Did Harrison really cause Erik and Rob to walk off the show? Did Rob drop two “F-bombs”? Did Harrison actually smile in the featured image? Was this one of our best shows ever?
“It’s true. All of it.”
Our esteemed panel of Jedi masters tonight were:
Erik Woods – movie and soundtrack expert
Robert Daniels – movie and soundtrack expert
Harrison Kopp – young fella who grew up on prequels and Clone Wars
LeBrain – old fart
Opinions veered wildly on the 11 Star Wars films we examined in great detail tonight. While you may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, I also will contend you will not find a more passionate Star Wars discussion than the one we had this week.
Truly one of our best shows, and we barely scratched the surface of these films. Perhaps a deeper dive is in order for the future.
The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano and Friends
Episode 108 – All the Star Wars films, ranked!
This is a show that has been in the works a long time. A long time. I understand you’re Star Wars fans yourselves! Then you will love this show we have lined up for you tonight.
The Nigel Tugnel Top Ten list format — a top 11 — is perfect for cases like this. Tonight our panel of experts (top men!) will rank all 11 films (9 Saga movies plus 2 spinoffs). This is sure to get hairy (Wookiee style) due to the diversity of the panel:
Erik Woods – movie and soundtrack expert
Robert Daniels – movie and soundtrack expert
Harrison Kopp – young fella who grew up on prequels and Clone Wars
LeBrain – old fart
Note: We are only counting the 11 live action theatrical films, not any made-for-video films, or the animated Clone Wars (which did have a brief theatrical run). Oh sure, Harrison might try to throw a curve ball but the rules are clear.
At the end of the night, will we have consensus? I sure hope not! What I do expect is plenty of lively conversation with maybe a little trash-talk.
We both loved and feared when cousin Geoff came to visit. So full of energy. Much more than me. We had great times, but usually tinged with a hint of destruction. This is a kid who gave himself the nickname ‘Alligator’.
Geoff’s visit in the summer of ’83 launched with a trip to the lake. My Aunt Lynda loves the cottage and so it was a special place for her too. The photos tell the stories. As a kid (and adult) I was obsessed with lighthouses, and my Grandfather made this amazing example. It had lights inside and opening doors. But you can see, we kids just treated it as another toy! It appears that Geoff knocked out one of the windows, which is hanging from the edge.
You can see us playing Star Wars at the lighthouse. I can identify my Bossk figure dangling from the top. Kathryn and Geoff were right there with me, with their figures. I look like I’m just immersed in that world. A galaxy far, far away yet in our back yard. You couldn’t have found three happier kids.
After returning from the lake, the main part of our adventure began.
Geoff’s grandparents on his dad’s side owned a huge piece of property in the country with a swimming pool, and the most amazing landscape to explore. Grassy fields gave way to trees, and I don’t think we ever hit the end of the property when we went walking. It simply went on forever. Any time we went there, it was a treat. We spent a few days at the property that summer, swimming and running pretending we were Jedi or superheroes.
I’m glad that we have some pics of that place. Not a lot. Mostly the pool. None of the sprawling real estate and endless fields behind. None of that cool organ they had in the living room. None of the steep cliff, with stairway and landings, that that went from the house down to the pool. But we have lots of the pool. Imagine “Sister Christian” playing behind as you swim.
It always came back to Star Wars. Return of the Jedi was brand new. When Geoff was visiting, we wanted to see it again in the theatre, but as explained in the story, we were vetoed by the adults. We saw Superman III instead. (Be sure to read the full story.) And, as described in many previous chapters, you couldn’t just watch a Star Wars at home like today. So we had to use our imaginations. I can easily see what we are reading in this picture.
The lightning from the Emperor’s fingers gives it away. That is the read-along record/book set for Return of the Jedi. It was the best way to enjoy the story at home. Look at the three of us reading along, lost in that world, oblivious to the camera.
The record itself is spinning on my parents’ system behind us, the very system that I later made my own. It seemed so huge then; not so big in the pictures. All of our records — mine and my parents too — would have been in that cabinet behind us! Also barely visible just behind me is my beige Fisher-Price mono tape recorder. That thing was indestructible.
