Star Wars: Ever wonder what the Sci-Fi Experts thought about it in 1977? Probably not, but you have to remember that until Star Wars came out in 1977, nobody had seen anything quite like it on the big screen before, so it is interesting to read about what sci-fi authors and "experts" of the time thought about the movie...
Luke Before You Leap
Young Skywalker, starseeker of stellar adventures, sympathizes with his metallic friend over the animated machines dismayingly dirty condition. “Threepio”, he counsels the sensitive droid, “don’t activate your lachrymatic valves, Old Buddy. You know crying isn’t good for your outsides —it’ll make you all muddy. And you know what can happen to you then!” Threepio’s alloyed innards tremble at the thought as complex mechanisms in his artificial colloidal brain matrix electronically graph the graphic consequences of such an ill-advised action. The revolting result is the projection on the damaged droid’s cerebral screen of itself suffering the most dread condition known to automatons or robots: rust!
the experts speak: do you agree?
FM wanted to know what a number of prominent people in the sci-fi & film fields felt about this mind-boggling motion picture so we polled their opinions and bring their reactions to you. As might be expected, the responses are in general all-out, unreserved, enthusiastic cries of hurray & hurrah and “please hurry up with the sequel!” Surprisingly, however, all viewers weren’t TOTALLY turned on. One author, you’ll find, even was disappointed right down the line. You can’t believe it? Then keep reading and eventually you’ll come to his “reasons”. Maybe you’ll think them unreasonable. In any event, we lead off with WILLIAM ROTSLER, who was crazy about STAR WARS.
Rotsler, writing as John Ryder Hall, has authored the pocketbook based on FUTUREWORLD. And SINBAD & THE EYE OF THE TIGER! And done a couple of the PLANET OF THE APES novelizations!
Sculptor, photographer, film-maker, author (under his own name PATRON OF THE ARTS and TO THE LAND OF THE ELECTRIC ANGEL), he has for years entertained the science fiction fanzine field with innumerable contributions of futuristic, fantastic & fabulous cartoons and was rewarded in 1975 with a Hugo for Best Fan Artist. He has published a number of sf short stories and approximately 500 articles & stories in other magazines. Sci-fi buffs are encouraged to look for his forthcoming novels ZANDA, ON ALIEN GROUND, JOURNEY TO THE RAINBOW, THE WAR FOR ZIKKALA and STARSEED. ROTSLER says simply:
“I loved STAR WARS.”
I'll see it several more times and most of the people I know have said the same thing. The last picture I felt like that was 2001, which I've seen nine times, plus once on television. It, like STAR WARS, was perhaps the only science fiction film that made no apology whatsoever for being science fiction. So many science fiction films apologize for being “that kind of film, ” or camp or—most of the time—louse it up.
STAR WARS is space opera, an old and dimly honored section of the genre we all know and love. It is not the only kind of science fiction, for which we are all grateful, but it is a superb example of a “fun" kind of science fiction.
The acting was adequate, the story was zippity-pow stop-for-nothing, and fun, the casting was good (with one exception), but it was the sets and costumes that stole the picture. I have to see it at least one more time just to look around and passed the actors at the wondrous things that were going on back there. STAR WARS is the most visually exciting, most detail-packed science fiction film ever! (The one exception is Carrie Fisher. She is not my idea of a galactic princess. But that is purely taste. Some love her. Some people would love a toad.)
Bill Warren, film critic and film fan, said that he had been waiting for this movie since he was fourteen. “I just didn’t know it was
STAR WARS is the kind of film you can enthusiastically recommend to those “outside the field. ” In fact, I've been telling everyone about it—and that is the best kind of advertising. If you have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey and Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day the Earth Stood Still and Star Wars you have seen just about all the science fiction films that don't apologize a little.
But the comment I liked best was Dr. Sidney Coleman’s, who said, “It’s so much like Planet Stories the last reel ought to be a letter column.”
George Lucas has created a masterpiece. I only hope the possible science fiction boom to come will be done by people who know science fiction, rather than by the moguls who only look at grosses and say, “Oh, science fiction movies are big—make one!" without knowing a thing about why it was good.
And, boy, do I look forward to the sequel—!
* * *
DONALD F. GLUT’s credits are many & varied. He is the author of “The Frankenstein Legend” (nonfiction) and 10 original novels about Mary Shelley’s Man of Parts. The author of “The Dracula Book”. “The Dinosaur Dictionary”. Stories & features in FAMOUS MONSTERS and PERRY RHODAN. The paperback novels "Bugged!" & “Spawn”. Saturday matinee television shows. The comic book characters Dagar & Spektor. And during his teenhood when he was growing up with FM, he made around 8 hours’ worth of amateur monster movies, including one in which your Editor played a cameo role on the sidewalks of Chicago, fleeing for his life from an unnamable horror.
