A long time ago, in a place far far away, or rather nineteen years before ‘the Phantom Menace’, George Lucas did a test run on how to ruin his sci-fi franchise should he ever need to. The ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ was broadcast in the USA and Canada on Friday 17 November 1978. It’s viewers, no doubt already enjoying themselves with coverage of the Jonestown Massacre, got the added bonus of Harrison Ford and most of the main Star Wars cast effectively doing Panto
At best it was a piss-take, the cast were still drunk from the original movie’s success a year before, and so was Mr Lucas, thus explaining why he gave permission for it to be made. At worst it was the dregs of 1970’s American TV – cheesy dialogue complimented by hammy acting and shiny white teeth. Oh and a humiliating rendition of the Star Wars theme tune with Carrie Fisher warbling all over it (pictured below). The production itself seems to have been done on a gameshow budget with dodgy sets and bad lighting doing little to mask the use of stock footage from the original movie making up all of the space battles and perversely, all of Vader’s appearances. Still, at least the Sith Lord was spared a few decades indignity until his recent appearance flogging PC’s on television.
The show begins badly with an opening chase scene in which we establish that Han is taking Chewy to his home planet to visit his parents for ‘Life Day’ (thankfully nothing to do with abortions), however the Millennium Falcon is being pursued by imperial fighters (yup stock footage). Then the title sequence happens, which simply has to be seen to be believed (below). This is followed by an almost surreal six minutes of Chewbacca’s family sitting in the living room of their tree house, talking to each other. But obviously being Wookies it’s not real talking, just noise and sadly (and painfully) there’s no Han or C3PO around to translate it…
Chewbacca’s family are curiously a recurring theme throughout the Special and lots of airtime is given to them communicating.
Perhaps even more strange is the light entertainment elements of the show such as a circus hula hoop routine performed by miniature dancers on the monster chess board from ‘A New Hope’. Oh and the clip below appears to show a wookie engaging in cyber-sex with a Donna Summer lookalike. Well we always knew Lucas was ahead of his time huh
One of the better moments of the Special was an cartoon which introduces the character of Boba Fett. Ok the animation is a bit Pink Floyd but hey
To be fair to Lucas, he didn’t have much to do with the production and he certainly didn’t enjoy the end product. He also urged his close friend David Acomba to leave the project halfway through filming after originally selecting him to direct it. The Star Wars Holiday special has never since been repeated on television nor has it ever been given a commercial release on any format.
I took the time to email Lucasfilm to ask them if they had any plans to release this television extravaganza on blu-ray and got this response;
Anyway, as with most bad television it’s on YouTube and it’s always worth a watch, even if it is with your hands covering your face.
My personal favourite bit of the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ has to be a very brief but touching moment between Han and Chewy which commences at approx 06:48 below
Anyway I’ll leave you with that Carrie Fisher rendition of the Star Wars theme tune and leave you to wonder why the Empire Strikes Back simply didn’t feel this good…