The Star Chamber (1983)

R | 109 mins | Drama, Mystery | 1983

Director:

Peter Hyams

Cinematographer:

Richard Hannah

Editor:

James Mitchell

Production Designer:

Bill Malley

Production Company:

Frank Yablans Presentations, Inc.
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HISTORY

The following acknowledgment appears at the end of the film: “For George-Ann.”
       Actor Charles Hallahan, who played “Officer Pickett”, did not receive an onscreen credit, although he is listed in IMDb.com under the full credits for the film.
       A 10 Aug 1983 DV advertisement announced that actress Fritzi Burr, who played the role of “Judge Alice McCardle”, had been erroneously left off the credits. Frank Yablans, Peter Hyams and Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. ran the ad to apologize for the accidental oversight and praised Burr for her work in the film.
       In a 5 Aug 1983 LAT review, Kevin Thomas stated that the film’s title was a reference to a court established by King Henry VII in 1407 that held “secret sessions” without the oversight of a jury.
       According to production notes from the AMPAS library files, three years before production began, screenwriter Roderick Taylor approached producer Yablans with an “eight-page idea,” about victims’ rights. Drawing inspiration from a series that ran in the LAT , Taylor wanted to explore legal loopholes, that allowed criminals to go free or received parole due to assorted legal technicalities and the groups that advocated harsher penalties for second offenders. After Yablans read several drafts of Taylor’s story, he arranged a meeting with Hyams in New York City. The men reportedly walked around the city for five hours discussing The Star Chamber’s themes and came to the conclusion that they should move forward on the project.
       A 26 Mar 1982 DV news item stated that the film would be shot entirely in Los Angeles, CA, on a ... More Less

The following acknowledgment appears at the end of the film: “For George-Ann.”
       Actor Charles Hallahan, who played “Officer Pickett”, did not receive an onscreen credit, although he is listed in IMDb.com under the full credits for the film.
       A 10 Aug 1983 DV advertisement announced that actress Fritzi Burr, who played the role of “Judge Alice McCardle”, had been erroneously left off the credits. Frank Yablans, Peter Hyams and Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. ran the ad to apologize for the accidental oversight and praised Burr for her work in the film.
       In a 5 Aug 1983 LAT review, Kevin Thomas stated that the film’s title was a reference to a court established by King Henry VII in 1407 that held “secret sessions” without the oversight of a jury.
       According to production notes from the AMPAS library files, three years before production began, screenwriter Roderick Taylor approached producer Yablans with an “eight-page idea,” about victims’ rights. Drawing inspiration from a series that ran in the LAT , Taylor wanted to explore legal loopholes, that allowed criminals to go free or received parole due to assorted legal technicalities and the groups that advocated harsher penalties for second offenders. After Yablans read several drafts of Taylor’s story, he arranged a meeting with Hyams in New York City. The men reportedly walked around the city for five hours discussing The Star Chamber’s themes and came to the conclusion that they should move forward on the project.
       A 26 Mar 1982 DV news item stated that the film would be shot entirely in Los Angeles, CA, on a budget of $8 million.
       On 7 Jun 1982, LAHExam reported that Yablans bought 300 tickets at Los Angeles’ Dodger stadium for a game between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves to shoot a key scene. The cast, crew and “special guests” filled the seats during filming.
       According to a 18 Jun 1982 DV article, Twentieth Century-Fox spent one month building a new piece of lighting equipment for the film that could do the work of “10 of the industry’s largest arc lamps.” Named “The Big Fox Light,” the aluminum unit measured eleven feet by eleven feet and was operable by “hydrocrane” by remote control. It was reportedly capable of emitting 18 million “candle power,” eliminating daytime shadows and facilitating evening location shoots with needed illumination.
       A 27 Jul 1982 DV article noted that an $11 million lawsuit was filed by International Photographers Local 659 against Twentieth Century-Fox and Frank Yablans Productions, alleging that the duties of the director of photography Dick Hannah were reassigned to Hyams, thereby violating the union’s collective bargaining agreement. According to the complaint, Hyams “usurped” Hannah’s role as cinematographer, and the filmmakers had violated an agreement to permit a Local 659 “steward” on set to oversee production. The suit asked the U.S. District Court to award $7 million in general damages and $4 million in punitive damages.
       On 3 Aug 1983, LAT article reported that The Star Chamber opened in 1,000 theaters across the nation. Fox Worldwide Marketing and Distribution President Tom Sherak stated that the studio decided to wait until the end of summer 1983 to release the picture so it would not compete with other features aimed at younger audiences; the time frame had a proven track record of ensuring success for films that were considered “hard to market.” Sherak explained that the studio felt the title could be problematic because it implied the expectation of a science-fiction picture so the studio geared the film’s trailers “to clear up any misconceptions about the title and the subject matter.”
       According to a 7 Aug 2003 DV article, producer Frank Spotnitz, formerly a writer and executive producer of the television series The X-Files , planned to direct and executive produce a remake of The Star Chamber for the FX Channel. Spotnitz mentioned that the project had potential because there were more flaws in the criminal justice system in 2003 than when the original movie was released and the public was more enraged about it. As of 18 Oct 2012, the remake project had not materialized.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1982.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1982.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jul 1982
p. 1, 26.
Daily Variety
10 Aug 1983.
---
Daily Variety
7 Aug 2003
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 1983
p. 10.
LAHExam
7 Jun 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Aug 1983
p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
5 Aug 1983
Calendar p. 15.
New York Times
5 Aug 1983
p. 8.
Newsweek
15 Aug 1983
p. 64
Variety
3 Aug 1983
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Peter Hyams Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Pres/Prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
Key grip
Still photog
Video coord
Video coord
Filmed with a
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Construction coord
Set des
COSTUMES
Cost des
Women`s cost
Men`s cost
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond by
Scoring mixer
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Dolby consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Casting asst
Transportation coord
Unit pub
Asst auditor
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
Stunt Men and Women
SOURCES
SONGS
"New Church," performed by The Lords of the New Church, written by Stephen J. Bator Jr. and Brian James, courtesy of IRS Records
"Boys in the Brigade," performed by Youth Brigade, courtesy of Better Youth Records.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1983
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 5 August 1983
Production Date:
Summer 1982 in Los Angeles, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
17 August 1983
Copyright Number:
PA185605
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theaters
Color
Color by DeLuxe®
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
109
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26711
SYNOPSIS

