May the 4th Needs a Fifth, I Think

Yeah, yeah. I kind of don’t like the over-celebrating thing when it comes to some stuff I appreciate, but that’s the way things are these days. Still, a little tribute is in order to a film that deserves it (well, in its original format), so here’s mine.

Perspective from an old fart who knows stuff: There was not a hint of internet nor the sort of over-speculation we suffer though today way back in 1976 when I was sitting in a movie theater and saw this teaser for the first time:

(Thanks, thecoolman!)

I vaguely recall being really curious about this upcoming film because it looked completely different than anything I could recall seeing (hey, I was only 12 at the time), yet it seemed really familiar in a few ways to stuff I’d seen on the local PBS station. At that point, I had zero idea of what a homage was or a way to grasp that George Lucas was borrowing from the past to create his own futuristic adventure (what was curiously, set in the distant past). Anyway, I noted the non-date and filed the film away in the memory banks as something to look forward to seeing. Those school friends I knew were either not interested at all or worse, had a low opinion of sci-fi films that extended to books and comics of the period. So only a rare few of the kids I knew even cared about this film before and to some extent, after it was released.

The most amusing modern thing in regards to this teaser is the Official Star Wars YT channel has an (intentionally?) embarrassing low quality teaser while other non-official sites have not only better quality ones, but one that’s been redone to include footage found in the actual release print. Granted, while MUCH prettier, I find that clip problematic because it’s redone history that erases the fact that the teaser was supposed to be cruder thanks to the film still being nowhere near completion a about a year out from its eventual release date. Sure, film fans didn’t know this and other that tiny bits (VERY tiny) of information dropped in a few sci-fi mags of the era. But that all changed as 1977 rolled around and more info as well as the successful Star Wars comic book appeared. I avoided the comic for a while, but eventually collected most of its run over time, enjoying a good deal of what I was reading (including stuff now FAR outside the current canon)

The next time I saw anything related to this film in a theater was this new and vastly more thrilling, which I recall, sent me over the moon:

(Thanks, Star Wars!)

There were also a few outstanding and memorable TV spots I recall making me desperate to see it, but for various reasons, I still hadn’t seen the film after it was released on May 25, 1977 and in fact, I didn’t get to see it until about a year later when a friend of my older brother’s offered to take me. Yeah, yeah – by that time it was more than “the biggest (sci-fi) film in the world”, it was still a phenomenon people were lining up to see week after week that kept getting extended runs and reissues well into the 80’s because 20th Century Fox was making a fortune (after initially thinking the film would bomb, naturally).

Anyway, it was also the time of the forced Times Square double feature, so yes, I finally saw Star Wars with this on that twin bill:

the terrornauts MP

Nice, colorful poster, isn’t it? Nope, that scene is NOT in the film, kids. I wouldn’t even call anything about this one “sexy”, but it works as a sleep aid from what I recall.

Yipes. Let’s just say that an 11-year old sci-fi film presented with a one-year old one makes for a VAST difference in quality (with a few exceptions, of course). The funny thing was, we arrived late to see Star Wars and had to sit through a snoozy but awesomely bad 75 minutes of The Terrornauts before watching what we wanted to see again. Oddly enough, after all these decades, the very act of typing those words gives me the urge to want to see this somewhat offbeat British sci-fi flick again (Help!):

(Thanks, Media Graveyard!)

Hey, it had spaceships, aliens,  a robot and explosions in it, so who knew the difference, right? Uh, yeah… NOPE. If anything, seeing the two together made me overthink a few of my entertainment options for maybe a month before I got back on board the “B” movie train thanks to them being to tempting to resist. That said, fro that point on, I thought I’d stack up every upcoming sci-fi flick to this standard, but that was kind of a horrible idea that led to some initial dismissing of “copycat” flicks that had their own appeal once I threw my elitism under a bus.

(Thanks, The Museum of Classic Chicago Television!)

(Thanks, Night of the Trailers!)

