This weekend marks the 35th anniversary of the original release of Star Wars, later known as Star Wars Episode VI: A New Hope.
I remember when it came out, when I was 8 years old. I also remember not seeing it for a while afterwards. My parent’s work scheduled often didn’t allow going to the movies too frequently, along with taking care of my then two-year-old sister. And for weeks, lines would wrap around our little two-theater cinema behind the shopping center, which only gave one theater to the movie despite the lines. I remember friends having the first one or two series of trading cards before I actually got to see the movie. This was tough on an 8 year old SF fanatic who could tell you the plots of every episode of Star Trek within 20 seconds of the teaser act, loved Space: 1999 and would sit down with his dad to watch any SF we could find.
I also remember a friend’s dad invited me along with his kids to go see “a movie”. I though, “Finally!” We went to the theater, and there was the long line, but we didn’t get in the line – we walked straight in…and saw Sasquatch. (I have never watched that movie since.)
I finally got to see it when it started its second release, which I don’t believe was long after the first. But by then, Lucas had begun his decades-long history of changing his movies – he changed the title scroll to say, “Episode IV: A New Hope”. Rather confusing at the time, until we learned that it was all part of bigger plan consisting of nine movies (which he later recanted, and said it was only six.) But I finally got to see it, become part of the phenomenon…in fact, during that release, I saw it three times, once at a drive-in theater (there were still a few of them then – it was a double feature with Silver Streak opening, which my parents weren’t too happy with…)I collected the trading cards: Remember the colored edges? I started with the red ones briefly, but there was a blue series first, and mostly I had the yellow ones. Never a complete set, and not many of my friends were interested in trading. I actually don’t know what happened to those cards – I also had baseball cards that my parents gave away, and so they might have been given away as well, or even thrown out. Several years ago, though, I obtained complete sets of all 5 series in great condition, just to bring back my childhood.
I had a number of the Kenner figures as well. My friends had some of the spaceships and playsets, and we’d get together and play. I remember loving the packaging they came in, and I’d cut out the “nameplate” to keep with them. Of course, the figure still in the package is worth a LOT more these days. You could also cut out the blue Kenner logo, save them up, and send them in for special items. I got the Boba Fett figure “from the Star Wars Holiday Special” (he appeared in cartoon form in that before his big screen debut in The Empire Strikes Back), which was supposed to come with a missile-shooting backpack – but when it arrived, there was a note that they had removed the shooting capability and make the missile non-removable for safety concerns. My Star Wars figures often co-mingled with my Space: 1999 figures aboard the large Eagle ship I had, or found their way to school in my Planet of the Apes lunchbox.
I had a couple board games as well…I remember the “Destroy Death Star” game, which had different colored X-Wing pieces that you placed in clear plastic holders, in groups of 3…I remember that if you took them out and used them upside down, they’d resemble the Draconian hatchet fighters from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, so they got double duty for other things.
I read the novelization (so I knew who Biggs was…), and even the first book sequel (but non-canon), Splinter of the Minds Eye. The books are about all I still have of my Star Wars fascination from when I was a kid.
Star Wars opened up a whole new SF universe to me….one that, strange for me at the time, wasn’t Earth-centric. Earth had no place in this universe, and although all the primary characters were human, had quite the variety of non-humans as well. And the mysterious bad guy, Darth Vader – what was he? Was he human? Alien? Part machine? Little did we know then.
Nowadays, things are different. I have two daughters, and they are Star Wars fans as well. They proudly wear their Her Universe shirts. But they don’t remember when there were only three movies, or why there are “original” and “special edition” versions. They know 6 movies that are on TV regularly, they have the DVDs to watch any time, and instead of figures and playsets and trading cards they have video games. It’s a different world compared to 35 years ago. But I’m glad we’re all still part of it.
I think it’s time to show them the trading cards.
Don’t forget – if you haven’t yet, get the Original Trilogy on Blu-ray from Amazon, or even the Complete Saga. And the kids are currently playing Kinect Star Wars, which looks fun, but I can’t look at Han Solo dancing…