The three of us sat there, listening and reading as Darth Vader turned back to the light. In a few short years, everything would have changed. The decor, the media we listened to, and the entertainment we consumed. Star Wars was on its last legs and the next record to enter that cabinet was not Star Wars. It was not from a movie at all, although it certainly tried to be. A band called Styx would soon be replacing John Williams on the platter. Who could have guessed that this picture of us enjoying a Star Wars record together would the last time?
RECORD STORE TALES #909: It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well
Put yourself in my 10 year old (going on 11) shoes. Imagine the summer of 1983. We were surrounded with nothing but the coolest stuff. The A-Team was huge. Michael Knight was riding high. There was a new Star Wars coming. There were even two new varieties of Coke: Caffeine Free Coke, and Caffeine Free Diet Coke. I didn’t know what caffeine was, I just wanted to try them all.
The first sign that we had a cool year ahead of us was when my mom came home with a new box of cereal one day. It was probably Cheerios; regular or Honey-Nut. On the front: “STAR WARS BOOKLET INSIDE!” This must be in advance of the new Star Wars movie, Revenge of the…what? The title had been changed to Return of the Jedi. Less edgy to be sure. We learned that George Lucas changed it because Jedi do not take revenge.*
These cereal box booklets were our first look at some of the iconic new images from Episode VI. Speeder bike troopers, Jabba the Hutt, and the unfinished new Death Star. This image surprised me the most, even more than Jabba’s ghastly physique. It didn’t make sense that the Empire would build a brand new Death Star, when the first was destroyed so easily. But that was our first glimpse of what was to come. We couldn’t wait to get the new toys. I had dreams of anticipation building towards the release of the movie.
Next into our lives came the official Marvel Comics adaptation, which of course told the entire story before we saw the movie. We waited for crowds to die down before going to see a new movie. I had the single issue “Marvel Super Special”, my best friend Bob Schipper had the four-issue limited series. About half way through reading the comic, I stopped myself in shock.
“Teddy bears?” I gasped. “There is no way George Lucas would put teddy bears in Star Wars.”
But he did. He put teddy bears in Star Wars. Fortunately, the Ewoks were cooler on screen — fierce but funny warriors that I could accept if not embrace. It just seemed so…sudden. Calculated. Even as children, we sensed this. Jedi was the most “kiddie” of all the films, with the cutesy bears and burp jokes.
Then came the day we finally saw the movie in theaters. I think we went with my schoolmate Ian Johnson, although my sister remembers that as our second time. I know we joked around with him before the film — what if the whole thing was a big tease and they never found Han Solo? We laughed at the idea of the Millenium Falcon flying around for the whole film, and never finding Solo. Making you have to wait ’til the next movie…or the next…before Han finally came back. Of course, we knew that wasn’t going to really happen. We knew this was the final movie in the trilogy. (We didn’t foresee we’d have to wait 16 years to get another Star Wars, or 32 years to get to the “what happens next” part.)
I can’t remember exactly how I felt through the film. Awe at Luke’s cool new Jedi look. Confusion as to how I was supposed to take Vader — the villain I hated — as redeemed. I legitimately hated Darth Vader. Could I forgive him? Not at first. “Look at his eyes,” said my dad. “He was good again.”
We universally loved the speeder bike chase through the woods. The busy space battle that eventually goes into the very superstructure of the Death Star. And yes, Han Solo’s return. Finally, we had use for our Han action figures again!
Oh yes, the action figures. The Return of the Jedi wave was the best of the series yet. We started getting our first new figures from the series around the same time my cousin Geoffrey rolled into town.
We both loved and feared when cousin Geoff came to visit. So full of energy. Much more than me. We had great times, but usually tinged with a hint of destruction. This is a kid who gave himself the nickname “Alligator”. 1983 was one of those wild summers. We had the best times with Geoff, but I still came home with an injury.
It began with new toys. My mom took Geoff, my sister and I to Stanley Park Mall. We each got to pick one new Star Wars figure. It was unanimous who we thought was best. We each decided on the new Luke. What a figure! A cloth cloak, a laser pistol, and a lightsaber were packed inside the plastic bubble. Three accessories! Unprecedented. Then, as told in Record Store Tales #653:
We waited on a bench while my mom did her banking.
“Come on let’s open these,” said Geoffrey. My sister and I always waited until we got home.
Geoffrey ripped open his Luke.
“Why are you opening that now? You’re going to lose the gun. Just wait until we get home. This is our last stop.” I attempted to reason with my cousin but he had Luke out of the package.