Both of these films got roasted hard back in the day by friends and critics for their obvious and indeed, shameless riffing. However, I see them differently these days because they also borrow from the same deep well Lucas mined for gold a few years previously, but on much lower budgets. There’s actual heart in these films under their shoestring skins, but yes, let’s also say that other films lesser known than these went the more direct theft route to even worse effect:

(Thanks, BlueUndergroundInc!)

Hell, I could write a book on all those iffy Star Wars clones I paid to see (or watched gratis on TV). But I also all have right to exist and at the least, actual historic value as more instances when a hugely popular film got such a massive response from other studios and creators looking to cook up projects guaranteed to draw in the masses craving more (even if the end results weren’t all that good or not good at all even back when they were released). Of course, without these “rip-offs” we don’t get the mind-flaying brilliance of this:

(Thanks, GOLDI FELDBAUM!)

So, I guess this means we have Star Wars to thank for its altering the landscape on a few fronts (some good, some not so good). I tend to ignore most movie (okay, ALL) franchise news these days and I tend to pay less attention to how things have gone since Disney has acquired the license other than to agree all the post-Lucas content (and yes, George’s tweaking of the older flicks) isn’t appealing to some people who may be overly critical and have lost their sense of wonder thanks to cynicism and the need to just gripe at anything that mucks with their golden memories.

Personally, I’ve liked elements of the films from Episode One up to Episode VIII, thought Rogue One was a very slick, very gritty lead in/circle point to A New Hope, felt Solo was a well-made, enjoyable but not so necessary diversion and overall, I’d say it’s a franchise (that word again, ugh) that will outlive its harshest critics as long as it continues to do more things right than it does wrong. As to all those future films, re-versions and other money-gathering antics? Eh, whatever. I can’t afford a theme park trip, so I’m caring not a whit about that, I’ve never seen a full Clone Wars episode or film, or read those comics (for some reason, I just never liked that art style, so sue me) and I have zero room for merchandise or the desire to see the kid-friendly remakes of the older films (but wonder how Rogue One will translate because, er… you know, that finale?). I just take in what I want to see when it rolls up on whatever cable channel it appears on (I tend to be that patient and am wise enough to stay off certain online spots to avoid the yakky spoiler types).

So yeah, keep going Star Wars – I won’t ever toss out a “May the 4th Be With You” in public or private (although, I  just did, oops) because that would lead me down the path of the drunken Dark Side because that’s too far a fall for me to do that sort of thing others do better at celebrating on a yearly basis. Otherwise, go do what you do and do it at least with the knowledge that somewhere, there’s a new fan getting that rolling intro with their eyes wide open and filled with a keen sense of wonder.

-GW

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6 thoughts on “May the 4th Needs a Fifth, I Think

    • Yeah, that was a Times Square thing, but I understand from a few folks over the years this sort of thing happened at drive-ins and other first and second-run theaters as well. I just saw a Region 2 DVD of the Terrornauts on eBay and while sorely tempted to pick it up, I know it’ll fry what’s left of the grey matter (or put me to sleep in ten minutes each time I try to watch it). 😀

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      • I had only heard the name, back in the early 70s, and thought it cool beyond belief. Actually found a novel, THE WAILING ASTEROID by Murray Leinster, in my school library with the tagline “NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE – THE TERRORNAUTS!”. Pretty cool sci-fi, especially the part where the bad guys send a line of black holes at the Earth. Then the movie finally cropped up on the late night movie and…. um….

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      • Well, then… I can smell the disappointment from here. I also just now realized that I sat through it TWICE because the guy who took me to the movies called my mother and said he wanted to see Star Wars again and asked if it was OK. Man, I feel so violated now. Oh, also… I think you know this, but in Star Crash, there’s a ship called the Murray Leinster: http://www.electricwolf.co.uk/VintageSciFi/Films/Starcrash.html (eek).

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      • I do remember I’d read about that in a magazine and sitting in the theater being maybe one of three or so people who got the reference. We were all sitting in the same row and one guy a few seats away started chuckling and the other guy a few seats away chimed in with a quick “Yep!” in response.

        Liked by 1 person

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