it’s a hell of a year for film) were enchanting cinema goers by the millions; New Coke was introduced in the USA to very little fanfare and our friends over in Japan released this movie, a movie that I, until very recently, hadn’t heard anything about. It seems I’m not alone though, as the film flopped in its native Japan and even remains unknown to the majority of folks to this day. Strange. Needless to say, I was excited to check it out once I read the premise and heard the riveting backstory behind it.

The backstory to the film, which I found quite intriguing, would see the son of the “godfather of Manga” Osamu Tezuka, Macoto Tezuka, who was a film student back in the 80s, meeting a musician named Haruo Chicada, who had composed a soundtrack to a film not yet made. This film. The Legend of the Stardust Brothers. So… Tezuka adapted the soundtrack into his first feature film. Pretty crazy, but very interesting. Macoto Tezuka has since gone on to direct many films, such as Black Kiss, Tokyo Shutter Girl and Numa nite, but this was his very first. He would also pen the screenplay. He was only 22 years old. Woah.

It’s the tale of Shingo and Kan (Shingo Kubota and Kan Takagi), two charismatic pop star rivals who are signed up to a deal by a company called Atomic Promotions, where they become The Stardust Brothers, a pop duo who very quickly become mega-stars, climbing to the top of the charts in little time at all. It’s a cute story of the fleeting concept of fame and plays out amidst a backdrop of energised pop music. It’s bright, loud, pretty bizarre and charming, delivering what will surely, especially with the new releases of this film making their way onto the market, become a cult-classic, if it isn’t already.

A musical extravaganza of weirdness and charm, its plot of a famous pop duet rising to stardom and falling back down again is a great slice of fun. The music itself is a joy and it’s very peculiar too. The costume designs, the performances, the dialogue, the cinematography, it’s all very interesting and very odd. I say “odd” in a positive way though. It just has that obscure tone to it, and it works. It’s part punk rock and part bubblegum pop. It’s comedic and completely wacky. There’s a definite OTT element to everything here, visually and in the acting, but it works with the bright, colourful and furious style Tezuka was obviously going for. It’s almost Tomorrowland-ish in it’s dated futurism and looks so insanely 80s that I couldn’t help but smile repeatedly.

Infectiously dazzling and packed with gleefully fun music that ranges from soft rock to pure ballads, The Legend of the Stardust Brothers is a lost film of sorts, ignored and buried for a long time, so it’s a really good thing to see it unearthed and given a new lease of life again some 34 years on from its initial release. A riotous good time, I hope it finally received the attention it deserved all that time ago.

**** 4/5

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers screened on Sunday August 25th as part of Arrow Video Frightfest 2019.


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