Saturday 10 October 2009

58: Twelve Movies – The Star Wars Holiday Special

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

12 Days: 12 Movies – Special Edition
Day Two: The Star Wars Holiday Special
(1978, 100 mins, Dir. Steve Binder)

At 8pm EST, On Friday November 17th 1978, something awful happened. Actually, that's not fair. Something awful had already happened, it was just revealed to the world that evening. "Holiday Specials" were commonplace TV in the USA at the time, and would be for several years to come. They were a kind of 'variety' format. Sort of like Sunday Night at the Palladium with a story running through.
And so, the CBS channel aired a program that had been made to cash in on the success of 1977's Star Wars. George Lucas had written the outline for the story, but because he was kind of busy with The Empire Strikes Back, had then given creative control to CBS. The original director, David Acomba, left halfway through the production. George thought this was understandable. If he hadn't been contractually tied to it, he'd probably have burned the thing before it aired. The show got great ratings, but was panned by audiences, critics and probably even the poor bastards who made it. It was never aired again. It was never released officially. Several VHS'd copies have made their way onto the internet, much to the chagrin of Lucasfilm.
That's the history, you can read more on Wiki.

So, where to I start with the train-wreck that is SW:THS? It's just AWFUL. No, really. The plot revolves around Han and Chewie trying to get back to Kashyyyk for Life Day, the Wookiee equivalent of Thanksgiving and Christmas combined. It's set two years after A New Hope, and features the 'main' cast of Star Wars (even background Imperials who should have died in the Death Star blast, as it uses segments filmed on the Death Star set). It should work, but I figure that's what George thought when he handed the manuscript in. It's essentially half an hour of plot, padded out for another seventy minutes with singing, dancing, spoof cookery, Wook-erotica and long stretches of un-translated Wookiee speech.

As Steve Sansweet once said, for all the things that are wrong with SW:THS, its' worst crime is that it's BORING. The actors playing Chewie's family grunt and warble their way through scenes with no subtitles and no C-3PO to give exposition. Their acting is enough that you can make out what's going on, but frankly you just don't give a shit. Huge shots with no editing and no background music only make it worse, as it looks like a camera has been left running on set while the cast get pissed in-costume. The only saving grace is the short animated segment, produced by Nelvana in Canada, who would go on to make Droids a few years later.

The Star Wars universe is slowly stripped away with comedic performances from Harvey Korman, Art Carney and the great Bea Arthur; This is made worse when Diahann Carroll and Jefferson Starship do their respective turns, but what really pulls you out with a thump is the acrobatic routine (yes, you read that right), accompanied by what sounds like a synth which would have been crappy even in 1978.

We got a figure of Boba Fett with his SW:THS colour scheme a couple of years back, and it is grudginly acknowledged by Lucasfilm. The worst part? This has the SW logo in it, was written by George Lucas and features the main cast; therefore it's canon. Yes, this actually happened in the Star Wars universe.

I'd recommend you avoid it (and I know most of you will), but you really need to witness this with your own eyes to truly take in the horror.

The Good: The Holiday Special gave us the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, and our first encounter with Boba Fett. For these reasons, I will tolerate its existence.

The Bad: Too long. Too many song and dance numbers. Embarrassing "comedy" moments.

The Ugly: The fucking rest of it.

Best Line: “You are foolish to waste your kindness on this dumb creature”,
Boba Fett, speaking in what turns out to be an allegory for the entire show.

My biased rating: 1/10
And that's only because of the cartoon.

Tomorrow: The Empire Strikes Back

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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