I finally meet Zack Groove in 1983.
I am eighteen years old.
I have come here from Texas to find Julia, of course, but I find Zack instead.
I find him living in an apartment above the Lyric Theater on 42nd Street, which he now owns. He is a very rich man in New York City, but not because the Julia Starchild series has been successful. No, not at all. In fact, the last one, great as it was, didn’t make much money. It’s was a box office disaster, really. Which is ironic because it’s the best one in the series. In the end, it cost 11 million to make—that’s including all the SENSURROUND shenanigans. It only made nine mil worldwide. I’m not sure why that happened. And at first I don’t understand why Zack Groove is rich enough to own a movie theater, along with five high rise buildings and a mansion in Los Angeles, which he hasn’t had the heart to sell, even though he will never set foot in it (or in California) ever again. I would not have wanted to know why he is so rich now.
When I track him down at the Lyric, he tells me.
He tells me the whole story that I have told you—all of it and more—and I sit and listen to him speak, as if he is some great cosmic god, revealing the secrets behind the creation of an entire universe. I feel like a child again. Maybe I was a child all along.
And here is what he tells me:
. . .
Julia Starr is a troubled and closed-off little girl. She is homely and unloved as a child, beaten by her mother and father, made to feel so inadequate in a poor home filled with the terrible stench of failure and the afterburn of cheap whiskey. That’s in the early 60s. At age 13, Julia wants to be an actress, like the great starlets she admires in all the old movies—Lauren Bacall, Kathleen Hepburn. elegant, storied, beautiful ladies who made their own way in life and forged their own legacies in the stone tablets of Hollywood history. When Julia becomes 17, she realizes how beautiful she actually is. A few years after that—in her junior year of high school—she runs away from home, which is the small town of Providence, California. It turns out LA is only a hitchhike away, just down the interstate, and she lands there and every head turns. She is darkly gorgeous and her body smacks of sex, developed and streamlined and creamy, now that she is 19 and finally a woman. It is 1972. Everything is so modern. Cars are flashier, movies are more sophisticated. She gets invited into clubs which sparkle with all the disco flash of a million gaudy galaxies. She meets many people, all of whom are just as gaudy. She starts hanging out with very rich dudes. Some of them are handsome. They all want to buy her things, treat her right, take care of everything for her. None of this makes her happy. She knows she is only beautiful and that is just a gift given by her mother and father—whom she will never forgive for beating her so ruthlessly. She starts to realize that her mother was jealous of her daughter’s beauty. And that beauty shames Julia now—because it’s the only thing that makes everyone love her. This is the strange curse that all beautiful people must live with. She hardly does. It makes her cry when she is making love. She wants to be a movie star on her own real talent—but she has none, because she’s never worked a day in her life. At anything. She’s only run from place to place, trying to escape bad things. She never even finished high school. But that’s okay because one day at the Playboy mansion, someone snaps some photos of her and she is fast-tracked as a centerfold girl. This blows her mind. This means she has to bear it all. But why not? What does it matter now? Her soul is already compromised. She tries to make art from it. She puts every ounce of her into the photos they take—which appear in the June 1973 issue.
She is living at the mansion still, when Zack calls her.
He is an excited, eager young man, who says he has a plan to save the universe—literally. And he needs her to do it. He is elegant in his description of the film he wants to make. His words are the kind of poetry she wants to make one day. She is intrigued and fascinated. She agrees to do his film. By this time, she has had sex with more than three dozen men, four dozen women, and there are seven marriage proposals on the table. She wants none of it. She has not earned any of it. She feels like a fraud. But maybe—just maybe—this crazy kid’s space movie will make her feel worth something at last.
On the set of Julia Starchild in New York, she is enchanted anew.
Zack Groove is handsome and crazy.
His ideas about love and death and torture and passion are visionary.
That’s what she thinks anyway.
She allows herself to be seduced by him as they make the film—she wants to believe that all the things he’s said are true. She finds out about his heroin habit a week after she discovers she’s pregnant. Zack is a different man after that. He only seems to care about his film. She will not kill the baby like he suggests. He cries and apologizes for even thinking that, but it’s a deal-breaker. Zack is not her Prince Charming. He never will be. After the shoot is done she moves back to Cali and has the baby and the generous souls at Playboy allow her to stay with them until she can get on her feet. The child is gorgeous and special. A baby boy. She will never allow him to be raised by a drug addict and a crazy man. She goes in search of a father.
