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On May 25th, 1977...

Merrick here...
This was the first image I remember seeing from a movie called STAR WARS.
I believe I saw it in a very early issue of Starlog which, unless I’m mistaken, hit the stands before any footage from the film made it’s way to theater screens. I didn’t read much back then…seemed like too much trouble, and I often didn’t understand the words…so I had no clue what the article wrapped around the artwork actually said. But I understood this image. With no context whatsoever, I understood this image. It was a window into a universe which seemed vaguely familiar (and somehow comfortable) to me, even though I’d never seen it painted quite like this. I carried this image with me for what seemed like ages. It was probably only a month or two, but time passes differently when you’re a kid. It was embedded in my mind and imprinted on my vision. I didn’t know what these laser swords sounded like, or have a clue how that tall, scary-looking creature moved. But they were already real to me. In a strange way, that picture was alive. I’d yet to see STAR WARS…the film was still a year or two from release…but it had already changed me. Forever. Then my mom took me to see FOR THE LOVE OF BENJI. More than anyone else, I owe my love of movies and television to my mother. She introduced me to them at a very young age, and quickly encouraged my diverse tastes. FOR THE LOVE OF BENJI wasn’t the most high-brow title she directed me towards, but…you know…that dog was pretty damn cute, I was 8 or 9 years old, and that’s what was playing at a convenient time. I remember the theater we went to….it’s not there anymore. It had a mammoth screen that was recessed into the wall, much like the main bridge viewer on STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES’ Enterprise. I sat there staring at the screen…wishing they’d hurry up and build spaceships like the Enterprise so I could grow-up go where no man had gone before. Then the lights dimmed, and I was taken there. This was the first thing to splash across the screen:
Then, with considerably more booming sound and vastly brighter colors, this is what I saw:
“It’s an epic of heroes, and villains, and aliens from a thousand worlds.” Good God! How much simpler could it be? How much more elegant could it be? How much more enticing could it be? FOR THE LOVE OF BENJI played, but I remember nothing about it – STAR WARS had taken care of that. When the movie was over, I vividly recall talking about “SATR WARS this” and “STAR WARS that” all the way home…and it was a long drive home. We arrived at our house, where my dad asked how I liked BENJI. “STAR WARS, STAR WARS, STAR WARS.” I went back, dug into my trusty magazine chest (it’s still there where I left it, filled with Starlogs, Futures, Famous Monsters, and Fantastic Films), and attempted to read the Starlog article I mentioned above. “Light Sabers” they were called…okay! Only I called them “Light Serbies” (having never seen or heard the word “saber”). I was lovingly corrected, and I could live with that. And, no matter what they were called, they were cool. So…here we are…thirty years later. Thirty years ago…today. It doesn’t seem like that long; the feelings surrounding the release of the original STAR WARS film still seem so immediate – and its effects are still so profound. The movie changed the way Hollywood perceived storytelling, it changed the way technology was applied to the filmmaking process. It altered the way the public en-masse approaches and embraces the things Geeks like us take for granted every day. It changed a lot of things. I wonder if the Academy would’ve voted differently had it foreseen the macro cultural/industrial impact STAR WARS would have? I wonder if STAR WARS would’ve been 1977’s best picture instead of…ANNIE HALL (!?) Would I consider myself defined by STAR WARS? No, although I would say it is a huge part of my definition. Because of it, I learned that it was okay to think outrageously, to dream outrageously, and to not reign in my imagination or efforts simply because the world might not know what to make of me. The same misgivings were voiced about STAR WARS…”Audiences won’t know what to do with it” said many Powers That Be (more or less). Well, that wisdom was quickly invalidated – it’s an important lesson. This article isn’t about defaming what STAR WARS ultimately became. It’s not about over-extended merchandising, whether Ewoks suck, whether Jar Jar blows, or whether or not the Prequel trilogy should ever have been made. These are legitimate discussions for other days. Instead, let’s make this day…just for today…about a singular moment in history...about a time whose likes we will never see again. So, a heartfelt thanks to George Lucas. And to Gary Kurtz (CLICK HERE for a fascinating, in-depth, and surprisingly frank interview about his involvement with the franchise – he’s more important than many people realize), and to John Milius, Willard Huyck, Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins, Steven Spielberg, Marcia Lucas, Carroll Ballard and the endless array of folks surrounding Lucas who impacted the film (either directly or indirectly). Thank you for bringing us STAR WARS. No matter what might be said about the direction George’s universe headed after May 25, 1977 – one thing is certain. In 1977, they got it right. They got it gloriously right. Happy Birthday.

[[[e-mail MERRICK]]]


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