The second in our incredible series of Star Wars memories, written by you as a testament to the incredible power of the saga to transcend age, genre and cynicism. If this inspires you to submit your own, check out the details here!
I never saw Star Wars in 1977.
This comes as a surprise to people who know me. Even those that think my love of Star Wars is a little on the obsessive side can see that its effect on me goes beyond a mass of merchandise and informs my way of life. Things such as the way I treat my friends, my love of myth and storytelling, can all be traced back to that film.
What I saw in 1977 was a television advert. That’s where it all stems from: a trailer for the film. I don’t remember every detail, but I remember the situation. It must have been around the time of the UK release in December 1977, my father and uncle were excited about going to see this film. There were adverts on the television for it on what seemed like every ad break, the reoccurrence of these ads telling the six year old me that this was an event not to be missed. The only scene I remember clearly from that advert was of Luke and Leia swinging across the Death Star chasm. In my mind, John Williams’ classic soundtrack is playing, but all the adverts I can find online from the time don’t feature it, so I can’t be sure.
The advertising certainly worked as I remember pleading with my father and uncle to take me. They refused on the grounds that it was a late showing but I think secretly they wanted to enjoy the event without worrying about having to care for a six year old. I must have made them guilty as a couple of days later I remember my parents taking me to our local Debenhams and buying me some of the toys.
Of course, I knew nothing about the story, only what I had gleaned from that 30 second advert. Playing with my toys I had to make up my own story, one in which I remember that C-3PO was far more evil than Darth Vader.
Keep in mind that back in 1977, we were much more isolated than we are today. Back then we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t really get to know about movies until they were released in the UK some six months later. Instead we relied on friends – back when social networks involved standing in front of people and talking – who went to the US on holiday and came back with tales. And it wasn’t until the 1980s that people really started swapping the Spanish coast for Florida. For a decade I thought there was a Jabba’s Sail Barge toy simply because a friend came back from holiday in the States in 1983 and told me there was one.
It would take until 1979 before I finally got to see the film, during which I had amassed a considerable amount of toys for someone who knew next to nothing about Star Wars. Two years was a long time for a six year old back when there was no such thing as video or DVD releases. I was beyond excited about the movie’s re-release and perhaps out of a little guilt my father took me to see it. It was everything I hoped it would be whilst being nothing like I expected (What do you mean C-3PO is one of the good guys?). I came out of that movie wanting to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. I wanted to become a Jedi. I wanted to defeat the Empire. I wanted to see the movie again. And again.
The 1979 re-release was prefixed with a promo for The Empire Strikes Back, nothing more than a slideshow of Ralph McQuarrie paintings, but enough to set my imagination off for another year until its release.
Yet nothing will come close to that initial image of Luke and Leia swinging across the Death Star chasm. I didn’t know at the time the journey they were taking nor the journey with Star Wars I was about to take, a journey I still walk to this day.