RECORD STORE TALES #909.5:
It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well
AUTHOR’S NOTE: To enjoy this supplemental chapter, please be sure to have first finished reading Record Store Tales #909: It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well!
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.
You know where I stand on remixes, right? Most of them are shite, especially when you try to dance-ify music that was not intended for dancing. If that kind of remix is your thing, that’s cool. You appreciate something that I do not. I just recommend that you hit the “back” button on your browser right about now, that’s all.
I liked Star Wars Rebels. Although it did come across more “kiddie” than Clone Wars, the era and characters it covered were more to my liking. The Imperial era, not the Republic. Of course, it later grew and merged with Clone Wars into a greater lore, but that is not for this review. Just saying, check it out if you haven’t. It’s on your Disney Plus.
Rebels’ composer, Kevin Kiner, was tasked with coming up with a new theme cue. He did this by incorporating and adapting John Williams’ original cues. It’s almost like a mega-mix of hero themes, in 55 seconds. It’s just a cartoon after all, not a feature film. Kiner’s rendition of these landmark themes is perfectly suitable to the show and honours the era in which it is set, and the spark of rebellion.
Though Star Wars Rebels has two volumes of music available on soundtracks, they were never issued on physical formats. This single is the only place you can get a physical copy of Kiner’s “Rebels Theme”.
Unfortunately, the exclusive B-side of this single is the horrid “Flux Pavilion’s The Ghost Remix”. It adds digital beats, noise and manipulations to the “Rebels Theme” and extends the thing by five times! For the hell of it, there’s some laser blasts, some Wookiee howls, and some yelling. This is utter garbage that young kids might enjoy, but makes me wanna hurl. It deviates so far from the blueprint that it’s clear the ol’ hyperdrive needs some recalibrating. The remix is at least memorable, for whatever that’s worth.
The picture disc is nice though. On the A-side (which is unfortunately the remix side!) it’s hero Ezra Bridger with Jedi Kanan Jarrus and droid C1-10P, aka “Chopper”. On the B-side, the original “Rebels Theme”, you get an Imperial Stormtrooper taking aim to fire (and miss)! One of the coolest things about the Rebels show was that it used old Ralph McQuarrie designs from Star Wars pre-history. Chopper is based on preliminary drawings of R2-D2. Likewise the loveable character of Garazeb Orrelios is based on early designs for Chewbacca.
Being that the decent B-side is 55 seconds long while the remix is five times that length, the rating for this single cannot be high.
I’m not a Christopher Nolan junkie, nor a spy thriller fan, so it’s quite a surprise that I loved Tenet as much as I did. I think I understand 95% of it now, and I’ve only watched it three times, so that’s not bad. Seriously, I think John David Washington is great, as was the whole cast. One normal and one inverted thumb up for a movie I file in my science fiction collection. Great stuff.
5. Jeopardy! – final season with Alex
4. Star Trek: Picard – Season 1
3. American Dad! – Season 17
2. Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3
1. Star Wars: The Mandalorian – Season 2
Jeopardy’s never made my lists here before but watching Alex Trebek keep on going and going only weeks before his death is awe-inspiring.
American Dad had a better than average season this year. Some of the episodes this year will go down as the series’ best: “Brave N00B World“, “300“, and “First, Do No Farm”. The latter features a new Weird Al Yankovic called “Rabbitage” based on — you guessed it — “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys. The season also featured pop star The Weeknd in an episode called “A Starboy is Born”.
I’m jumping the gun a little bit on Discovery as the season hasn’t ended yet. However, setting the season over 900 past the days of Kirk and Spock has opened the show up to new possibilities and…discoveries. It has been a great season with some standout episodes that felt more like The Next Generation than anything since. Contemplative episodes with minimal (sometimes zero) violence. Trek is back, and Discovery is currently the superior show, even over Picard, which was pretty good itself.
And finally we have Mandalorian, which despite an unimpressive initial teaser trailer went on to be the show we always hoped it could be. And it was Bill fucking Burr’s Mayfeld that really pushed it late in the season, adding some much needed character development. All this made it so much more delicious when Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon did all the moustache-twirling villain stuff at the end. Then we get Boba, more vicious and primal, and the stoic but intense Jedi. Bonus points for doing what Qui-Gon Jinn failed to do in Episode I: just crush the fucking droid with the Force already! Thanks, Luke.
