#763: L’Empire contre-attaque

GETTING MORE TALE #763: L’Empire contre-attaque

We didn’t have a VCR in 1980.  You could rent them; this was usually reserved for special occasions.   That meant, unlike today, we couldn’t just watch the latest Star Wars any time we felt like it.  The best way to re-experience the movie was on your own, with action figures and soundtracks.  The Empire Strikes Back was my favourite album at that time.  I played certain tracks on those records so often with my kid fingers that they started to skip.

I used my parents’ big living room hi-fi.  Giant wooden speakers as heavy as oak doors.  A turntable, an 8-track, and a receiver.  Once I discovered Star Wars, I think I used it more than they did.  The Empire Strikes Back came in a luxurious gatefold, with photos from the film, liner notes, and a generous booklet.  It didn’t take long for the rips and tears to set in; that record was well loved.  Usually, I would plug in the set of headphones and listen quietly while turning the pages of that booklet.  On weekends, my sister and I would probably set up a big battlefield and re-enact the movies, with the soundtrack playing in the background.  The most frequently played tracks were “Yoda’s Theme”, “The Asteroid Field” and of course “The Imperial March”.  Sometimes we would ambitiously re-enact the entire movie in sequence using the whole soundtrack.

We had to improvise.  There were lots of characters and vehicles we didn’t have.  When the Wampa ice monster attacks Luke Skywalker and knocks him off his tawn-tawn, we had to use Chewbacca as a stand-in for the monster.  Before we had a Boba Fett, we used a Micronaut with an actual missile-firing backpack.  We didn’t have an AT-AT, so we used my sister’s cardboard Jawa sandcrawler.  The centrepiece of our play time was usually my huge Millennium Falcon toy.

Before anyone gets too nostalgic for the good old days, I’ll remind you those Kenner toys were actually quite shit.  My two biggest toys, the Falcon and the X-Wing, both broke immediately out of the box.  The wings on the X-Wing never worked right and I had to wedge marker lids in the wings to keep them open.  The hinge for the boarding ramp of the Falcon snapped when my dad put it together.  He tried to glue it, but ultimately the door was held on by an ugly piece of masking tape.  Sturdy toys they were not, and parts were always popping off.  The guns refused to stay on the wings of the X-Wing.  The canopy of the Falcon always popped open mid-flight.  It too eventually got locked down by masking tape.

During these huge play battles, my sister and I would take over the entire living room floor.  There was a coffee table that usually acted as Imperial headquarters.  You could park a TIE fighter on the shelf underneath.  All the while, John Williams and the London Symphony spun behind us.  I’d flip sides and cue up another track, or just play “The Imperial March” again.

When we were done playing Empire, we would do our own original stories.  We usually set these “pre-Empire“, since Han Solo was frozen in carbonite at the end of the movie.   He was a favourite character and we had two Han Solo action figures:  original Han and Hoth Han.  I loved Hoth Han.  Not only did he look cool but he was the only figure you could take his gun and plug into a holster on his hip.  It was hard to really make good coherant “pre-Empire” stories though, because we also wanted to play with other cool figures like Lando, and Yoda.  It didn’t particularly matter because we had tremendous fun without a logical story.

I’ll say it again:  improvisation.  We built a custom multi-level Cloud City out of cardboard boxes.  It had sliding doors and sort of an elevator.  We made our own figure-compatible vehicles out of Lego.  Before I had a figure of Han Solo frozen in carbonite, I took my Solo and put him in a glass of water.  If I put him in the freezer for a few hours, I’d have a frozen Han ready to go for the next adventure.  My dad was bemused to go into the freezer and find Han Solo in there so frequently.

No matter the story or setting, the Millennium Falcon was there.  You could fit several figures in it, with two in the cockpit, one in the gunner’s chair, and several tossed into the opening rear compartment.  The cool thing about the gunner’s chair was that it rotated in sync with the top quad-cannons.  The Falcon’s rear compartment was equipped with a space chess table (called Dejarik), a Jedi training area (you know, for that one scene), and a smuggler’s compartment with secret hatch.  This made it more of a playset than a ship, but it did have several features that made it more a ship than a playset as well.  Close up the rear compartment, raise the working landing gear, and you are airborne.  The Falcon also had sound effects and a large battery compartment where the escape pod would have been.  While playing on the living room floor, if the track “The Asteroid Field” was playing, you just had to get the Falcon ready for take off.  Close the ramp, the canopy, and the rear compartment.  Raise the landing gear and you were space-bound!  Then I’d fly the ship around the living room in sync with the swells and crescendos of the theme.  It really felt like Star Wars at that point.

