A painful, must-see event

By Daorcey Le Bray

Some items can be left off one’s resume. Two weeks of burger flipping, mowing the neighbour’s lawn, drug running…

In the same vein, the CBS Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) is surely not included in Harrison Ford’s authorized filmography. Neither is it in James Earl Jones’, nor Carrie Fisher’s, nor Mark Hamill’s… well, Hamill could probably use the space filler.

Hot on the heels of 1977’s A New Hope, the Star Wars marketing train began rolling just in time for the next year’s Christmas television season. But, despite all the excitement one may feel about legit unexplored George Lucas space opera, this star-studded, feature-length, musical, made-for-TV-brand extension is more painful than back alley gangland surgery and the infection that follows.

Maybe that’s being a tad hindsightedly harsh.

Star Wars Holiday Special does offer something special to Warsies–and who wasn’t in ’78? It’s a two-hour opportunity for fans to be reunited with the live action characters they love. Apart from Biggs, Wedge and Tarkin, the whole gang appears in living colour vignettes set against the backdrop of Life Day, the Christmas-esque holiday unique to Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyk.

Yes, we finally get to meet Chewie’s family: his wife, Mala, two stumpy children, and his father-in-law, Lumpy. Yes, they are the anchoring characters of the film. Yes, they speak Wookie sans sub-titles for the entire God-forsaken movie. And yes, it becomes thoroughly unpleasant.

Of course, the group of four writers (not including Lucas, but there is debate on his uncredited involvement) recalled their high school drama class and included some form of conflict.

Enter the Imperial Army, who, for some contrived reason, chose Life Day to clamp down on rebel activity and occupy Chewbacca’s Ewok-style family treehouse.

Chewie is inevitably delayed by Darth Vader’s tight grip and the family worries about his safety while they each amuse themselves in some futuristic way. Mala cooks a futuristic roast, Lumpy watches futuristic virtual-musical-erotica (I may be creative, but I’m not making this up) and the son, Itchy, takes time out to enjoy a Boba Fett cartoon.

Although sloppily drawn, this is the clear highlight of the show, where fans first meet the double-dealing bounty hunter, over-glorified agent of the dark side.

And then it gets weird.

While it doesn’t go as far as bloody red antlers, the viewer is suddenly transported to the foam alien-filled cantina where they’re greeted by Golden Girls’ Bea Arthur as she flirts with scaly patrons, arbitrates disagreements and breaks into song. And we thought John Williams’ cantina score didn’t have lyrics. It does, six minutes worth, in fact!

Of course, there’s more, but why spoil the fun.

Although LucasFilm has justifiably buried this treasure, it sparkles all over the file-sharing world. Some sites offer a questionable DVD version. I saw a pirated VCR tape transferred to 100 minutes of digital joy.

Undoubtedly, the Star Wars Holiday Special is a detestable production worthy of all the abuse and panning it receives. It’s not just a myth of bad, it is bad. But, had it been any other film, most people would flip it off after the first Wookie monologue.

But it’s Star Wars, an important part of the permanent adolescence of millions. If fans can sit through Jar Jar in consecutive showings, they can probably swallow this bubbling mass of poodoo. Hey, as the record has shown, they will probably even forgive Lucas one more time.

[Ed: James EarlY Jones no longer…]

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