2020 was the Year Without a Marvel. Boo.
— Al Yankovic (@alyankovic) July 28, 2020
We’re locked down, but not knocked down as this week’s live show proved! From 1977 to 1991, stories of Christmases past were unfurled for fun discussion. From the Star Wars years, through GI Joe, Transformers, and Atari, to cassettes, CDs and VHS, the greatest years of our lives were presented. Then, special guest LeBrain’s Mom joined the latter half of this episode for her first on-screen appearance…bearing wine!
I had a great night and I hope you did too. Lots of visual aids this time. Thanks for watching!
Directed by George Lucas
In 1977 my parents took me to see Star Wars for the first time, like millions of other kids my age. By the end of the year, terms like “The Force” and “Millennium Falcon” were commonly spoken among children like secret code, while remaining merely gibberish to their teachers. Because of the availability of cool action figures and vehicles by Kenner, Star Wars became much more than a mere movie. Its world building potential meant that kids were using the characters and settings to make their own adventures. It became…forever. A part of culture. The image of Darth Vader will be found by future archaeologists the same as ours today find carvings Apollo and Zeus.
We memorized this movie. Lines like “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” We could recite them with perfect cadence and intonation, albeit an octave high. But we didn’t understand all the words we were saying, or what it really meant.
Reviewing this movie is like revisiting an old friend to reminisce about the good times.
For the most authentic Star Wars re-watching experience, the 2006 Lucasfilm double DVD edition provides the theatrical version most of us grew up with and knew by heart. There was no A New Hope, no episode number. We saw Star Wars three times in the theatres. After that, everyone had to wait for TV broadcasts or video rental if you wanted to watch Star Wars. Except back then, there were only “fullscreen” tapes available for rental at the local store. For many years, we completely forgot about certain alien creatures that were cropped out for home video! This DVD is a reminder of those times, and how lucky we are today to have so many viewing options available. (Including a new 2019 Disney+ version of the film. I say “Maclunkey!”)
When he conceived Star Wars, George Lucas had plenty of backstory sketched out. He assumed he only had one shot at making it, and so chose what he felt was the best and most exciting part of the overall story. In a way, Star Wars always had a leg up on everything that came later for that reason. The origin story of the farmer boy that leaves home to save the world is a setup taken from classic lore, and put on screen in an original way by turning it into a space fantasy. With the benefit of hindsight, could it even lose?
Actually yes — if the special effects weren’t as convincing as they are. Those artists took Ralph McQuarrie’s crucial conceptual art and turned drawings into filmable 3D objects that look worn, used and real. Using bits of plastic battleship model kids and parts taken from cameras, a universe that looked as real as the world we live in was created. Then they innovated further using blue screens and skill, creating dynamic space battles that surpassed anything we’d seen before. One key innovation was the idea to choreograph the space battles based on actual World War II dogfight footage.
Sir Alec Guinness (Ben Kenobi) and Peter Cushing (Tarkin) were the two most recognizable stars to the parents in the audience, but Harrison Ford was an up-and-comer who impressed everyone that loved George Lucas’ other coming-of-age story, American Graffiti. Even though Cushing and Guinness had no idea what their dialogue was really about, they turned in incredible character performances. The hero trio of Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher were perfectly tuned. Meanwhile, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker provided the roles of perspective for the film. Indeed, Lucas said that only C-3P0 and R2-D2 witnessed the events of the entire saga. Finally, Peter Mayhew and David Prowse provided the physical acting necessary for the roles of Chewbacca and Darth Vader. These performances were topped off with sound effects by Ben Burtt and a brilliant Vader voiceover by James Earl Jones.
Lucas has been mocked in his later years for getting terribly wooden performances out of great actors in the prequel trilogy. When he was young, making Star Wars, he was different. His direction is alive and he gets spontaneous feeling performances from the entire cast. Whatever he was doing in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, he was a different director in 1977. Of course, much credit must also be given to the editors who carved this movie out of the celluloid. Yet none of that would have had the same impact without the groundbreaking score by John Williams. Williams is so important to the entire saga that he composed the scores to all nine films.
In other words, Star Wars is all but a perfect film. On its own, without any sequels or prequels, it was already one of the best things ever, and what kid could resist that? On a technical level, it’s a masterpiece achievement. All this contained within a simple, engaging story drawing upon the tenets of classic mythology. Consciously it’s blowing your mind, and subconsciously it’s tugging at your Jungian psyche.