In 1981, the first Indiana Jones soundtrack was released, also composed by John Williams.  It was official then:  Williams was my favourite.  I didn’t have very many records; most of the others were “Story Of” soundtracks with full narration and dialogue.  That was another way to re-live a movie in a pre-VHS household, but I kept coming back to the actual movie scores.  I outgrew the “Story Of” records but not the scores.  Even so, nothing topped the original two-record set of The Empire Strikes Back.  When Return of the Jedi was released in ’83, it was only a single record.  It didn’t have as many memorable cues.  I loved and cherished it, but not as much as Empire.

Besides, in 1983 something else happened besides the end of the Star Wars trilogy.  I was getting older, and there was this new song out.  I heard four words — “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto“, and my world shifted once again!  But that, friends, is another story.

 

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42 comments

  1. Great story Mike. I had the Falcon as well plus a Tie Figher, and X Wing Fighter and numerous other vehicles. Hours and hours of fun…I didn’t have the scores though. Now, I have the Star Wars scores, but no toys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hard disagree. I think it holds up better than any of the other ones. Much better than any of the movies that came after in the series. Not the biggest Star Wars fan, but I’d argue Empire is the last good one. Return of the Jedi was still entertaining. The prequels wallow in bad acting, dated effects, and snail pacing, and the new ones are even more creatively bankrupt, recycling plots completely from the originals and filling them up with the identity politics and the hypocritical Hollywood virtue signaling of today. Just my two cents.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was born in 1999, so Revenge of the Sith will always be my favourite, but I still really dislike Phantom Menace. Return of the Jedi or Solo would be my second favourite

        Sure Empire is probably a good movie but I find it quite boring, partly due to the score and partly due to the lack of any proper space battles. Luke’s duel is kind too slowly paced for my liking. And I don’t need to see Han and Leia bickering all the time. I see enough bickering in real life.

        As for the sequels, if your interested, I find them alright, but not up to the potential of what they could have been. I blame The Force Awakens for setting the trilogy off in a bad direction, and commend The Last Jedi for its efforts to deal with this.

        My personal ranking
        1- Revenge of the Sith
        Equal 2- Solo/Return of the Jedi
        4- A New Hope
        5- Last Jedi
        6- Rogue One
        7- Force Awakens
        8- Attack of the Clones
        9- Phantom Menace
        10- Empire Strikes Back

        Just my 2, 3, and 4 cents, admittedly unconventional.

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        1. I tried to do a new ranked list just to compare with yours, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen the prequels (probably since around 2006 or so) that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that. Hell, I haven’t seen any of the originals start to finish in years either.

          First time I saw Star Wars was on VHS (the original trilogy). Never caught them in theaters. Remember the box set had a particular smell and the cover art was wicked cool. This was the one. None of that special edition shit.

          https://www.amazon.com/Original-Version-Star-Trilogy-Set-1995/dp/B00BBND56G

          Thanks for disagreeing with me, I had forgotten what those Star Wars tapes looked like. Seeing them again is just like a nostalgic punch to the stomach. Holy hell, I feel young again! All kinds of memories came rushing back.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll disagree with anyone, even if only to play devil’s advocate. I first saw the original films through the 2004 DVDs. I still have them actually.

          Man I miss VHS’s though, it was so easy to record anything from the TV, and edit out commercials too, even if the quality was a bit turdy. My grandmother had (still has) the first six Star Wars films taped to VHS. When I was younger I’d always watch one when I went over there. Good times.

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        3. I definitely don’t miss VHS for movies. I’m glad we get HD picture quality and surround sound in the original aspect ratio now with a far more durable, accessible, and reusable format (Blu-ray). Special features are a nice bonus too. I think it’s kinda crappy that most Blu-rays don’t have booklets, unlike the early DVDs. The only Blu-rays I own with booklets are my Criterion Collection discs, my Blade Runner 5-disc Collector’s edition, and my Batman (1989) digi-book. I want more physical medium.

