Friday 27 December 2013

Star Wars released (36 years ago today)

1977: Star Wars fever hits Britain
Thousands of people are flocking to cinemas in the UK to watch the long-awaited blockbuster, Star Wars - a movie which is already setting US box offices alight.  Bracing the cold weather, young and old queued from 0700 GMT in London at the Dominion, and Leicester Square cinemas, to snatch up non-reserved tickets which are otherwise booked until March.

Star Wars, which was first released in America seven months ago, has taken audiences by storm and outstripped last year's blockbuster Jaws to gross $156m (£108m) at the box office.

Carrie Fisher, Sir Alec Guiness and little known Harrison Ford star in this fairytale set in space.

Produced by Gary Kurtz, written and directed by George Lucas who directed American Graffitti, the U-classified sci-fi film is a classic epic of good versus evil.

It has enthralled audiences under a dazzle of special effects with wizards, heroes, monsters in "a galaxy far, far away".

This is part of an article originally published by the BBC on December 27th 1977 (full article on this link)
photo by Klaus Hiltscher, printed under creative commons from his Flickr 

It is impossible today to over-state just how big a deal "Star Wars" was back then.  I didn't see the film until early 1978 (you literally couldn't get a ticket when it first opened), but it absolutely blew me away and remains my favourite film of all time.

I was 8 in 1977 and I'd seen enough in my comics (Look-In especially) and on the TV that I knew this was a film I had to see.  During the summer I collected the trading cards (which always came in wax packets with bubble-gum that lost its taste within a minute or so of chewing), I got the comics, I got the making-of magazine and I read the novelisation.

In 1977, my "Star Wars" experience therefore consisted pretty much of my imagination, spurred on by stills and clips (Clapperboard was another good source of these), with even the Palitoy figures not appearing until summer of the following year.

And with that in mind, here's a trawl through stuff that meant a lot to me, before I got to see the film that would go on to mean much more to me.

The Star Wars novelisation was published in the UK by Sphere Books on September 8th 1977 as "by George Lucas" (though it was actually written by Alan Dean Foster).  The artwork was by John Berkey, who apparently never saw the film.

I read the novel eagerly, though I doubt I understood a lot of it and I certainly didn't envisage it in my head as it played out for me much later on the cinema screen.

The "16 pages of fabulous colour" photos were great though!

The novel follows the shooting script - Luke is Blue 5, rather than Red 5 - and therefore includes scenes that were never in the film, including Biggs, Camie & Deak at Tosche Station and Jabba meeting Solo at Docking Bay 94.  Jabba is described as being 'a great mobile tub of muscle and suet topped by a shaggy scarred skull'.

The trading cards, produced by Topps, were launched in 1977.  Each waxed pack contained seven cards (all of which had blue borders with stars) and a stick of chewing gum, with 66 cards in the set.  Some of the card backs had movie info, some related the story, some had other images which made up a bigger, jigsaw-style picture.  I loved the cards and still have my 'almost-complete' collection today.

1978 would bring much more - so much more - but I was a happy kid in 1977.  And as an equally happy, young-at-heart 44 year-old, I'm going to sit down today with Dude (who's 8) and re-watch the film.

May The Force Be With You!


  1. I was 11 years old in 1977 and like you Mark it was a big influence. I remember in the summer my parents reading a review from the US and it was initially panned. Yet when it finally got released in England it was showing at Leicester Square and i was on Christmas break.I was at Leicester Square one evening with my parents and we saw it was on. We literally just walked in. No line at all! I cannot explain that but i bought a brochure and poster of R2D2 and C3PO which i still have afterwards from the cinema shop. Latter now framed in a room my two sons play in. Anyway it was not on general release anywhere and it seemed to take off in popularity so everyone at school wanted to see it and the lines at Leicester Square got crazy, so for weeks I was the only person in my middle school who had seen it. Awesome stuff. I have been a Sci-Fi nerd ever since!