This torments her like nothing you can imagine.
That she takes Zack’s son and makes him someone else’s son.
She will explain this to Zack years later, when all is said and done.
She will explain it in the suicide note she leaves behind on the night of her death.
But that’s for later, of course.
Right now, Julia accepts the highest bid from her many suitors and becomes the wife of a bulletproof oil billionaire living in LA. It destroys what’s left of her soul to do this—but the man is kind and sweet and treats her very well. He makes things happen for her by throwing his money around. He even makes Zack’s next two movies happen—with her as the star. Her husband is not handsome, but he never raises a hand to her in anger, and their son is raised in luxury. She couldn’t care less about handsome anyway. It’s not any of that stuff that matters at the end of the day. Her unhandsome husband claims the child for his own, which breaks her heart all over because she knows it breaks Zack’s heart all over—but what can you do? She can’t stop any of it. She is only pretty.
When Julia 3 is released—a towering cinematic abortion she is ashamed of being in and which makes her cry to see—her unhandsome husband is brutally murdered in his own office.
She knows who did it.
The police come to her with eyewitness reports. Blood samples from the scene. Expert testimony from the PI who claims he was in the room to see it all. Zack will go to prison for the rest of his life because of this shocking, savage thing has done.
Julia puts on her best poker face and offers the PI six million dollars to alter his testimony and take the fall for the murder. With another six million, she buys off the entire police department and puts the judges in her pocket too. The deal is that the PI will officially do 30 years for manslaughter and get out in three for good behavior—then he will live the rest of his life like a king. He agrees. It’s a small price to pay.
Zack is never so much as questioned.
He vanishes and she thinks she’ll never see him again.
Maybe that’s for the best.
The PI is killed in prison by another inmate and what’s left of Julia’s heart dies. This time she is responsible. This time she has murdered a man by her own actions. It’s almost too much to bear. She spends months and months trying to process what she has done. She wants Zack to come back and tell her she’s not a monster. She wants it all to go away. But of course, things like this never go away.
They stay inside and make us different.
Make us human.
Make us bad.
Somehow, a new Julia Starchild movie happens. She is rich from her inheritance and no longer needs to work—but Zack has miraculously survived the blackest night and come back as a new version of himself. He says he is a Jedi now. Says he feels the Power of the Force. They make the movie and it is an adventure.
He wants to tell her what he did.
She wants to tell him what she did.
It makes her crazy.
And so, finally, she takes her own life.
And leaves him a note, explaining it all.
. . .
What she does not realize is this:
As Julia Starchild, her words and deeds have inspired me beyond anything she could have imagined. I am the one true fan of these films that really exists—the one fan who saw past all the cheesy surface decorations and really knew what they were trying to say. After Battle Beyond the Planet Of Ice blows my mind, I even return to Julia Starchild 3—the bottom-barrel worst of the series—and I find actual poetry in it. I see things I never saw before because I allowed my heart to die as a teenager. These movies are the one thing in the entire world that has kept me sane—after the awful thing I did when I was a child. The thing I did to protect my mother from a monster. The thing that still haunts me, even though it probably shouldn’t. I have never forgotten what I had to do that night. But now it’s like some one else did it. It’s like some distant film loop playing endlessly for a far away audience that has no idea who I really am. I am actor in a passion play, long forgotten by the hard critics of today. And so I steel myself. I move forward. I continue my self-education by reading and writing. I work odd jobs and keep the rent paid and I get a little older each day. I buy a VCR in 1982 and get all the Julia Starchild films and study them, shot by shot, frame by frame. I take in all these amazing lessons and I begin to write my own version of it all. I write my screenplay.
It is called Julia Starchild and the Planet of Lost Love.
It is my loving valentine to Julia and all she has done for me.
And for the universe.
And so, as an eighteen year old man, I set out from the safe haven of mediocrity that is Houston. I get on a bus for New York, where it is rumored that Zack Groove still lives, after retiring from the film business.
I find the Deuce of Times Square and I ask around.
This place is amazing even in it’s dying days—like a galactic carnival running on a half-life battery. During the days, it’s all barren and washed out and lost, like the bones of great beasts scorching in the summer heat. At night the lights come on and the theaters are like gateways to Shangri-La. Amazing. I want to live here forever. But I’m here on a mission. I must find Zack Groove.