[Donald F. Glut would later go on to pen the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back]
DON GLUT says:
George Lucas and I went to the University of Southern California together, both majoring in Cinema. George had come into the school as an eager student. Though he had experience in still photography, he'd never touched a motion picture camera. When he left USC four years later, he'd finished the short student film THX 1138 which became the father of the feature length SF film of the same title.
I remember getting a phone call from George one morning in the summer of 1973. He had some dream about making a “Flash Gordon" type of space opera, but updated for a modern audience, with special effects to rival those in 2001; a science-fantasy epic that all ages could enjoy, filmed on an impressive budget. George wanted to know if I could give him the addresses of comic book artists of the Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood and Al Williamson calibre who might be involved in creating the visuals for his proposed film.
Knowing George's abilities, I'd expected something great in STAR WARS, but what he accomplished in that picture cannot be adequately described by this writer. George has given us an heroic adventure to rank alongside the best of them, including ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and the Korda THIEF OF BAGDAD. He has reinstated the heroic fantasy on its grandest scale, dazzled our eyes and touched our emotions. Almost everyone I know who has seen the picture has described it as “the best science fiction movie of all time. " I think I'd generalize that a bit more and say that I consider STAR WARS one of the best movies of all time.
Thanks, George, you made your dream—and ours—come true.
* * *
LISA MITCHELL is the lovely lassie with the classy chassis (and brain to match) who gave us her memoirs of BELA LUGOSI in FM 123. She writes about film-related topics & personalities for magazines such as Westways & New West and is frequently to be found in the L.A. Times, contributing to the Book Review and Calendar sections.
She calls STAR WARS “the first nostalgia science fiction film”, elaborating:
It's a paean, really; an obvious love tribute to the Flash and Buck serials and—particularly in the opening minutes—full marks for such a lush explosion. Hurrah for paying dues and spiffy attention to the worthy precursors and to a genre which shaped our lives. And how many science fiction (a term synonymous with“future")pictures are there, set in “once, a long time ago"?
But, oh, for all that money spent, for all those magnificent, best-ever special effects—how disappointing not to have had a better screenplay! A great idea—a strong concept! Stronger, say, than “May the Force go with you. "Because, after the first half hour of visual bedaz-zlement, my brain needed something more to hang on to. I thought I'd found it in Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Alec Guinness character, but he wasn't there enough, either figuratively or literally (No fault of the superb actor. God knows he was, as always, perfectly brilliant whenever he was allowed to appear). The two young men were engaging enough, but the less said the better about the “princess", whose ton of lip gloss, ropes of coiled hair and smug expression remained implaccable, whatever the holocaust.
Photo: Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and See-Threepio, the human-like robot, discuss the great Galactic Civil War.
Soo, mostly what I remember now, rethreading the movie on my mind a few days after seeing it, is SHOOTING!
I could never stand war movies because of all that banging. And “Star Wars" is, after all, a war movie. A war movie in super-du-per-blow-your-eardrums-away-stereo-assault sound.
So, for what seemed like hours, I sat there with my fingers in my ears, waiting for respites of dialogue, which I found terribly garbled (perhaps due to faulty acoustics at The Chinese Theatre?) and when deciphered, of not very much substance.
When the movie ended, even as my fingered ears relaxed and sighed relief, a younger member of the audience stood up and yelled, "More!" And there you have it. He was of a generation who listens to rock music amplified so that walls reverberate and he goes deaf. But, speaking of music, I must say how much I did love John Williams' triumphal score. We should have it piped into our rooms upon awakening each morning and its heraldry could set our steps towards a great day of derring-do!
Photo: Jawas, the rodent-like scrap collectors of Tatooine, weld a small control disk onto the side of Artoo-Detoo.
Finally, I am thrilled about the existence of “Star Wars". Whether I “liked" it or not is immaterial. I am thrilled because I believe everyone else will like it and it will be (already is) a cult film and will do incredibly good box office business.
All of which means that the powers that be at the studios, the powers who care exclusively about dollars and cents, will now be itching to produce more and more, bigger and better science fiction films and maybe, in the not too distant future, screenplays like Ray Bradbury's “Leviathan 99” will finally be made. Then, with the benefits of all this great computerized cinematic special effects technology to glut our senses, we'll also get some concepts to feed our souls.