On a South Los Angeles, California, street, two plainclothes detectives chase Hector Andujar, a Latino man, who fits the description of the killer of several elderly women. During the pursuit, Andujar throws something in a garbage can and disappears but the detectives can’t search the can without a warrant; the law only allows police to rummage through trash once it’s been removed from a trash container and mixed in with the other trash in a sanitation truck. However, the police make the procedural error of searching Andujar’s trash in the truck before it is combined with the rest of the truck’s trash. Before leaving the scene, detective Kenneth Wiggan finds a gun. Later, in the courtroom of Superior Judge Steven R. Hardin, Andujar’s attorney asks that all evidence in the case be declared inadmissible because the detectives violated his client’s right to privacy by not waiting until Andujar’s garbage was mixed with the rest of the garbage in the truck to do a search. The trial ends with Andujar free because of a technicality despite overwhelming evidence against him. At a Chinese restaurant, Hardin complains to Benjamin Caulfield, his former law professor and fellow judge, that the law has become too distorted for justice to prevail. Caulfield confesses that he’s done something about it but refuses to explain. Sometime later, the police, along with detective Harry Lowes, uncover the grisly murder of ten-year-old Daniel Lewin in the park. Nearby, Officer Pickett and Officer Nelson stop a van that has two outstanding warrants and notice that two thugs inside, Lawrence Monk and Arthur Cooms, are nervous. Pickett detects marijuana and instructs his partner, Nelson, to search the van. When ... +