          The booklet in my Criterion Blu-ray of Repo Man (1984) is stellar, and hilarious too. You should watch Repo Man, Harrison. I don’t think you can watch the Criterion though, because it’s Region A locked. I hate region coding. It’s lame.

          I hope I’m not bit by the 4K UHD Blu-ray bug, I don’t want to upgrade my stuff again. 1080p to 2160p. It seems like a marginal upgrade compared to DVD to Blu-ray, but it’s still somewhat noticeable. Those 4K restorations almost always look stellar, even on normal Blu-ray discs.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I’m a DVD guy because they are more easily viewable. I only get Blu-Rays in very specific circumstances. I also don’t really care about surround sound or 4 billion K HD. I’m a simple guy when it comes to DVDs. And yes I hate region coding too. At the moment there is zero way I can get a useable physical copy of Rainbow’s Live Between the Eyes. I like booklets too, except when it’s just advertising for other movies.

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        5. Owning DVD didn’t used to bother me, but knowing that I don’t have the best version of the film available just makes me feel longing inside. I feel like I’m not getting the full experience possible.

          Have you ever thought of just getting a region 1 player? An NTSC DVD player should cost next to nothing now.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. I haven’t given much thought to it, although my simple store bought Blu-Ray player played a region 2 I accidentally bought just fine, so maybe it can handle them, I’m not too sure. But I have Live in Boston 1981, which while it is only a CD, is 10 times better than Live Between the Eyes. I might still get it at some point, who knows.

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        7. Well most Blu-rays (not all) are region free,, so maybe that’s why you got a region 2 dias to play. Unlike DVD which are almost always region coded.

          Love Joe Lynn Turner Rainbow.

          Liked by 1 person

        8. Oh that was a region 2 DVD, which was the interesting part.

          I love JLT Rainbow too. Boston Live 1981 is my second favourite live album of all time

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        9. Bent Out of Shape is a great artsy pop hard rock record. Straight Between the Eyes smokes. Difficult to Cure is probably my least favorite, but I still like it a lot.

          I wonder how many replies until we break the all time mikeladano.com number of replies to a single comment record. We should keep this going as long as possible, until LeBrain gets confused enough to look at this comment section.

          Liked by 1 person

        10. Out of curiosity, what is your favorite live album? Iron Maiden’s “Virtual X Factor Lights Strikes Over France XVI LGBTQQIP2SAA+ Longest Fucking Title Ever”?

          I think mine would have to be The Who’s Live At Leeds. That or Cheap Trick At Budokan.

          Liked by 1 person

        11. I was just thinking about what LeBrain is going to think of this when he sees it. He’d better hope there’s an in-reading meal included.

          I don’t have any of the JLT Rainbow studio albums, but I’m quite acquainted with and really enjoy the three live offerings, even if I can’t get two of them physically.

          And, surprisingly, my favourite live album of all time is not that hilariously titled one, but in fact Maiden’s very own Live After Death (boring choice, yes I know). But rest assured that Boston live 1981 is my second favourite of all time. Sabbath’s Cross Purposes Live and Alice Cooper’s Raise the Dead are close to the top as well.

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        12. Oh please don’t make me do that. I can’t do that. The difficulty of choosing and ranking would drive me insane.

          I can say that that is my favourite Queen song though, if you disregard the fast “We Will Rock You” from Live Killers

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        13. All right, how about ten of your favorites not ranked and under the condition that you could possibly be leaving some out? Here are a few of my favorites.

          Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
          Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking
          Dexter Gordon – Go!
          John Coltrane – Blue Train
          Faith No More – Angel Dust
          Mr. Bungle – Disco Volante
          Rush – Permanent Waves
          Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
          Extreme – II: Pornograffiti
          Led Zeppelin – I
          Kiss – Kiss
          Soundgarden – Louder Than Love
          Public Image Ltd. – The Flowers of Romance
          Yes – Close to the Edge
          Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
          Iron Maiden – Killers
          Judas Priest – Sad Wings of Destiny
          Ozzy Osbourne – The Ultimate Sin
          Peter Gabriel – 3
          Metallica – Kill ‘Em All
          George Michael – Faith
          Megadeth – So Far, So Good… So What!
          Roy Orbison – Mystery Girl
          The Police – Synchronicity
          Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair
          Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies
          Aerosmith – Rocks
          Scatterbrain – Here Comes Trouble
          Seal – Seal (1991)
          Queensrÿche – Rage for Order
          AC/DC – Let There be Rock
          Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
          The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
          The Cars – The Cars, Heartbeat City (S/T is better, but I’ve listened to HC more)
          Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick
          Genesis – Invisible Touch
          Jellyfish – Bellybutton
          Etc.

