DIRECTOR: Steve Binder
Where to start with this, one of Cinema’s most infamous television tie-ins and one which has continually re-surfaced after over 30 years of trying to bury it. In 1978, just over a year since the phenomenon that was Star Wars had taken cinemas and the world by storm, Someone, somewhere had the idea to bring Star Wars to the small screen and it aired on CBS a week before Thanksgiving.
It is nothing short of terrible. Should be buried? No. Nothing should be intentionally lost but I doubt that after you have seen this travesty once, you will be game for a repeat viewing. George Lucas claims to have had little involvement with this, but I do not trust him or his retroactive views on his own work as far as I could through a CGI Jabba The Hut! Personally, I believe that he simply sold out to raise money to fund The Empire Strikes Back and if so, it was worth it but this is NOT Star Wars as we know it, or is it?
The pros are few and far between but there are a few. Being made of the back of Star Wars and before The Empire Strikes Back (1980) expanded the universe in an irrevocable way, this does at least feel like Star Wars as it felt back in the early 80’s, before The Force consumed everything Star Wars, before the dark times, before midichlorians! The characters and the cast of the first film are all here sporting the same costumes and generic interpretations of their characters which had yet to be fleshed out any further. In this way, it does have some of the fun which made Star Wars a hit.
And the even though it is ludicrous here, the introduction of Kashyyyk, Chewbacca’s home world in consistent with its future incarnations, most notably that of Episode III and the clear inspiration for the Ewoks, who were of course originally envisioned by Lucas to be Wookies.
And then there is the cartoon introduction of Boba Fett, which is great but is so much better than everything else that I refuse to consider it when rating the special.
But this was essentially a Holiday season variety show cashing in on the Star Wars phenomenon, clearly pitched to sell toys for Christmas too. Some of the skits may have worked better at the time before we knew just what Star Wars was to become but now it is just of collection of songs, acts and comic moments which do not even make much effort to tie into the franchise, just tell a few jokes as they reuse the sets and costumes from the hit film in similar way to that Carry On Cleo and Cleopatra (1963) and of course recycled stock footage. But when the stock footage is of the Millenium Falcon, Tie Fighters and the Star Destroyers, then they are forgiven.
I was just two months old when this originally aired back in 1978, as well as being British, which means that I never had a chance to see a broadcast of this as it has NEVER been broadcast since, never have. Its life has evolved from bootleg VHS’s in the 90’s to Youtube nowadays, with the Boba Fett cartoon being the only clip worthy of official release being included as an easter egg on the 2011 Blu-ray set.
This is a curiosity and as they say, curiosity killed the cat! Well, it has not turned me against Star Wars but it is one of those things which once seen, cannot be unseen. So watch with caution.
Here is the 97 minute version of the Star Wars Holiday Special which aired 37 years ago today on CBS in the United States.
…and here is the Boba Fett Cartoon which I will rated independently at 8/10
May the Force be with you…