November 17th, 1978, seemed like a normal day to most folks. But little did they know that that evening, one of the most despicable horrors now known to mankind would be unleashed upon them. And now, 30 years later, some are still feeling the effects of this disaster.
That’s right. Today is the 30th anniversary of the airing of the Star Wars Holiday Special.
Many folks are fortunate to have not even heard of it, let alone be able to tell you what really happened. But to Star Wars fans it’s a source of a great deal of internal conflict. There’s no argument that it’s absolutely horrible to watch. I mean it’s bad. It was badly written, badly acted, badly directed, badly edited, the sets and costumes and props and special effects were bad… just bad.
And yet it’s also a curious little time capsule revealing a few silly little secrets about Star Wars on the whole and some of the darker behind the scenes events that shaped later movies. At the end, for instance, there’s a song thing where all the original actors get together blah blah. This scene is famous not just for how bad it is, but for Carrie Fisher: she was blitzed out of her mind and had to cling to Pter Mayhew (Chewbacca) to keep standing up. Mark Hamill, earlier in the show, communicates with Chewie’s family by a video phone thing, and he looks like the ultimate prettyboy. He’s covered in makeup and looking a tad fruity… two weeks after filming he was in a motorcycle accident that permanently scarred up his face. It was so bad they had to write in a creature attacking Luke at the beginning of the next movie to explain it. It was also the first screen appearance of Boba Fett, albiet in cartoon form.
Of course, those trivial little bits are crushed under the weight of just how fucking bizzarre the thing is. Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman playing assorted bit parts and singing? WTF? Early on, Chewie’s dad is given a gift of something along the lines of a virtual reality simulation consisting of a human female dancing about in a pretty provocative manner, as said wookiee is clearly rather agitated. Guess he’s down with the… well I guess it’s not a swirl here. Hairball? This is shortly after Chewie’s son uses a holographic device to watch a bunch of tiny people doing acrobatics. Now that sounds tame enough, but watch it: it’s outright psychadelic. A family friend later uses the same kind of device to try to mellow out some evil Imperial Officers by showing them a 3D Jefferson Starship singing “Light the Sky on Fire”. That part was actually good… still tippy though.
A lot of the bits are out on YouTube and they’re worth watching, lest we forget the horror. George Lucas himself has stated that he wishes he could hunt down and destroy every last copy of it… no longer possible thanks to the internet. In fact I have a copy myself (with the pain dulled by an audio voiceover by MST3k’s own Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy cracking jokes… rifftrax.com, look ‘em up, it’s great). I’ll have to find time to watch again this evening.