The commemorative brochure from 1977
My God, 40 years old.
I can’t believe it.
A Ruby Anniversary.
No, not me.
I’m talking about ‘Star Wars’, of course.
To save you getting your shoes and socks off to do some counting (I’ve already done so), the first one came out in 1977. I was but a slip of a lad. The lad in question being my dad, the slip being me (Thank you, Round the Horne).
I was already well aware of the phenomenon that was this relatively low-budget science fiction romp. The publicity machine really put the hype into hyper space. I already had the John Williams soundtrack, a big gatefold double album, the likes of which you really don’t get anymore, even in these days when the vinyl strikes back. I’d bought it three months before so was well aware of the beats and brass of the music by the time I saw the film. Unlike the CD of The Phantom Menace, there were no spoilers in the track titles (the Menace CD gave away what should’ve been a shock moment, the death of Liam Neeson’s character – by calling one track ‘Quai-Gon’s Noble End.’)
The music plays a vital part in the film’s success. Without John Williams’ genius, Star Wars would not have been icon it became. I firmly believe that. By harking back to the golden age of composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, while still being incredibly modern, it not only resurrected the notion of the symphonic score but also swept you up into the story and carried you along in a percussive mixture of romance and bombast. In short, it hit the right note (sorry).
I was glad to hear Mr Williams had not lost any of his magic when he scored ‘The Force Awakens.’
I saw the film in the Odeon Renfield Street, which is now gone, sadly. I saw many great films there and, in those far-off days as a film critic, had fun at press shows, meeting a few stars.
On the way by bus from Glasgow’s south side to see the first film, along with the person who was destined to be the present Mrs Skelton, our forward trajectory came to a sudden and seemingly endless stop on a bridge over the Clyde. The road ahead was blocked by a burst water main, we were told. There was a danger we would miss the screening.
We ran all the way. The Force must’ve been with us because we made it in time.
We were younger then.
Despite already knowing the music so well, I was blown away by the film. It was fun. It was groundbreaking. It gave us new stars in Fisher, Ford and Hamill, although only one of them would really be propelled into the stratosphere. It helped change cinema as we know it.
In case you haven’t guessed, I am a Star Wars fan. No, I don’t dress up as any of the characters (although there are stories about me in a French Maid’s outfit which are, of course, completely untrue). I haven’t named Jedi as my religion. I don’t have a big light sabre (ooh, matron!)
I do still have the soundtrack LPs from the first three films AND the full colour commemorative brochure for the first. I don’t play the vinyl now because I have CDs, including a limited edition anthology box set of the music for the original three films, with outtake cues and tracks never before released. Well, it’s exciting for me.
With the exception of the music, I was unimpressed by the three prequels. George Lucas’s lack of dexterity in the dialogue department was, despite occasional flashes, woefully apparent. As Harrison Ford once said, ‘You can type this shit but you can’t say it.’ Although I recognise that they helped lay down much of the mythology that is in use in the new films, the trilogy was po-faced and, thanks to clunky dialogue, largely poorly acted, with too much attention paid to the technology.
The franchise was saved by ‘The Force Awakens’, despite it being more or less a remake of the original film. ‘Rogue One’, the first standalone spin-off, was breathtaking, with Michael Giacchino making a fine stab at emulating John Williams’ style while also ensuring his own musical voice was heard.
Like it or loathe it, Star Wars has had an effect on our culture. There have been spoofs, spin-offs and specials. The Force Be With You, Jedi Knights, I’ve got a bad feeling about this, These are not the Droids you’re looking for, asthmatic villains with big helmets (nurse, the screens!) – all ideas and lines that have seeped into our consciousness.
Even Stephen Sondheim got into the act with ‘Send in the Clones.’ Then, of course, there was the cookery show ‘Ready, Jedi, Cook.’ I’ll get my coat.
Now the one has been released and I’m looking forward to seeing it. It even has the royal stamp of approval, with Princes William and Harry apparently appearing as stormtroopers. I may even try to make a rare foray to an actual cinema.
However, as Yoda once said, do, or do not. There is no try.
It might be blu-ray, then.