          Side note. If you like operatic metal (I know you do, you Blaze fanatic), you need to check out the album Master of Disguise by Lizzy Borden.

          Your turn!

          Liked by 1 person

        14. Alright, I’ll try not to let Iron Maiden dominate this-

          Studio-
          Iron Maiden- The Book of Souls
          Iron Maiden- Somewhere in Time
          Black Sabbath- The Mob Rules
          Iron Maiden- Iron Maiden
          The Hollywood Vampires- Rise
          Iron Maiden- Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
          Iron Maiden- The X Factor
          Electric Light Orchestra- Time
          Pink Floyd- The Wall
          Electric Light Orchestra- Eldorado

          Live-
          Iron Maiden- Live After Death
          Iron Maiden- Beast Over Hammersmith
          Black Sabbath- Live Evil
          Black Sabbath- Cross Purposes Live
          Black Sabbath- Hammersmith 1986
          Rainbow- Boston Live 1981
          Alice Cooper- Raise the Dead: Live From Wacken
          Dio- Live in Philly 1986
          Jeff Lynne’s ELO- Wembley or Bust
          Slade- Slade Alive! Anthology (technically 3 live albums and 2 live EPs in a two disc collection)

          Also-
          Favourite covers album- The Hollywood Vampires self-titled
          Favourite album cover art- Iron Maiden- Virtual XI

          Right, lord help LeBrain if he makes it this far down.
          Also, that Lizzy Borden song is pretty good, except the singing is like Halford (who I’m really not fond of) instead of Blaze.

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        15. That’s a bit better, a shame it never goes anywhere though. Would be the good intro to something a little faster

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        16. Well on the album it is sort of a transition piece that does lead into something faster. Great album mixed by Terry Brown. Yes! Rush’s Terry Brown!

          Hey, Harrison. Are you a Kopp? You have to tell me if you’re a Kopp!

          Could you recommend me a film semi-obscure that you love to pieces? I’ll give you one. Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Rumble Fish. Great soundtrack too.

          I think I’m going to hit the sack soon. It’s almost four in the morning here.

          Liked by 1 person

        17. Well my insights have served me well in relation to the transition piece, although “Terry Brown” and “Rush’s Terry Brown” both leave me none the wiser as to who this person is. Probably because I am not familiar with any Rush.

          As for a semi obscure film, well does the first Mad Max and its sequel count? They’re Australian classics but they didn’t do that well over in the US. Beyond that, maybe The Butterfly Effect, if you like your movies with a side of depressing. I tend to like under-appreciated but not obscure films, so my pick from that pool would be the Extended Cut of Alien 3

          I hope I wasn’t keeping you up with all these replies, and yes, your detective work is sound, my surname is indeed Kopp.

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        18. I’ve seen all of those films including the Assembly Cut of Alien 3, except The Butterfly Effect. Alien 3 isn’t a classic like the first two, but I think it’s decent. Much better than Alien: Resurrection which I have no qualms with calling one of the worst movies of all time.

          The first two Mad Max movies are great. Beyond Thunderdome kind of sucks. I can’t believe Siskel and Ebert gave it glowing reviews, with Ebert going so far as to give it a perfect score, calling it the best Mad Max movie and saying it was one of the year’s best. I thought it was like bad Spielberg mixed with Peter Pan. And why did they have Bruce Spence play a different character in that one? So much for continuity. That being said, it’s still much better than Alien: Resurrection.

          Rest assured (no pun intended), if I had wanted to go to sleep, I would have.

          Liked by 1 person

        19. Well looks like my idea of obscure films was pretty rubbish. Glad you like Alien 3 though because I do to, especially the Assembly Cut. Yep, Thunderdome sucks. Resurrection is alright for the first two acts but then goes completely off the rails as soon as the newborn is introduced.The Butterfly Effect isn’t anything special, but it’s still a decent movie. Also, may I ask how you discovered my surname? I’ve got some ideas but no solid evidence to which was used.

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        20. I think it says your surname in your review of that Di’Anno show you reviewed on the site. If not that, then your reader spotlight.

