The Star Wars Holiday Special (TV, 1978) Reviewed

Leia sings! Bea Arthur bartends! Just a few terrifying moments from The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Leia sings! Bea Arthur bartends! Just a few terrifying moments from The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Once a relic of folklore, this see-it-to-believe-it travesty has never been released on video, DVD or rebroadcast on television. George Lucas disowned the unspecial special and did his best to keep it from ever seeing the light of day again. Thanks to bootleggers and the internet it’s much easier to get your hands on a grainy, washed out reproduction, probably lifted from an ancient video recording from the early early days of VCRs. Be warned however that despite its reputation, it ain’t easy to conquer. In fact, the feature-length special surely must have tested the patience of even the most enthusiastic child. An opening gives us about five minutes of Chewbacca’s wookie fam (his son is named Lumpy) speaking to one another in their native tongue without giving us the benefit of subtitles. Things get even worse with the appearance Harvey Corman hosting a cooking show in alien drag. Meanwhile Art Carney outsmarts Emperial soldiers and Jefferson Starship perform the most unholidayish holiday song in the history of same. You have to keep reminding yourself that this is a “holiday” special because you wouldn’t know it from watching. The framing segments have Harrison Ford’s Han Solo rushing Chewie home for “Life Day” — a PC intergalactic holiday that won’t interfere with Star Wars mythology by evoking Christ. A still-recovering post-car-wreck Mark Hamill looks creepy, fresh from plastic surgery. A cheeky Carrie Fisher sings. Ford emotes sincerely to a ridiculous looking family of wookies. I know it all sounds terribly watchable, but be warned – you may be in for the longest hour of your life. Favorite moments include Bea Arthur warbling to the tough crowd of aliens at the cantina (…where she tends bar, incidentally.) and Grandpa Itchy(!) having what looks like a virtual sex experience with a dancing Diane Carol. A bizarre-looking animated sequence introduces Boba Fett, predating his film debut in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s the only part of the show that seems created by people who had actually seen Star Wars. The movie’s primaries don’t have much screen time. I can’t imagine what audiences must have thought when they sat down with their kids to watch this disorienting, expensive-looking acid trip of a TV special. That it aired at all is pretty remarkable. Painful or not, this is essential viewing for even casual Star Wars fans. Sadly, thanks to George Lucas, TSWHS isn’t likely to be (legally) available… ever. ***

~ by Number5ive on November 30, 2008.

One Response to “The Star Wars Holiday Special (TV, 1978) Reviewed”

  1. I love how Carrie Fisher is clearly out of her mind on pills through her appearances. She speaks up to the air and seems to have some trouble negotiating the set and furniture. Pure comedy gold.

    While I own this, I frankly have never been able to watch it all the way through. Instead, I do snippets. Yowza.

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