Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Believe it or not, there’s something even more despicable and fan-unfriendly that exists within the Star Wars universe than Jar Jar Binks, a nine-year-old Darth Vader, and the entirety of The Last Jedi…something that many people—including Star Wars fans—aren’t even aware of. It’s called The Star Wars Holiday Special, and it could very well be the most ill-conceived, ill-advised, half-whacked pile of Dewback dung that has ever been loosed upon our television screens.
For you few fortunate ones outside the loop, The Star Wars Holiday Special is a two-hour music and comedy variety program that first aired on CBS on November 17, 1978, more than a year after the original Star Wars first hit theater screens, and one week before the Thanksgiving holiday. Star Wars director George Lucas had created a simple story outline involving Chewbacca and his family, but with his work on The Empire Strikes Back calling, his idea was inexplicably passed on to a team of ’70s variety show writers, who took Lucas’ story and reworked it into something better suited to The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour or The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show.
After that first Friday night airing, cooler heads prevailed (including that of Lucas, who hated what had become of his original vision), and it was never seen on network television again. For most everyone, it was never even thought of again, and it disappeared from our collective consciousness as quickly and quietly as The Starlost, Ark II, and Quark. However, having watched it with my brother Scott that fateful Friday night, it sadly remained stuck in our consciousness forever, and even though we’d seen William Shatner sing ‘Rocket Man’ on the Science Fiction Film Awards earlier that year, the many memories of this viewing have remained far more disturbing.
Years later, sometime in the 1990s, our friend Steve lamented over the fact that he’d once seen a ridiculous Star Wars program on TV when he was a kid, and it was driving him crazy that he could find no history of it, nor anyone who remembered ever seeing it. Scott and I saved his sanity by admitting, yes, we’d watched it as well. Not long after, Steve took the plunge and purchased a bootleg VHS copy he’d found by chance at a comic convention, and during a gathering at his apartment one night we were once again subjected to an enchanting Life Day celebration with Chewie’s wife Malla, his father Itchy, and his annoying son Lumpy.
If you’ve never seen The Star Wars Holiday Special, you’re probably thinking to yourself, oh c’mon, is it really that bad? Trust me, it most certainly is, and after watching it again last night for only the third time in my life, I can honestly say that I wish I hadn’t. I thought I’d go with the commercial-free version this time around, in hopes a shorter overall run time (98 minutes) would help me survive the ordeal, but it did not. This thing is seriously atrocious, and about as uncomfortable and cringe-worthy as anything you’ll ever see. And I do mean ever.
I will say that the animated sequence, featuring the very first appearance of bounty hunter Bob Fett, is at least watchable, and easily outshines everything else in the special. But the rest of it—including a handful of songs, a quarter-hour of Wookiee grunts and groans without the benefit of subtitles, a sequence of virtual reality sex between Itchy and singer Diahann Carroll, and several sub-comedic moments with such popular TV personalities as Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur—can perhaps best be described as…well, how about ‘interminably reprehensible’?
Now, with the advent of the Internet, The Star Wars Holiday Special can be viewed with just the click of a button, and enjoyed in many different languages (Spanish, German, Italian), different cuts (the New York City cut, the HD commercial-free cut, a commercials only cut, and a new-to-me Baltimore cut), and different fan edits, blog reviews, and outright rants. But please, be forewarned if you’ve never seen it: it is truly awful, an abomination in ways you could never imagine, and therefore must actually be seen to be believed (I would suggest watching this short, well-done look at the history of the special while you decide which direction to take).
To this day, I still don’t know for sure what this Wookiee festival of Life Day is: with the show originally broadcast in mid-November, I’d always thought it was in honor of Thanksgiving, but now I’m reading that it’s also considered a celebration similar to that of Christmas. Of course, it could mean something else entirely—a day of remembrance for Wookiees who’d fought and died in the Clone Wars, perhaps—but to me it will always be a holiday that revolves around this planet’s annual day of giving thanks. So on that note…Happy Life Day, everyone!