Thursday, May 4, 2017

May The Force Be With You - Star Wars Memories

(I repost this piece every May 4th)

This movie was a singular joy for the 12 year old me and like everyone from that generation I have a great story to accompany my first (and second and third) viewing of Star Wars.

You have to remember that 1977 was a far different movie landscape than we are used to today. Movies did not open in 2000 theatres and they stayed around for months and months. The big opening weekend was not the focus and the multiplex was non-existent. It seems there were less movies back then and less crap just made to fill the tiny multiplex theartes. Theatres were huge and luxurious with actual balconies that you rushed to just to have that front balcony seat. Popcorn and pop are meant to be rested on that ledge in front of me and not beside me or on the floor. I am not a barbarian here.

There was little lead up to the movie so it kinda just exploded on the screen and was primed for a twelve year old audience. Never before had we seen such pristine special effects. The movie just seemed CLEAN if that makes any sense. The characters were fresh and dynamic and the whole mythology of the "Jedi" and the "Force" was something I could believe in.

George Lucas famously took less of the profits from the movies themselves in exchange for full control and profits over the toys and merchandising. This kind of merchandising monster was virtually unheard of before Star Wars. Like Jaws before it and Raiders of the Lost Art after it DEFINED the word Summer Blockbuster.

I was never a fan of the Star Wars action figures. They were just too small and lacked detail. I was raised on six inch Mego figures with their awesome cloth costumes and of course the legendary Evile Knievel and the 12 inch G.I. Joe figures. (but what do I know...a set of first edition Star Wars action figures - I had ONE...a Darth Vader and I opened the package-would pay for your child's education.) There were relatively rare and not saved in package. And anyone who treat Lucas as some kind of God will have to explain to me why it took DECADES to market a LIGHT SABER that allowed any geek to get their Jedi freak on? I will give Lucas his props for advancing special effects through his Industrial Light and Magic - mainly financed with his merchandising profits. Special effects that were done in the original Star Wars with models have since been replaced by green screen CGIs. We would not have the wonders of the Matrix without such advances. (I LOVE Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow which is totally CGI with the exception of live actors). Yoda himself was a MUPPET (voiced and controlled by the great Frank OZ). Of course the addition of Jar Jar Binks is just CGI abuse and hubris of the highest order. But I transgress. I was telling the story of my seeing Star Wars for the first time in 1977.

Well I had waited weeks to be taken to Winnipeg in June of 77 with the expressed purpose of seeing Star Wars. I would have been the first of my classmates to get the chance to see it on the first weekend and as a fanboy from birth it was something I couldn't pass up. What was I thinking right? How could the movie possibly live up the hype that I built up in my mind. What in life ever does?

Anyway we arrived in time for the 6 o'clock show but NO ONE my Aunt's house would take me. I was totally pissed. My parents and older cousins actually expected my to wait until the next day? I reached for the phone book and found the bus dispatch service and found the correct bus to take to get to the theatre and just left the house. Never told anyone I was leaving and I doubt they even noticed me walking out the door. I was the kind of kid who was never afraid of doing things on my own and I have a kind of insane bravery that comes over me in those moments. I also was a maniac back then about getting what I wanted when I wanted it.

So I arrive at the theatre, grab my pop and popcorn and took my seat For the next 2 hours I experienced something that I hadn't before or since - a transended movie experience. So much was going on that I felt that I couldn't open my eyes wide enough to take it all in. When the Death Star exploded I felt a wave of panic come over me. I couldn't leave the theatre yet I had to see the movie again, not tomorrow but right that night, the very next showing. In a daze I rushed to the bathroom and using a tecnique I had seen on tv I locked the stall door and sat on the top of the toilet hugging my knees. I waiting for what felt like a hour for the movie crowds to recycle and then snuck into my second showing JUST as the opening credits began.

I was giddy with euphoria for not only seeing Star Wars again but for what I just got away with. I, however, was not brave enough to purchase more snacks for fear that I would be recognized. You would think that after the second Death Star of the evening had exploded that I would have had enough but I was always one to push my luck. After all there was one more showing that evening and "in for a penny, in for a pound" was sorta my mantra. I laughed out loud when I resumed my place behind the locked bathroom stall and almost shit myself when someone tried to get in. To this day I don't know if it was a theatre employee or someone with poopy pants.

I was so cocky during that third showing that I went for snacks TWICE just to push the envelop some more. This time I watched the film to the very end of the credits just to listen to more of that great soundtrack. Around midnight I left the theatre and my feet didn't touch the ground once. I don't know how I found the right bus but I eventually made my way back to my Aunt's place. Of course I had been missing 6 hours and they had the police out looking for me. They may have yelled at me but I didn't care. Another example of my passive aggressive way to get what I wanted and to this day I have NO regrets. One of the top five adventures in a life full of adventure.


Monc said...

A few years ago, my wife asked me why Star Wars was such a big deal for me. I thought about it and came up with a few different answers.

- I identify very strongly with these characters. Over the years, I've been the naive kid with unrealized potential, the smug outsider, the true believer in causes... now I find myself drifting into the wizened mentor role. I love Star Wars because I've lived it.

- The movie itself is a marvel. People used to make a big deal about the special effects, but the movie is a masterpiece of editing, music, production value. It flies by so rapidly, but it never feels rushed.

- Perhaps most importantly.... Star Wars came out when I was three, so I spent the majority of my childhood playing with Star Wars action figures. In my mind, I created stories for the heroes that were as exciting and valid as anything that appeared in the official canon of movies, comics, and novels. I was invested in that universe… and part of me still is.

Dr. Theda said...

For Stacey... it was right about our 13th Birthday... (had even began to read the paperback) the Monroe Theater was "packed" (very "rare") I could see some of the end of the 7:00 showing... as it ended the people rushed out into the small hall (shoving me up on top of a low water fountain)... And then we got to sit down (Center of Front Row) to a "big-screen" viewing of the most Awesome movie that we had ever seen !!!!
... been a fan ever since... May the Force be with you, good Sir Kal...!!!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

That's a great story, Cal.

DrGoat said...

Great memories, can't be beat. I still remember the first scene with the ship passing overhead against the planet backdrop. Magic.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Yup. The music and the sound and how clean everything was. It was a magic time, you are right.