It doesn’t take long.
Everyone knows where he is.
And in his apartment that overlooks the Deuce, high above the Lyric Theatre, he sees my eyes and hears my story and tears fall on his cheeks.
He realizes I am the true son of Julia Starchild—that it was my passion for these films that somehow spoke to him, and kept him alive all those years. He really believes that. His eyes are old and wasted, but infused with a brilliant new light. He tells me to sit down because he is going to explain everything to me now. He is going to tell me the absolute total truth—because he feels that I have somehow always been a part of this story.
He starts by telling me Julia is dead.
Then he tells me the rest.
He tells me everything I have told you and more—much more. He tells me about the crazy aftermath that surrounded her passing. How so many vultures closed around the money—but that she’d made it impossible for them to take her son’s birthright. He tells me about how Drydex Starr is the true inheritor of the Rumpelstiltskin estate, but that the kid won’t see a dime until he is 25. Until then, Zack owns it all, and can change the will as he sees fit. She left it all to Zack, really. Their son is now at finishing school in Switzerland, where he is being taught by the best scholars on the planet. One day the child will go to film school, just is Zack didn’t. One day the child will create his own legacy—and hopefully it will have nothing to do with Julia Starchild.
I listen to him tell me this incredible, tragic, awful story.
And I am not defeated by it.
I am armored by it.
Julia Starr may be gone in our world—but don’t you see, Zack? She lives forever on film. And the character you created will live on, even in a new movie. If we only believe. If we don’t allow the horrors of this terrible rotten world to defeat us. I came here from the same place you did. I have death and horror in my past too. But those are only passion plays we’ve long played out. We are not those people, not any longer. We are luminous beings, filled with magic. I never knew until this very moment what it was to truly forgive oneself. I never knew it was even possible. I was just following a star. A promise. An ideal.
But now . . .
NOW, ZACK . . .
We will come back to earth, you and I.
We will be stronger yet.
And the critics?
Well, fuck those guys.
“The seemingly indestructible Julia Starchild film franchise, begun in the mid-70s and still as sexy as ever, returns to a bizarre half-life ten years later in this strange and often brilliantly overwrought fifth sequel. B-movie toppers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus—perhaps the only men on earth who could have possibly seen value in such a venture—have given Julia a new lease on life, employing the original director of the series, who teams up with some new blood and a fresh face in the lead role—as often happens in such enterprises, where youth and beauty are paramount. Fans of the older films need not worry. The new Julia is every bit as bubble-headed and bubble chested as the last lady on display. And even though the movie is just plain bad, one can sense that there may be sincere intentions at the heart of this thing.”
“With the departure of late actress-model Julia Starr, the newest and most belated film in the series is a sexy misfire. It clearly knows how silly it is and tries hard to chase after some sort of wild overarching ideals, but it’s not nearly as classy as the last one.”
“A loving tribute to science fiction’s most storied and notorious leading lady.”
“Not bad. Could be worse.”
“A piece of cosmic shit that should have remained lost in hyperspace. By all reports, this movie took a lot of doing, but they just shouldn’t have done it.”
“Against all odds, it’s a film the both delights and amuses.”
“The story is pretty simple: Julia Starchild is “Reborn from galactic fire” as a new woman with a new face, which appears to be a cheap borrow from the DOCTOR WHO series, to explain away the new “actress” playing the lead. After a surprisingly dazzling opener, which serves as a backdrop to the opening titles, Julia sets out on a journey to reclaim her heart and soul, realizing that it is now 300 years later and every mortal she ever loved is now dead. It’s a sweet sentiment that quickly gets gobbled up by flashy special effects shots (many of which are mostly not-so-flashy), extended torture scenes and generally tasteless sex and violence. This has always been a schizophrenic film saga in terms of tone—but this one is downright ludicrous on all fronts. When Julia finally finds the planet of lost love, she has sex with the head honcho (once again played by Joe S, Marcus in a typically scenery-chewing performance) and somehow “mates with the universe” to bring “love and passion to all those who have none.” It’s spectacularly bad writing and just-passable filmmaking, from a group of creative types who just never seem to know when to call it quits. Still and all, there are a few good scenes and the new Julia is smoldering, though her outrageous French accent is at times unintelligible.”
“I had fun with this. But if such shenanigans persist at the Cannon films factory of Golan and Globus, darker days are almost certainty ahead.”
