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Archive for April 21st, 2019

Blogathon The Film That Started It AllThis blog post is part of The Film That Started It All Blogathon on Let’s Go To The Movies. I haven’t participated in a Blogathon for several years, but when Caz suggested this one I couldn’t resist.  Not only because Caz was the first fellow blogger I connected with ten years ago, but because it’s such an intriguing idea.  The brief:

“We all have that one truly special film, the one that really made your love for film and cinema so deep. I thought it would be a fantastic idea to share this with each other and it could really create some positive thoughts and discussion.”

The problem I have with this proposition is I don’t remember a time before I was obsessed with movies, but one event stands out in my mind.  Sunday October 24th 1982 at 7:15pm, I was six years old when Star Wars made its UK television Premiere.  I’m not sure how I came to be watching it. I remember my parents building up the cultural significance of it.  Looking back this seems strange.  I don’t think I had shown any real interest if films prior to this, and my dad has an irrational disinterest bordering on distain for Sci-Fi.  But however it happened, we stayed up way beyond my bedtime, and I was hooked.

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I don’t think I need to give a synopsis, but here goes: Before being captured and held hostage by the evil Imperial forces, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hides a message in a droid and sends him to find Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) a friend of her late father.  Along the way the pickup Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), a farm boy who dreams of fighting the empire.  They hire freighter pilot/smuggler, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his first mate Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and set off on a adventure to rescue the Princess and restore justice to the galaxy.

To give it some context, by this time in my young life, I had never visited a cinema.  In fact I only visited the cinema eight times before the age of eighteen.  I kind of made up for lost time after that seeing an average of 10 movies per month at the cinema every week for the past 20 years, but that’s a different story.  I spent most of my formative years watching movies on video, but at this time we didn’t have a VCR.  The first film I watched on video was Superman (1978), but again that’s another story.  Had I not seen Star Wars on that day, would I have seen another movie, and my lifelong obsession with movies started?

But where did Star Wars come from? During the great depression there was an appetite for escapism in movies, characters like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers were a mainstay shown in serial form.   World War II and the development of the atomic bomb led to a period of paranoia and a so called Golden Age of Science Fiction, but most of these films didn’t trouble the mainstream.  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) were the biggest grossing Sci-Fi movies of the era; a long way from space adventure.

Following the events of Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, the world was prime for an epic science fiction adventure.  Fortunately 20th Century Fox had the perfect film, the tagline said it all: “An adventure you will never forget”.  The few people who saw it promptly forgot Damnation Alley.  A post-apocalyptic adventure loosely based on the novel of the same name by Roger Zelazny.  Fortunately Fox had another film, one set: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….  So how did this happen?  George Lucas had made two movies THX 1138 (1971) and American Graffiti (1973) (possibly Lucas’ best film), and wanted to make a space opera like the ones he loved as a kid  His original idea was an adaptation of Flash Gordon, but couldn’t get the rights.  He set to work writing a treatment with similar plot points to Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958).  Refining the script over several drafts before coming up with the film we now know.

Why did it strike such a chord with me, and so many other movie fans, I think its a perfect blend of familiarity and originality.  Around this time I had seen reruns of the old serialised movies from the 30s and 40 that had been shown on early morning TV when I was kid, things like: Tarzan,  The Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, Zorro.  Many of them followed a similar and simple formula of an adventuring hero battling against an oppressive villain.  That is probably why Star Wars was so familiar on first watch.  But Star Wars took this formula and put it in a premium package.  The old series were low budget, but Star Was cost around $12million, a lot for 1977, and it showed.  The six Oscars it won included: Visual Effects, Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Costume Design.

So what happened next?  I think everyone knows about the sequels and prequels that have been made, and are still to come.  For me it was a lifetime before I saw another star wars movie, an impossible span of time for six year old to comprehend: about two years.  That was the time we really entered the 1980’s, we got our first VCR.  By the time I saw The Empire Strikes Back(1980) (or Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back to give its full title), I already knew about the twist at the end, it was relatively common knowledge. I also knew the story of Return of the Jedi back to front.  I hadn’t seen the film, but I had received the Return of the Jedi Annual for Christmas.  This was the Marvel comic book adaptation of the film collected together into a single hardback book (I still have it).  I also had a shed load of the toys, again I still have most of them in my loft today.

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The toys probably framed my thoughts on Star Wars.  By my mid teens, I saw them as kids films and had largely lost interest.  You can read about my favourite films from that time HERE.  But then at eighteen I went to university. On a lazy weekend afternoon a group of us gathered around a small TV in a friends room and watched videos from our collections.  Until someone came up with Star Wars.  Some of the group, like me loved it as a kid, but hadn’t seen it since, others had never seen it, and a couple declared it to be their favourite film of all time. My love of Star Wars was rejuvenated.  In the coming days we watched the rest of the trilogy.  Later that year, I acquired the trilogy on VHS (anyone under the age of twenty, ask your parents), the last time the original trilogy was available in its original form, before George Lucas went back and messed with it.  Then in my final year at university The Special Edition of the original trilogy was released theatrically, and I got to see them in cinemas for the first time.  Two years later I attended a midnight screening of The Phantom Menace, again, that’s another story!

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