Plot: Sarah (Linda Blair) is just fifteen years old, but she is coping with a lot of problems as of late. She struggles to make sense of her parents’ divorce, as she doesn’t get to spend much time with her father Jerry (Larry Hagman) and her mother Jean (Verna Bloom) has already found a new husband. Even as she tries to make her arrangement with her parents work, she feels isolated and incomplete, as she can’t seem to built a normal relationship with either of her parents. As her home life suffers, school doesn’t seem to be much better and when she finds some solace in getting drunk, she continues to turn to the bottle to escape. But is she just having some fun to blow off steam or will Sarah’s alcohol use turn into an addiction?
Entertainment Value: This movie of the week style television production tackles an important issue, teenage addiction, but as often happens in these kind of movies, things often spiral into unintentional humor. Sarah T. does so less often than many of its peers, but there is still some camp value to be had, while the star power on both sides of the camera are also a potent lure. The narrative is about what you’d expect, an ever spiraling mess for our teen and wild behavior, denial, and melodrama abound, so rarely a dull moment in this one. The actual events shown seem plausible for the most part, so it never approaches Reefer Madness levels of panic, but the inherent melodrama and sometimes over the top performances add some humor. The tone is serious and I do think the attempt to tell the story was sincere, but melodrama can often unwind even the most well intentioned narratives. In this case, that doesn’t happen enough to undermine the movie’s message, so those looking for an effective cautionary tale should be pleased, while those who soak in melodrama can likely find enough here as well. However you choose to frame the story and melodrama, Sarah T. is well made and more than earns a solid recommendation.
The cast here is impressive, but it is also of note that Sarah T. was an early movie from director Richard Donner, who would build a remarkable career. This is of course not the kind of material Donner would become known for, but these made for television efforts are interesting to revisit. The lead in this one belongs to Linda Blair, who handles the part well and turns in a terrific performance. I think made for television movies often get dismissed by film buffs, but Blair’s turn here is a prime example of what those snobs miss out on. I do think she dips into melodrama, but playing an out of control teen almost requires some over the top moments, so no worries there. Blair is fun to watch in those wild scenes, but she also brings some weight to the character and the more bleak, serious sequences are effective. I’m always happy to see M. Emmet Walsh pop up, so despite a smaller role, he is a welcome presence. The cast also includes Mark Hamill, Michael Lerner, Larry Hagman, and William Daniels.
The Disc: Shout Factory brings Sarah T. to Blu-ray with a new 2k scan, which gives us a terrific looking version of the movie and likely the kind of treatment that fans of made for television movies have longed to see. The image is clean and provides a good amount of detail, even if not remarkable in terms of fine detail. I think inherent grain limits the detail to an extent, but I would much rather have the film’s natural texture, than an attempt to scrub the source clean. So it is a touch soft, but it has that 70s glow and I think this is a great looking presentation. A couple of new extras have been created for this edition as well, with Linda Blair providing her thoughts in a fresh interview, while director Richard Donner and producer David Levinson contribute an informative audio commentary track.