Thirty four years ago today… May 25, 1977… a movie that had little to no hope of succeeding opened around the country. A young director who had made a name for himself with a personal movie a few years earlier, American Graffiti, took a chance on a vision he had for a grand scale epic based on serialized westerns he watched as a child. B-movie all the way. Little did he, or we know, that Star Wars would go on to become a juggernaut of a franchise. The director, George Lucas, took an even greater chance with vision greater than can now be imagined, by giving up most monetary rights to his film in favor of merchandising rights.
But those details pale in comparison to what his strange little space opera did for society and the culture as a whole. Before that date, 2001: A Space Odyssey was as involved as science fiction got… Star Wars changed everything. The way special effects were created, the way you can have horrible acting yet still have a great movie, launched the careers of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher while at the same time pigeon holing Mark Hamill for the rest of his career and sending Sir Alec Guinness out with a role that he came to despise (he had a remarkable and storied career prior to this film, but most people only referred to Obi-Wan Kenobi towards the end of his life and left him a bit bitter towards his role).
For me, this movie gave me a direction that would cause me to leave all other tales and toys by the wayside in favor of my first true pop cultural obsession. Very little has changed in the last 34 years… for my love of this film that is. Of course, much of the film has been changed thanks to Lucas refusing to let it go and having to add CGI and “correct” some of his “errors”. All I can say to that is, boo! Greedo never shoots because Han doesn’t give him a chance! But that is a minor gripe.
I can’t really add anything to the discussion of this film… it’s all history at this point. But it’s a history I will always love. Watch the original teaser trailer below… it will give you an idea just how out of the realm of anything they had promoted previously. The voice over makes it sound like a completely different movie… a billion years in the making! According to Hamill, he was in a movie theater when this teaser popped up… when the voice over says, “coming soon to a galaxy near you” a theater patron yelled, “yeah, and straight into the bargain bin!” Nothing like proving people who yell in theaters wrong.
Happy birthday Star Wars,
Cornelius J. Blahg