And old Roger Ebert?
Well, damn, man.
“I have always found this film series to be fascinating and frustrating. The last one was a big budget mess with misguided intentions, the ones before that were zero budget shlockers. This one seems to be the best of the lot. It understands who Julia Starchild is, perhaps for the first time. Which is ironic, seeing as how she’s played by a new actress. That actress is Bianca Starr (presumably a stage name), and her dark chesty beauty is astounding.”
And in case you were wondering, yeah, it was Menahem Golan who made all this happen—that crazy doomed Israeli movie mogul who came to America to make his fortune, set up outrageous shop and eventually flamed out so brightly. Along with partner Yoram Globus, of course. Once again, proof that money can buy anything—even the movie business. But not for long. Yes, I can proudly say that I knew those guys in the years before Cannon went under. I can proudly say that my one contribution to the Cannon mythos was also my greatest contribution to the legacy of Julia Starfire. Menahem was, of course, what he was in those days—a loud raging weirdo who got whatever he wanted by sheer will and lots of cash. And what he wanted from Zack Groove was the Julia rights—he’d been trying to get them for years, long before I showed up at Zack’s apartment with my script in 1983. I listened to him talk for hours that night. I remembered as much as I could so I could write it down here. Then I gave him my screenplay. Zack read what I wrote and looked up at me with tears.
Said just three words.
“Let’s do it.”
The deal with Cannon practically did itself. We made the movie in three months. I was at Zack’s side every day. It was like a blur. I almost can’t remember any of the details now, except that our new Julia was amazing and funny, generous and charming—a total professional who knew her lines and did her work and went home to her husband at the end of each day. (And yeah, it’s a stage name, of course.) There were no bad things. Nobody was on drugs. (I think.) Nobody was fucking anybody else. (Maybe.) It all went really well—or at least as well as any Golan and Globus movie can go. (Rolls eyes. Coughs.) There were problems, of course, but it was all about money and editing. All about that big Golan guy screaming at us to get it fucking right or ELSE! But we were not afraid, Zack and I. And I still think the movie came out fine—even though it’s the one film in the saga that doesn’t have John Barry’s music in it. We had to settle for Tangerine Dream, a bunch of synth programmers from Germany who were popular back then, and who never even spoke a word of English to us during post-production. Some of the music was cool, though. It gives the movie a personality all its own—separate from the other films—which is as it should be. Zack always said during production that the real Julia would be proud—and I always reminded him that Bianca was Julia now. I reminded him that any woman could be Julia—because she is a spirit that will never die. We must suffer for her. We must offer our lives for her. But if we honor what she is, she will make us immortal. Zack would always get misty when I said stuff like that. I never found out of he was still on drugs in those days. I never asked. It probably didn’t matter. He was so proud of our work together that he even used his real name on the film credits for the first time in his career. He said it was like being young again and making the right decisions this time. Somehow being reborn. I guess that means he wasn’t on drugs. I’d like to think that was true anyway. Our film did okay in general release in 1985, but it was not a real success. It came out on video in late 1986 and sold a few tapes. Cannon went under, not long after that.
Zachary Paul Grove died two weeks later.
A heart attack took him while he was watching Julia 1 at the Lyric. He was found with tears of joy on his face. So I did not cry at his funeral. I smiled.
And as I sit here writing these words—in the LA mansion he willed to me, his 19 year old son away at film school, learning how to be a director—I am at peace. Because I know this is the best of all endings. The only way it could have possibly ended. Perhaps I will die too. Perhaps it will be soon. Perhaps they will find me with tears of joy on my face also. That would be a good ending too. I would be grateful for that. Like I am grateful for Julia.
And for this ending, which was perfect.
But there is one more story to tell, of course.
There’s always one more story to tell, even after the last story has been told. That’s the funny thing about stories and their sequels. They go on after the final fade out. They find a way to exist when the last generation has receded away. I suppose that’s what happens sometimes when a story is worthy—when it transcends its origins and spreads itself over many years, becoming some sort of legend. But really, if we are honest, that’s just the way time and history work. It all marches on, regardless of who is telling the tale. Most people in this world have no idea how special they are—that they are part of that history, even if they are nobody. We are a human race, and that race continues, ever forward, into the mists of infinity. So when we decide to tack an ending on one of our tales, or find a place to fit the fade-out in, at some great and profound moment, it may be some kind of artistic achievement after a fashion . . . but we are really just fooling ourselves.