Within the first five minutes, he lost the gun. Before we made it home, he lost the lightsaber too.
“I told you so,” was something I relished saying to him. My Luke, by the way, still has all his accessories 35 years later.
Geoff’s grandparents on his dad’s side owned a huge piece of property in the country with a swimming pool, and the most amazing landscape to explore. Grassy fields gave way to trees, and I don’t think we ever hit the end of the property when we went walking. It simply went on forever. Any time we went there, it was a treat. We spent a few days at the prorperty that summer, swimming and running pretending we were Jedi or superheroes.
The house had an amazing “back yard”. There was a steep downwards incline, which you traversed via a series of stairs and landings. To us it was huge! It seemed like you were climbing down a mountain. At the bottom: the swimming pool and all the land you could run through for hours.
There was a radio and a barbecue. I remember hearing “Sister Christian” on the radio for the second or third time ever. I didn’t know the name of the song, or the band, but I heard neighbours playing it on their stereos. I assumed the song was called “Motorhead” by Motorhead because on a fuzzy radio, that’s sure what it sounded like. “Motorhead! What’s your price for flight?”
We had a great time swimming whenever we felt like it, and playing Star Wars the rest of the day. Our figure collections were growing. By the end of the summer, I had an Imperial Guard and Kathryn had her first Ewok, Logray the “medicine man” of the tribe. Lando in his new disguise had also landed in our collection. The figures really were outstanding this time, with more attention to detail and accessories.
But you can’t play Star Wars forever (especially when one of us has a Luke with no weapons) and so we explored the countryside. As described earlier, my cousin Geoff had a lot more energy than me, and physics tells us that energy cannot be destroyed, merely transformed. He transformed his into force. We were playing some sort of game in the grass, involving running and hiding. At one point Geoff spotted me and came barrelling my way. I dove out of his path into a bush. I thought I had escaped the pain, but the pain was only beginning.
The skin on my hand was starting to sting and bump, for I sought shelter amongst the stinging nettles.
It was bad! My aunt got some creams and bandaged up my arm. My hand was numb for hours. And we were going to see a movie that night!
There were no cineplexes. Our family movie tradition was going downtown for dinner and a flick. My mom remembers the restaurant well: “It was owned by Tommy Chaggaris, who owned the Fairway restaurant at Fairview Mall. The restaurant was called The Chaggaris’.”
They made really good chicken. Cousin Geoff used to simply call it “Tommy’s Chicken” when we would take him. My mom continues: “Dad knew Tommy Chaggaris quite well, and he always treated us like royalty. He was very wealthy and owned restaurants and strip malls all over the city. His wife lives across the street from friends of ours. He is long gone. A really nice guy.” This is where it gets funny. Sometimes Geoff would simplify the name and tell people “We went to Tommy’s place for chicken!” I guess there was a strip club in town also called Tommy’s, so that story often needed extra clarification.
The plan was to see Return of the Jedi again, this time with Geoff. However, we were told by the adults that the sound in the theater where Jedi was showing was really bad. I didn’t care, neither did Kathryn or Geoff, but the adults didn’t want to spend money on a movie and not understand the dialogue because of dodgy speakers. Fair enough, so we chose Superman III instead. I had the novelisation, but now we were going to see the latest chapter of Superman. One of our other favourite franchises of the 80s.
We knew it was getting poor reviews, but what else was playing in 1983? War Games, Octopussy and Trading Places were a little more mature than we were. And nobody wanted to see Jaws 3 in 3D! So Superman III it was, partly by default and partly because how bad could a Superman movie really be?
Kind of bad. But I liked Richard Pryor**, and he made me laugh in Superman III. Kathryn and I both liked the part where he got drunk wearing the gigantic foam cowboy hat. We did not like the real villains. We preferred Lois Lane to Lana Lang. We would rather have not seen Superman turn evil due to a synthetic form of kryptonite. We didn’t get the scene where Clark Kent fought Evil Supes. Was it real or was it metaphorical? It was weird, is what it was to us.
We came back to the beautiful house in the woods and discussed the movie. We never accepted that a computer could challenge Superman, but that was the big climax. Superman vs a computer built by Richard Pryor. A computer that seemed to be able to improvise and turn people into computer zombies at will. And had weird video game-like displays with sound effects taken from the Atari Pac-Man game.