The best part about watching the 1977 theatrical version of Star Wars is simply the ease of slipping into that world and really believing it. When the 1997 special editions hit, the effects may have been improved, but awkwardly jarring additions were made: The insertion of jerkily-moving Dewbacks. An extended entry into Mos Eisley with distractingly fake looking Rontos. A poorly-edited reimaginging of the Greedo faceoff. And of course, Jabba the Hutt himself, perhaps the most hideous of all the additions due to the extremely primitive animation of the 1990s. The rest of the changes, such as a restored Biggs Darklighter scene and an improved Death Star battle, are not so bad. Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with the Death Star battle as it was in ’77. The problem is that every time an addition is made in every reissue of a Star Wars film, it takes you right out of the movie and into reality once again.
When you pull the focus back and look at Star Wars in a greater context, more insight and meaning can be wrenched from the stone. Both in terms of cultural impact, and how it relates to the Skywalker Saga as a whole, we can look deeper into this film and enjoy it even more.
One thing we appreciated a little bit as kids, but I really admire today, is the amount of sheer labour that went into making Star Wars. It’s so much easier to appreciate in this original unrestored version. If you can see the line between matte painting and live set, you realize: oh my God, all of that big portion of the screen is actually a set! And that matte painting is really, really good! The amount of work to do both, and match them as close as they did is quite impressive without the aid of a computer. Also, observe techniques used to make shots more dynamic. The Falcon flying, for example. The actual model isn’t moving much, but the starfield behind it is. That makes it look as if it is really burning some rubber.
Here’s something to think about. One of the biggest action set pieces of this movie involved Luke and Leia swinging across a chasm from a rope. It blew everyone’s brain, that huge looking vertical shaft with the retracted bridges. The Stormtroopers are coming at them from two directions, as Luke takes his leap of faith. While in 1977 we also saw the male and female lead together as a team with possible romantic foreshadowing, today the scene actually has more meaning. Now, it is the children of Anakin Skywalker finally united after two decades of separation. The New Hopes. It’s actually a pretty heavy moment in the whole saga when you think on what that means. Obi-Wan and Yoda hid those children away as babies in the hopes that one day, they would take over the fight. The moment we see them swinging across the chasm, we realize that dream has been realized. From whiny space brat to brave hero in two hours. It’s also clear from her courage and familiarity with a blaster that Leia is a “Force” to be reckoned with too.
Children loved the adventures but didn’t fully appreciate what Luke was experiencing. You can feel that Uncle Owen tried, but wasn’t the father figure that Luke wanted. Then Luke loses the only parents he ever had, his aunt and uncle, and is whisked off-planet for the first time in his life by a new father figure, Ben Kenobi. In addition he’s told a bombshell of a truth (with a hidden lie): his real father wasn’t a navigator on a spice freighter. His uncle had been lying to him his entire life about who his father really was: a Jedi knight, who fought in a “damn fool idealistic crusade” called the Clone Wars. He then learns, in a second revelation, that the universe itself is more than it seems, and that an all powerful Force is behind everything. And then he loses that father figure almost immediately after! Today that would send most of us into months of therapy, but Luke soldiers on and picks up on this Jedi stuff pretty quickly! In the end battle, he is forced into a leadership position when Red Leader is shot down by Darth Vader. “We’re going in, we’re going in full throttle,” he says to the remaining squad. His older best friend and role model Biggs is on board, and so is hot shot pilot Wedge. “Right with you boss,” he says without hesitation.
A weighty moment is the final (corporeal) meeting of Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. A physically imposing David Prowse in the Vader costume has the presence necessary to convey the anger behind the words: “Your powers are weak, old man.” You can almost hear the voice of Hayden Christensen from the Episode III Vader behind the voice of James Earl Jones. The hate, as he now calls the man he once knew as “master” by the epithet “old man”. It was always a foregone conclusion who would win this battle, but we children were amazed when Old Ben disappeared before our very eyes. And what did those final words of his really mean? “If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Surely a disembodied voice was not the “more powerful” that Ben was referring to? This is something that the oft-criticized sequel trilogy finally delivered and expanded upon, where the prequels did not. In episodes VIII and IX, we learn that powerful Jedi spirits can even interact with the physical world, and join with the living to defeat the ultimate evil. In this way, Obi-Wan Kenobi has a role in concluding the nine-story arc of the Saga (even utilizing the voices of Sir Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor).