Because stories never end.
Just like people never end.
This was the first lesson of mythmaking I ever learned.
And now I have come full-circle, to the place where it all began.
I never would have imagined how it would look now—almost thirty years since the first Julia Starchild film was made. It’s a tiny farmhouse off a rural highway and a rough dirt road. There were once crops in the field. There were one birds in the trees. But most of the trees are dead now. I get out of the car and look around and it fills me with a strange alchemy. The sky is blue and beautiful. The low ebb of planet earth roils beneath my feet. The moment is perfect.
She comes to the door before I even knock.
I see her face.
She is beautiful and devastated.
She invites me in and I enter the house and it’s filled with strange ghosts. The living room is dusty. I can see whole universes in the dull mists that gather by the windows. She sits in a chair that’s older than I am. She does not offer me coffee. She says to get on with it. And so I do.
I tell her the tale.
My part of it anyway.
I tell her the tale of my father and her son.
. . .
Most people think they want to be rich, but they have no idea what it is to be rich—especially when you’re born into it. The first few years of my life that I remember are a weird blur of hotel rooms and gated mansions and all that glitters from a thousand points of gold and diamond. The thing is: none of it is special to me. It’s just the way everything is supposed to be. Doesn’t everyone live like this? I am waited on hand-and-foot by servants and maids and I am doted on my mother, who is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is the only woman in the world, really. I have only the vaguest idea that she might be some kind of movie star. My father is a benevolent man on the surface, but he hides his true face from everyone. I know this, even as a four year old child. I sense the true shape of his darkest self, slithering just beyond the diamonds and the gold. Sometimes he makes it known to me when the cracks in his soul widen, and the rage pours out—never at me, of course, but I see him yelling at men in black suits and talking about things I will not understand for many years. It’s mostly all about money, of course. All about protecting what is his. Protecting his family. I see my mother cry when she thinks she is alone. She never knows I am there to watch her. Her tears are like rain on her face. It’s frightening to see a grown-up cry. But then I move on. There are rooms filled with wonderful toys and books and even friends to share playtime with. Anything I want, I can have. There is no wish I cannot see fulfilled. One day I ask for a monkey riding a tricycle—just to be silly, you know? And the next day a monkey riding a tricycle rolls into our living room, complete with a full compliment of clowns, all dancing because they think to will make me happy. It doesn’t make me happy. It makes me afraid and disgusted. Is this what it is to be human? To wish for anything and have it delivered, all dressed up in funny colors?
I decide when I am four years old that there is a world beyond this gated paradise, and it must be a world ruled by stronger hands. I ask my tutors to bring me new books, grown up books. I read The Scarlett Letter when I am almost five. It blows my mind and changes everything. I look into my mother’s eyes when she tucks me in that night—in a bedroom the size of most people’s houses—and I ask her if she truly loves me. Or am I just a trained monkey?
She cries again and tries to shield it from me.
But this is the moment when I become a man.
I am almost five years old, but I am a man.
How could it even be possible?
I find out quickly about her Playboy years after that, and about the Julia Starchild films. I am almost six when the truth about everything is made known to me. My father rages when he finds out that I have gone beyond these walls to find out who my mother really is—and for the first time, he punishes me. He tells me I am grounded, whatever that means. He takes away my Master Charge Card.
It is 1977 when this happens.
Like with most children my age, Star Wars has been a revelation.
Unlike most children my age, I own every singe piece of merchandise ever created to accompany the film—all in triplicate. And I study it all, right alongside my beautiful, fascinating broken mother—who is just like the characters of Hawthorne and Poe. And then I start reading Shakespeare. It’s hard at first because the language is so weird—but then I get it. Then I see that these universal tragedies and human truths are beyond reproach—and they apply to all of us.
My father is murdered in his office three weeks after I finish Romeo and Juliet.
And the world becomes different.
My mother becomes cold and distant.
She becomes like a haunted character in a passion play.
I do not see her for years, it seems—a billion trillion years, as her face hides such awful, terrible, adult realities. I would understand if she confessed them to me. I am wise beyond my years. Really and truly. But she keeps it all inside. She drinks to quell the pain. She is not a monster, but she is lost to me . . .
Until the man from space arrives.
That amazing, fascinating, broken man, who is just like my mother.