“The worst Superman,” was our unanimous vote. But we got to see it — always a treat in itself. Even if a movie was bad, going there was still a treat.
It wouldn’t have been a proper summer without an injury, so I’m glad Geoff helped me check off all the boxes in 1983 (and a few other years!). We had a blast. Spending all day with Star Wars action figures or in a big swimming pool with the sun on our backs and Caffeine Free Coke in our hands. It was the last summer of the Star Wars era. Toys changed, and when Geoff returned in 1984, we were onto something new. Something that was More Than Meets The Eye. But there was a definite shift. 1983 closed a chapter. With Star Wars having drawn to a close, the vacuum had to be filled. At the same time, I was getting older and discovering new interests. In 1984, the favourite contender was an American rock and roll band out of Los Angeles called Quiet Riot.
I still cannot really let go of the fact that Geoff lost Luke’s gun and lightsaber within minutes of opening him. Those things are going for like $80 now!
*Revenge of the Jedi caused a problem for the folks over at Paramount, working on Star Trek II: The Vengeance of Khan. In order to avoid problems, they changed the title of their film to The Wrath of Khan.
** At that point, Pryor’s career was shifting to younger age groups. He had a revelation in 1979 after a trip to Africa, after which he ceased using the “n” word in his routines. 1982’s The Toy exposed kids our age to Pryor. Ironically, The Toy was directed by Richard Donner who also directed Superman: The Movie. Yet Superman II and III were credited to Richard Lester, who geared them in a slapstick comedic direction. This is one of Superman III‘s defining traits.
I will be going LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet toCKWR! You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning coffee or tea!
Rob says: “May is Star Wars month on Visions In Sound and we will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary with a slew of special shows. Joining me this week will be special guests Jason Drury, Michael Ladano & Erik Woods to help with the celebration. Featured music will be from the Star Wars prequel trilogy (John Williams). Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET)”
STAR WARS: The Complete Saga (2011 Lucasfilm 9 Blu-ray set)
Includes: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and three bonus discs.
Star Wars on blu-ray…it took a lot less time than it did for Star Wars to arrive on DVD! In special features and deleted scenes alone, it was well worth the wait. You can’t do a box set like this without the bonus of unseen footage. The good news is, The Complete Saga is loaded with unseen special features and deleted scenes. In fact, the Tosche Station scene (deleted from A New Hope) is worth the purchase alone for the true fan. It’s that great.
Will this be the last time we buy the first two Star Wars trilogies? Heck, no! When 3D comes out, everybody will be having the same discussion all over again! And when the sequel trilogy is complete, we’ll be doing it again. Will Greedo still shoot first? Well, in my mind I have long accepted that Han shot first. Only in some weird Lucasverse is there a way that Greedo could shoot and miss at that range. That close, I’m sorry, Han is toasted smuggler stew. Disney says there is no way to re-release the original trilogy without its Special Edition enhancements, as the original film materials are too far gone.
However about 10 years ago or so, Lucas did an official DVD reissue of the ORIGINAL original trilogy, which I went out and bought on day one. It was satisfying, it looked better than my old VHS copy, but it wasn’t cleaned up nice like the special editions were. Which, in my opinion, is fine. It looks good and it’s as close to your childhood memories as you’ll ever get. After all, we didn’t have 1080p TV tubes.
Accepting that a Blu-ray version of the “ORIGINAL” original trilogy will never happen, I am very satisfied with my Blu-ray of the Complete Saga.
The sound is awesome, very deep, and annoying to the neighbors.
The video is perfect; I realize there are probably some colour changes here and there but I’m not about to do an A/B test and find them. I don’t care, it’s sharp and bright and clear and even Phantom Menace looks good!
Content wise, you know what? Hell, I’m actually enjoying Phantom Menace. I’m lost in that moment in 1999 or whatever it was, when we sat there watching it the first time, trying to figure out who the new baddies were and checking out all the cool designs, which all stand up today. Except Jar Jar. Take him out and the movie’s not half bad at all, flawed as it may be.