On a South Los Angeles, California, street, two plainclothes detectives chase Hector Andujar, a Latino man, who fits the description of the killer of several elderly women. During the pursuit, Andujar throws something in a garbage can and disappears but the detectives can’t search the can without a warrant; the law only allows police to rummage through trash once it’s been removed from a trash container and mixed in with the other trash in a sanitation truck. However, the police make the procedural error of searching Andujar’s trash in the truck before it is combined with the rest of the truck’s trash. Before leaving the scene, detective Kenneth Wiggan finds a gun. Later, in the courtroom of Superior Judge Steven R. Hardin, Andujar’s attorney asks that all evidence in the case be declared inadmissible because the detectives violated his client’s right to privacy by not waiting until Andujar’s garbage was mixed with the rest of the garbage in the truck to do a search. The trial ends with Andujar free because of a technicality despite overwhelming evidence against him. At a Chinese restaurant, Hardin complains to Benjamin Caulfield, his former law professor and fellow judge, that the law has become too distorted for justice to prevail. Caulfield confesses that he’s done something about it but refuses to explain. Sometime later, the police, along with detective Harry Lowes, uncover the grisly murder of ten-year-old Daniel Lewin in the park. Nearby, Officer Pickett and Officer Nelson stop a van that has two outstanding warrants and notice that two thugs inside, Lawrence Monk and Arthur Cooms, are nervous. Pickett detects marijuana and instructs his partner, Nelson, to search the van. When Nelson sees a bloodied boy’s sneaker in the rear of the vehicle, Monk and Cooms are arrested and later tried for the murder of Lewin. The boy’s death is thought to be the work of a child pornography ring that kidnaps, drugs, films and then kills children. However, in Hardin’s court, the case unravels because the city is behind on its record-keeping. The public defender argues that the police arrested Monk based on erroneous information and deems the search of their vehicle illegal and asks that the case be dismissed. As the court adjourns, Dr. Harold Lewin, Danny’s father, reminds Hardin that his son has been gruesomely murdered by shoving his son’s school photograph in the judge’s coat pocket. The next day, the case is thrown out of court and when Lewin attempts to shoot the freed killers, he is arrested. Later, at a baseball game, Hardin asks Caulfield to explain what he meant about overcoming the problems of convicting felons. Caulfield says he will soon offer an explanation but he refuses to do so at the ballgame. Judge Hardin later visits Lewin in prison. The doctor is at peace because he tried to take the law into his own hands. When Hardin offers his help, Lewin reminds him that another boy has been found murdered in the same manner as his son and says that the Judge is at fault because the murderers are back on the street. In a fury, Hardin drives to Caulfield’s house, where he learns about “the court of last resort,” a secret group of nine judges that hand out “real” justice for the most perverted cases in the court system. According to Caulfield, Hardin has one of two choices; he can go back to his career on the bench or he can get his hands dirty by joining the secret court. Hardin and a panel of judges then listen to cases in the privacy of Caulfield’s study and a hired killer is contracted to enforce the court’s decisions. When Hardin learns that Lewin has committed suicide in prison, he brings Danny Lewin’s case to the secret court, and the judges arrange the execution of Monk and Cooms. Meanwhile, the police capture Stanley Flowers, a well-known car thief. During his interrogation, Flowers reveals that a van he stole for three black men was returned with a boy’s bloody sneaker inside. Elsewhere, Hardin and his wife, Emily, attend a political function and learn from a friend that the news has reported the arrest of three black men believed to be the child pornographers. Fearing that Monk and Cooms are innocent and will be wrongly punished, Hardin finds Caulfield at the party and demands an emergency secret court session that evening. Although, Caulfield says it won’t be easy to gather all the judges so quickly, the meeting convenes and Hardin is adamant that their decision to execute Monks and Cooms be reversed but he learns the execution cannot be stopped. In an effort to find Monk and Cooms before the hit man, Hardin follows Lowes’ directions to an abandoned warehouse, and confronts the men. When Hardin warns them that their lives are threatened, they don’t believe him and beat him up. As Hardin runs for his life, he grabs a chemical-filled glass bottle and uses it to defend himself as he inches out of the room. However, Monk and Cooms lunge at Hardin, causing him to throw the bottle into the middle of the room. An explosion rips through the side of the building and all three men run down the stairs as the fire alarm sounds. Meanwhile, a police car pulls up to the abandoned warehouse. The thugs shoot at Hardin, but before they can kill him, the hired killer, who is disguised as a police officer, shoots Monk and Cooms dead. The executioner looks Hardin in the eye and cocks his rifle, but before he can fire, Lowes appears and shoots the killer dead. Later, the secret court continues in Caulfield’s study but Hardin’s seat is empty. Instead, he and Lowes sit in a patrol car outside the house, tape recording the proceedings as future evidence for a criminal investigation.
+

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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