* * *
WE don’t really have to tell you who ROBERT BLOCH is, do we?
Author of “The Girl from Mars”, “The Mad Scientist”, “Secret of the Observatory”, “Queen of the Metal Man”, “Stuporman”, “The Machine that Changed History”, “It Happened Tomorrow”. Writer of 3 Star Trek episodes, including “Catspaw”. Twilight Zoner. World Science Fiction Convention Guest of Honor (twice). And the latest—greatest—good news: for George Pal he’s adapting HGWells’ novel “In the Days of the Comet” for one of those 3-epi-sode 6-hour-long TV spectaculars! BOB BLOCH, author in our own pages of the classic “Clown at Midnight” (nos. 61 & 62) and “Menace, Anyone?” (#10) and the posthumous collaboration with Edgar Allan Poe, “The Horror in the Lighthouse (MONSTER WORLD #4), says “STAR WARS is the film that turns science fiction around,” going on to explain:
Away from phoney relevancy and pretentious metaphysics—and points it in the direction of sheer entertainment.
The picutre is pure 1937 “sense of wonder", and it works just as well in 1977 because it was made with the priceless ingredient of tender, loving care. Its special effects are important, but so are its characters. Critics will equate them with comic-book creations or THE WIZARD OF OZ, but actually they are closer to the ageless archetypes described by the psychologist, C.G. Jung. From myths and dreams and fairytales and from our own collective unconscious come the Wise Old Man, the Young Hero In Search Of Identity, the Virgin Princess, the Embodiment Of Evil, the Reckless Adventurer and all the rest.
Predictably, the self-styled “film-makers" and their self-con-scious followers will label STAR WARS as “escapist" and “juvenile". But those of us who are not ashamed to enjoy fantasy for its own sake have reason to be grateful.
* * *
MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY is celebrating her twenty-fifth year as a science fiction professional this year—she sold her first story in 1952, to a magazine which “lasted almost as long as the $15 check I got for it,” named VORTEX.
She’s the author of the DARK-OVER novels—there are eleven of them by now, and two more contracted for; the latest, FORBIDDEN TOWER, is coming out this September, and two of the earlier ones are being released this year by Gregg Press in hard covers. She has also written any number of other science fiction novels, both serious, as in the t recent ENDLESS VOYAGE (an Ace Special) and THE COLORS OF SAPCE, a fantastic space opera juvenile. She fills in her time by writing Gothics and mysteries, juveniles and TV novelizations; composes music, speaks at fan conventions, and is still a very active fan. She has just finished a mainstream novel somewhat over a quarter of a million words in length, and occasionally even writes for fanzines. She says:
Even on a weekday the line stretched around the block and I seriously began to wonder if we'd make it into the theater. We paid for lodge seats but wound up unable to find two together, except in the smoker's balcony, so we sat wedged down under the cinerama screen behind three or four loudly yacking hooky-playing teenagers. I thought to myself, grimly, this movie had better be awfully good to make up for this. . . .
It was. Most science fiction movies are heavily oriented toward the Astounding-Analog hard-sci-ence “respectable" future-shock readers—-and writers. This is the first time that old space-opera freaks have had their innings, outside the sheer nonsense and hoke of the 1930's FLASH GORDON epics. Now the audience which loved Captain Future, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore and THRILLING WONDER STORIES is having our day on the wide-screen epic.
Special delights? The view of the desert planet which made me think of DUNE, even to the skeleton of a sandworm lying atop the sand, and the throwaway comment about “spice merchants". The view of the beautiful green earth-type planet with Darkover-style towers cropping up in the distance. The scene in the Spaceman's Bar, with a bewildering array of alien types, nonhumans ... it gave me hope that somebody someone might like to make HUNTERS OF THE RED MOON into a film. And the robots, who delighted me much, much more than the human actors, maybe because they didn't have so many corny lines to say. If the film has a fault (and it's a very small one) it's in the dialogue, which sometimes is almost as bad as that of the old Gernsback s-f.
But this small fault is swallowed in its many virtues. As I watched it I was overcome with regret that the World-wrecker himself, the late and much-loved Ed Hamilton, did not live to see this. Because this is his kind of science fiction. And mine, and mine, and mine ... I loved every minute of it.
There's an eight-foot proto-simian of some sort who snarls more expressively than most of the actors speak. For that matter, the assortment of charming mechanical clicks and buzzes and chirps with which the delightful little R2-D2 Robot converses are more expressive than most of the dialogue. There's a scene where the four freedom fighters get caught in a gigantic mechanical trash compactor, which had me sweating—even though I KNEW that in a movie of this type, nothing EVER happened to the hero and heroine, I still sat there frantically chewing on my popcorn and clutching Walter's hand, until it got stopped in the very nick of time...