          I’m glad we agree on Thunderdome. It got great critical reviews, but the audience score was terrible. I remember the first time I ever saw that and I heard those cheesy keyboards and the drum machine for the opening Tina Turner song my heart sank. I knew they were going to hit the ’80s tap way too hard. They didn’t in the way i expected though. It really did feel like a C-list Spielberg film with the Lost Boys from Peter Pan.

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        21. Oh, it does too. That wasn’t so hard then. That review also tells me your first name. But now I’m wondering, why was my surname so important? Anyway, it’s not that important, so onwards, and we’ll leave Thunderdome at that, but on the topic of Spielberg, I’m curious to what you think of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It’s personally my favourite of all the JP movies.

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        22. I’ve actually only ever seen the original Jurassic Park, and the first of the new ones by chance on TV. The original is good, the new one was garbage. But I can’t comment on The Lost World. I never really hit it off with those movies as much as other Spielberg ones like Close Encounters, Jaws, Indiana Jones, and all. I am a fan of Laura Dern though, aside from her turn as Holdo, but that wasn’t her fault. Bad script.

          I’m about to re-watch The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of my least favorite of his actually, but plenty of moments that make it worth it. Like this one.

          Total Recall (1990) is a total masterpiece, but the first two Terminators are probably his best films. I love Schwarzenegger though. Just a great man that beat the odds to become an actor and a politician in a foreign land. Nobody could keep that guy down. So much charisma, he can do anything. He could make even the worst movie entertaining. Case in point, Jingle All the Way.

          Liked by 1 person

        23. Well unfortunately for you, Laura Dern is not in The Lost World, and the final sequence is, shall we say, an acquired taste, so I’d steer clear of it if you’re not a Jurassic Park fan.

          I’m not a huge Arnold fan, I enjoyed the first couple Terminators, and Predator. I’m not a real big fan of preposterous action movies but I’d probably find a couple moments in each that would make them worth my time. I have seen Total Recall, a couple years ago, but can’t remember much. Arnold is a great guy anyway though.

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        24. I’m not really a big action movie fan either. I like the really good ones though. Not all of Arnold’s are good, but I’ll watch them anyway because I love him and his goofy nature so much.

          Have you seen many art house films?

          Liked by 1 person

        25. Art house films are just lower budget films made for theaters called art houses. They’re usually artsy and abstract, not mainstream.

          Barnes and Noble were having a Criterion Collection 50% off sale today. Just to demonstrate my DVD phobia I rebought Rumble Fish on Criterion Blu-ray. I can’t help myself. Have to double dip. I need to just stop buying DVDs. Oh, and Rumble Fish would be an example of an art house film.

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        26. I may have actually seen one then, a French film called Monsieur Chocolat. It may have had a wider release in France, but it was definitely a small theatre film over here

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        27. That would definitely qualify. I wish I could afford more Criterion discs. So many great films that are hard to see because of the entry price. I really want the Shoah Blu-ray, but it’s about $100. The top of my Criterion wishlist is definitely Eraserhead though.

          Liked by 1 person

        28. Well I really liked Monsieur Chocolat, so who knows, I may delve further into the art house genre. But that one you were considering, woah, 100 dollars (US dollars presumably as well) is a crazy price. The most I’ve spent on a single disc was 60 AUD (including shipping) for a 1CD Iron Maiden with Di’Anno soundboard bootleg. Well worth it though.

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        29. Well Shoah is a nine hour documentary, so it’s not like they’re charging that much for one movie. It’s a nice box set. Saw it today at Barnes and Noble so it could have been mine for $50, but that’s still too much right now. Maybe some day. Also yeah, definitely USD.

          I don’t know if art house is necessarily a genre in and of itself, but more of a style or circumstance based on the movie’s budget or subject. I mean there can be all types of art house movies, but you’ll know one if you see one. I’d definitely recommed you find a way to rent Rumble Fish and Eraserhead as a start.

          I don’t know if Scorsese’s Raging Bull counts, but it wasn’t all that successful and has some similar qualities to those art house films. Think of it as like a film to bridge more mainstream pictures and the wonderful world of art house. There’s your homework assignment from me.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant. I can relate to this one, though I didn’t have the scores when I was younger. The Han in ice is a good move. I tip my hat to you.

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