I meet him for the first time when he arrives at our house to invite her on a wonderful carnival ride. The fourth Julia Starchild film. He says he is a good friend of the family when I ask who he is. His eyes glow when he looks at me. Later in New York City, when we are on that wild-and-crazy movie set, and everything is magic time, I see the man from space in his natural element. I see him running this awesome thrill-ride and I see the waves of magic pouring off him. I see that he is every character in every work of classic literature I have ever read and tried so hard to understand—yes, he is all of those men and so many more. He is the beginning and then ending of all creation.
His is a film director.
He is my father.
I want to be just like him—but I also want go past him.
When I see Battle Beyond the Planet Of Ice for the first time, I call him “daddy” for the first time. I see his joy fall on his face like the diamonds of my childhood. I am seven years old. Everything is set before me.
I see that mankind is a beautiful, eternal creature and that the stories we make are our expression of that eternity. I know that love is the most important thing in the universe and that we are all born to know and understand that love, through the stories we live and the magic we make. I believe that with all the heart of a child who has not been shown true manhood. I vow to keep it with me always, until the day I die.
Even when my mother dies by her own hand, I do not cry.
I know that she was not long for this earth.
I always did.
I am grateful for the brief moment she allowed us all to know her.
I plunge head-first into my book and my movies. The man from outer space—my true father—dies in his heart a little at a time, but I carry on for him. When I am ten years old, I have aced the entire school system and I’m looking at college now. I will be the youngest kid on earth to enter film school, when I am done studying abroad.
I go to France, where I truly become a man at last.
At age 13, I meet the woman I will marry.
Her name is Sarah, and she glitters with everything that is beautiful. Her smile is sweet and knowing, her hair long and silky. She is seven years older than me—a teacher’s assistant—but she is astonished when I tell her I am only 13. I blow her mind with everything I know about the films of Goddard and Antonin Artraud. I recite the poetry of Billy Shakes to her and she is charmed like she never could have imagined. She says I am too young to love her, but I do anyway. I tell her I want her to be my muse. I tell her she must be in my first film. She blushes and it is so, so beautiful.
While I am falling in love, my father, the man from outer space, who gave me everything and fell from grace—he is rescued from his oblivion.
By a man I will never know.
He comes to my father and says that Julia Starchild was the great light of his life, and that’s he must return. They do a deal with some Hollywood pirates to make another Julia film—and when I hear about this, I am angry at first. I think it is a betrayal. But then the man from outer space, my beautiful magical father, explains it all to me. His voice is filled with a passion I have never experienced from him before. He says that stories are eternal, which is a truth I have always known. He says that anyone can be my mother. Anyone can be my father. Anyone can be anything, so long as they believe in the magic that drives us.
And I believe it.
I come to the states with my beautiful Sarah and we sit in a theater and watch Julia Starchild and the Planet Of Lost Love, and it is truly a revelation. It’s not a great movie—but it is a movie that, like the other Julia films, has great passion. And it speaks to me in ways I would not have imagined.
My father sits net to us with tears on his face.
I know he will join my mother soon.
Jimmy Williams Universe is not at this particular screening because he had somewhere else to be, apparently—and so I never meet him.
Jimmy Williams Universe is the stage name of the man who loved my mother.
My mother who was Julia.
Jimmy Williams Universe inherits everything when my father leaves us.
I am back in France with my beloved Sarah when his happens. I do not cry. I do not return for the funeral. I move on with my own story. In a few more years, I will own the entire empire. And I must be ready when that happens. I must be worthy.
I turn 19 the year I finally enter film school at UCLA.
I am 21 when I am ready to direct my first feature.
Sarah says she will marry me finally, and she will be my muse.
I send a telegram asking for six million dollars to shoot it.
Jimmy Williams Universe deposits thirty in my account.
I never even speak to him on the phone.
I make the film in 1993. It is a wondrous blur. I direct with all the passion of my masters and I watch over the special effects guys with all the patience of a saint. Everything comes out beautiful and dangerous. We are changing the world. I am almost 24 when my baby is finally released to the world—on home video, of course, because that’s the way of the world now. It has three actual screenings in three actual theaters, and one of them is in Los Angeles, where my benefactor—Jimmy William Universe—cries real tears, knowing that stories are everlasting, even after they die.
And the critics finally like us without apology.