The special effects are dazzling, and not at all hackneyed. The hyperspace shift especially owes nothing to 2001 and looks exactly as I thought, when I wrote COLORS OF SPACE, that it would HAVE to look.
Photo: See-Threepio, Luke & Obi-Wan passing through the Imperial Checkpoint.
I loved it. I'm crazy about it. I'm going to go back and see it again, and again, and again . . . this is MY kind of science fiction movie. If the snooty hard-science future-shock respectability buffs don't like it, so much the better— maybe I won't have to stand in line half an hour and sit on top of the screen next time!
To be continued next issue.
STAR WARS QUIZ
by nick cuti
SO YOU have seen STAR WARS twice ... 5 times . . . 10? You’ve consumed more Mars Bars while watching it than there were Aliens in the famous Space Bar scene? OK, then let’s see how closely you were paying attention.
Would Ben Kenobi be proud of you?
Would Artoo Deetoo give you a razzberry?
Would Chawbacca give a snort that would knock a wart off a warthog at 40 paces?
Test your knowledge!
First Reader to get 100% right gets a kiss from Princess Organa—just as soon as George Pal comes back from the future in HGWells’ Time Machine.
1. Besides being a princess, Leia Organa had another title. What was it?
2. What was the first landmark See Threepio came to on the desert of Tatooine after his landing on the planet?
3. What were the full names of Luke’s Uncle & Aunt?
4. Luke and his uncle bought See Threepio from the Jawas because he knew what language?
5. How did Kenobi know, from the Bantha tracks, that it wasn’t the Tusken Raiders who killed the Jawas?
6. Can you recall the name of the spaceport where Luke first met Han Solo & Chewbacca?
7. To whom did Han Solo owe money?
8. How was Han Solo able to escape the Imperial Ships chasing him from Tatooine? Name Han’s ship in your answer.
9. Which planet did Leia Oraana falsely name as the location of the rebel base?
10. When Solo’s ship reached the Alderaan System, what did they find there?
11. Name one of the guards Luke & Solo replaced on Death Star. Hint: His name was also the title of another George Lucas Science Fiction movie.
12. How did See Threepio & Artoo Deetoo save themselves when the Troopers broke into the Information Control Center on Death Star?
13. What battle tactic did Han Solo use to scatter and confuse the Troopers who charged him, Luke and the escaping Princess?
14. Name the rebels’ true base from which the attack on Death Star was launched.
15. Can you describe Death Star’s one vulnerable section?
16. Did the rebels believe in “the force” or was such a belief confined to the Jedi Knights? Explain how you know.
17. What were the rebel attack crafts called? Hint: Remember the shape of their wings.
18. Name Luke’s designation in the rebel squadron.
STAR WARS BONUS QUIZ
Next to each character place the letter which corresponds to his or her rank or planet of origin. Warning: There are dummy answers which do not match any of the characters and a few characters have the same answer.
1. ORGANA [ ]
2. TAGGET [ ]
3. PORKIN [ ]
4. VADER [ ]
5. DODONNA [ ]
6. SOLO [ ]
7. KENOBI [ ]
8. TARKIN [ ]
F. Blue Four
1. Senator. 2. The skeleton of a large beast. 3. Owen & Beru Lars. 4. Bocce. 5. Tuskens ride Banthas in single file. These tracks were side by side. 6. Mos Eisley. 7. Jabba the Hut. 8. He put the •'Millenium Falcon" into a hyperspace jump. 9. Dantooine. 10. An asteroid storm where the planet should have been. ll.THX-1138.12. By hiding in a closet and pretending that they were victims ot a rebel assault. 13. He attacked the Troopers, shouting & firing as if he had an entire army behind him. 14. The planet Yavin's fourth moon. 15. An exhaust shaft which led to Death Star's nuclear reactor. 16. They believed. Dodonna, the rebel leader, wished to his men: ". . . and may The Force be with you." 17. X-winged fighters. 18. Blue Five.
1. (G) 2. (A) 3. (F) 4.'(E) 5. (A) 6. (B) 7. (A) 8.(C)
Photo: Heroes' Reward - Han Solo, Chewie and Luke are Triumphant Trio parading past the Palace Guard toward the Princess for a Princely Reward.
[Source: Famous Monsters of Filmland ISSUE No.138 OCTOBER 1977. P.26-31, 50-51, 99-100. Copyrighted © 1977 by Warren Publishing Co. All rights reserved.]