Another minor tie to the sequel trilogy is Han Solo’s offering to Luke Skywalker to come with him instead of joining the Rebellion on their “suicide” mission. The only other person we see him offer to “job” to is Rey in Episode VII. Any viewing of any Star Wars movie is always enriched by watching other Star Wars movies. Last week I watched Rogue One. Since that standalone film was designed to add backstory and blend the saga together even more tightly with the original movie, watching it adds richness and foundation to the original. Knowing what happened to the previous Red Five, for example. All the films have this ability to amplify the others.
Though dense with unfamiliar terms, throwaway dialogue built worlds. The Kessel Run, for example, spawned half of the movie Solo. Some of the most iconic lines in the whole original film were throwaways: “You fought in the Clone Wars?” Apparently so, when he was known as “General Kenobi”! We didn’t learn a damn thing more about the Clone Wars until Episode II, released a quarter century later. And so watching the prequels and even the animated Clone Wars series adds depth to the experience. When Luke asks “How did my father die?” you see the hesitation on his face before Obi-Wan lies to Luke. In that hesitation lies all the prequels and animated series. The line about the Clone Wars planted the seed for pretty much everything about the prequels. The only difference was that as kids, we assumed the clones were the bad guys not the good guys. (Well, I guess they were both but we won’t delve further here.)
The quality and success of Star Wars were both necessary to launch a thousand imitations. As kids we became familiar with the concept of “knock offs” pretty quickly. Battlestar Galactica seemed like a B-level Star Wars. You could even buy knock off toys at the store like glow-in-the-dark “space swords”. For the real thing, there could be no substitute. We were able to prolong and expand our love of the movie with the Kenner action figure line, the Marvel comics, the John Williams soundtrack records, and even “The Story of Star Wars” on vinyl. This really gave kids a canvas to use their imaginations. Today, some of the kids that played with Star Wars toys in a sandbox are making their visions real in official spinoff shows like The Mandalorian, that hearken back to what we liked about Star Wars in old ’77.
If you really want to recreate the authentic 1977 Star Wars experience, you won’t find it on your Disney+. Even hardened cynics must concede that Disney has done some cool stuff with Star Wars recently, but if they really wanted to do something “Force”-ful, they could reissue the ’77 cut one more time. If they never do, the 2006 DVD is always out there. There’s nothing better than the real thing.
I met David Prowse, the original Darth Vader, in 1978.
That’s not entirely true. My dad met him and got his autograph for me while five-year-old me was terrified of the Dark Lord of the Sith. Prowse signed it “Darth Vader”. In fact nobody knew it was actually David Prowse, the real Vader, until the next day when it was in the newspapers.
Sears announced, to coincide with the latest wave of Kenner action figures, that “Darth Vader” was coming to the store to meet the kids and sign autographs. (I got the brand new R5-D4 figure that night.) It was typical for people in Star Wars costumes to show up at stores and wave to kids. It was usually low budget. This was anything but, as Prowse wore the real costume and even spoke. If you’ve ever seen making-of footage, you know that Prowse spoke his lines on set before being overdubbed by James Earl Jones at the end of the process. Jones, in fact, was not even credited in 1977.
Prowse is the forgotten Vader. As a trained bodybuilder he was the right size to fill that towering suit. All he lacked was the voice, but Vader was so much more than the voice. He was also the body language and the sword fighting. The sudden, deliberate movements. The hacking and slashing that terrified Luke, and us as kids!
Prowse joins his friends Carrie Fischer, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Sir Alec Guiness and Peter Cushing as he becomes one with the Force. The rest of the world watches A New Hope one more time. I think I’ll watch the original untampered cut as released on DVD. I really hope my parents kept that autograph.
May the Force be with David Prowse.
I just think it’s cool that I have two Samuel L. Jackson figures in the same scale from the same toy company and from two of my favourite franchises.
The two figures are Marvel Legends’ Nick Fury (from Captain Marvel) and Star Wars The Black Series Mace Windu (Episode II and III). They use this new digital facial scanning technology to get the faces eerily accurate. Which do you think looks most like Jackson himself?