Bonus featues: I wanted to watch the deleted scenes and there is good news and bad news. The bad news is, I hate how the deleted scenes are organized. You have to click the movie you want, click the planet you want, and then pick deleted scenes from the features. You can’t just go to a menu called “Deleted Scenes”. Anyways, these were mostly great although some action scenes were just animatics. And, I don’t think these deleted scenes overlap at all with the scenes provided on previous DVD editions. For example there was no Greedo scene in the Episode I deleted scenes, but there certainly was on the original DVD release for Episode I. That goes for the special features in general…I don’t think there are many that overlap at all with the ones you already have. That could be good or bad; for most fans that’s good. You’re buying new stuff, not the same stuff you have already.
Highlights: As mentioned the Tosche Station scene, which has all the soul of old Star Wars along with finally tying up the Biggs storyline. Also welcome was the attack on the droid control ship from Episode II — previously only available to subscribers to Lucasfilm’s ill-fated Hyperspace service.
There’s also an hour and a half (!) of spoofs from all over the place, including The Simpsons, Family Guy, Robot Chicken, Saturday Night Live (including that hilarious Kevin-Spacey-as-Christopher-Walken-as-Han-Solo one), Colbert, That 70’s Show, and many more. Most of these, I have never seen.
This is exactly what anybody who had reasonable expectations wanted.
Tonight at midnight, you can catch me LIVE on Robert Daniels’ radio program VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in locally on your FM dial to CKWR 98.5, or even easier, just click “listen live” via their website! The show runs from midnight to 2 am (ET). Needless to say I’ll be fueling myself up on coffee.
The subject: STAR WARS! The soundtracks specifically. Last week, Rob covered the music from the prequel trilogy composed by John Williams. Tonight is the original classic trilogy, also composed by Williams, so you don’t want to miss this. And if you do, it should be available online for streaming later on. Rob and I have been excitedly discussing the upcoming film The Force Awakens (only a week away!) and I can’t think of a better way to get ready.
I hope you’re able to tune in and catch some incredible music. I’ve reviewed all the classic trilogy soundtracks already, and you know you’ll be in for a treat.
STAR WARS: Return of the Jedi – Special Edition original motion picture soundtrack (1997 RCA limited edition with holographic discs, original soundtrack released 1983)
The final soundtrack of the original trilogy received the most disappointing Special Edition soundtrack. The reissues for A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back essentially offered complete collections of all the music from those two films. The soundtrack for Return of the Jedi suffers the most from the Special Edition changes. New music replaces old well-loved tunes, which is rarely a good idea.
Instead of the classic music of “Lapti Nek” (Jabba’s palace scene) we now get “Jedi Rocks”. I need not tell you how unwelcome that song was, replacing “Lapti Nek”. All because Lucas didn’t like that the singing alien puppet’s lips didn’t move enough, so he decided to “fix” that by putting in a much more elaborate musical number to go with the new CG lips. Thanks, George. Thankfully “Lapti Nek” was included on the 4 CD Star Wars Anthology box set.
The other missing music is “Ewok Celebration”, which fans worldwide know as “Yub Nub”. This Ewok song was one of those miserable little teddy bears’ few redeeming qualities. “Ewok Celebration” is replaced by the bland new “Victory Celebration” which ends the film. Thankfully the original music is also on the Anthology box set. (I would like to get that.)
Return of the Jedi gets off to a slower start than the other soundtracks. Instead of a battle or vicious Wampa attack, Jedi opened with a couple droids wandering through the desert before finding gainful employment with Jabba the Hutt. I know, right? How could that not make for exciting music? It’s not until Luke Skywalker confronts Jabba (track 6) that things start to move. Until then, the music remains largely atmospheric and creepy. There are a few unforgettable musical cues, such as that which accompanies Han Solo’s thawing.
Because Jedi was the third movie in a trilogy, it revisits a lot of familiar themes. The music for “The Imperial March” is heard several times for example (such as within “The Emperor Arrives”), but there isn’t much in terms of new memorable themes. I suppose that is to be expected. The nature of the film, including the deaths of beloved characters and other upsetting revelations, lent themselves to a darker soundtrack. A lot of atmospheric pieces helped underscore the mood of these scenes. This is offset by child-like Ewok segments of brightness.
A nice touch is the inclusion of alternate versions. The exciting “Sail Barge Assault” is included in an alternate take. There is also a sweeping concert suite of “The Forest Battle” on disc two. “Lapti Nek” and “Yub Nub” would have been nice, but in 1997 George was really trying to bury the original versions of the films forever. I’ll just have to find an old record, or that Anthology box.
The original music, excised for the Special Edition, is what this CD misses most.