“This radically-polarized art film spin off to the trampy Julia Starchild film series is a revelation on all fronts. While marketed as a crass “cyberpunk” thriller, Starchild Sarah is a thing all its own, following the exploits of a beautiful orphaned theater ingénue who escapes from her brutal surroundings into a fantasy world, fueled by her lifelong obsession with the character of Julia Starchild. Within wild dreamscapes that jump from planet to planet, Sarah searches for “her better self,” becoming friendly with a variety of wild characters, from scummy street bums in alien back alleys to interstellar pirate kings flying in silver spaceships through “the nebulas of love and happiness.” The silliness of the various science fiction scenarios are virtually sidestepped by a cheeky revisionist approach that crosscuts between the real world and Julia’s deliriously fragmented fantasies, until finally it all comes to head and the lady must make her choice between “living the dream” and “dreaming the life.” It’s an almost astonishingly mature film for such a young director and the fact that it will probably go unheralded for many years is a true sin in today’s day and age of video-jaded genre product. It is rare when movie this good emerges from such a mire and will serve as a worthwhile and curious footnote in the lurid lexicon of Julia Starchild.”
“Weird and wonderful. Takes schlock and makes it art.”
“Where did this film come from? I want to shake the director’s young hand.”
“The questions of what makes high art and low art and where the line is dawn are all examined in this delightful revisionist thriller-fantasy that attempts a high wire act between thematic expressionism and dueling laser beams. Sarah Starr is lovable, pleasing and excellent as the title character.”
“A movie that will live in infamy and discussion for decades.”
“I hated the Julia Starchild films. This is something else entirely. It forces you to reexamine the very idea of what a story is and how it cane be told. It is, indeed, a new kind of film with a different kind of purpose.”
“Easy to dismiss at first as some sort of winky muse on the merits of art inside relative trash, Starchild Sarah speeds along as a harmless diversion, until its devastatingly human factor rises to the surface, invoking complex emotions that are entirely uncommon in this type of fantasy film.”
“As Sarah searches for meaning inside her own wasted life—her mother and father both dead in a bizarre suicide pact that has left her at the mercy of sadistic nuns in a government orphanage—the fantasy escape seems somewhat trite at first, then achieves a poignancy and a tenderness that will leave your jaw on the floor and your heart in Sarah’s hands.”
“Imagine Barbarella re-imagined by the Brothers Grimm through the lens of some berserk ultra-stylish new wave French Auteur and you start to get the idea.”
“The real world is in black and white, while Sarah’s visions of fantasy are in color—but this is less Wizard Of Oz and more Goddard, as the visions take over the movie and allow the viewer to realize that the only world worth living is the world we make for ourselves.”
And old Roger Ebert?
Well . . .
“This is a film unlike any I have ever seen. I’m not sure I know exactly how to review it. I’ll begin by saying that it’s incredibly violent and confrontational in the starkest sense of reality. But then it becomes something more that reality. And what you takes away from the experience may be what you bring into it.”
It is the work of our lives, father.
I honor you and I honor my mother with this.
Because you never left us. You are here.
And I love you.
. . .
The woman sits in her chair and smiles when my tale is done. She asks me why I came here to tell her this. I say that her son is Jimmy Williams Universe. I say that he died one week ago, peacefully in his sleep. He knew he was not long for this earth—like my father did, like Julia did. I know I am not long for this earth, too. I tell her my son will be born soon, and that he will continue the tale, as we all have, in this family of luminous beings.
But before I am gone . . . before I turn the story over to him . . . and before he turns it over to his own Starchild . . . I wanted you to know how much your own son regretted leaving you the way he did. I wanted you to know that he loved you and that he only did what he did to protect you. It was the tragedy of his life that he left and never came back. So here I am, mother. Here I am to right that mistake, in my own way.
Because I know that when my son is born, I will be dead.
It’s the way of the Starchilds, you see?
I’m not sure why that is.
But we cannot stay for long.
When my son is born, you will go to him. He will fill your life with the happiness Jimmy could not, if only for a while. My beloved Sarah will call you mother. My son will call you grandmother. The wrong will be righted. In our own way. Please take this gift from me, mother. Take it from me and know that we have always been family. Know that our stories will go on and on, and that those stories will bring others into our circle, and others beyond that. This is how the world is created. This is how creation becomes history. This is how history becomes eternity.
This is how the story never ends.
Even when it does.