Blu-ray Review ‘The Idolmaker’: Fallen Idol

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New on Blu-ray Tuesday from Shout! Factory, The Idolmaker is a largely forgotten film from 1980 despite the fact that it sports a superb cast, strong performances, catchy music and assured direction from the great Taylor Hackford (who provides a commentary track) in his feature debut.

It tells a fact-based tale of an early ’60s (pre-Beatles) singer-composer (Ray Sharkey, winner of a Golden Globe for the part) who realizes his road to greatness lies in grooming other, younger guys to be the next Fabian or Frankie Avalon. But despite some inevitable show-biz cliches along the way, the film emerges as a thoughtful, funny, dramatic and potent portrait of the inner workings of entertainment and the inevitable prices of fame. (Sharkey himself lost his way due to drugs after its release.)

Also in his feature debut was Peter Gallagher as Caesare, the Next Big Thing who goes from naive newbie to arrogant jerk during his heady rise. And the always wonderful Olympia Dukakis plays Sharkey’s supportive mom. (She’s Greek, not Italian, for this New York-Italiano tableau, but why quibble?)

The music is also original and superb, both fitting the times and giving it fresh spins, thanks to veteran songwriter Jeff Barry.

In the end, The Idolmaker succeeds in a way few films can claim when pressed to stand the test of time: Though set just over a half-century ago, and released over 30 years ago, the film doesn’t feel dated. It feels true.

— Bruce Westbrook

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