I spent a large part of this Sunday watching one of the most unusual pieces of Star Wars lore that one could possibly stumble across. The Star Wars Holiday Special. It’s the holy grail for many Star Wars fans, as it has the honor of being universally regarded as the worst thing ever officially released by the Lucas/Star Wars camp. The “officially” part is key. This had the approval of Lucas and everyone else. It had to have been worked on by at least someone with at least a thumb-full of talent and respect in the biz, yet, well, you shall see. It features some great acting by Harrison Ford, some drunken stumblings from Carrie Fisher, many songs, little green men with little green packages, wookie masturbation, Jefferson Starship, and an electric Kool-Aid acid cartoon. It really is something special.
I’ve spent 5 or 6 hours watching and writing this 3400+ word review. I’ve included over 160 screen shots to illuminate it. It’s a bit long, but believe me, not nearly as long as the actual 1 hour 40 minute show.
Continue if you dare.
note1: Please keep in mind that I was writing and screen-capping this as I watched it. Some of the descriptions may be a bit terse. You decide weather or not this is intentional due to disgust, exhaustion, or just to save time.
note2: Also keep in mind that this was only the second full-length program to feature the Star Wars universe. Only one movie had been released.
note3: Remember, this is official Star Wars cannon, meaning that if it happens here, it really for-real happens. This isn’t some fan-fiction. This is real, or at least as real as anything in the movies. More real than, say, the books. Remember this…
The action opens with Han and Chewbacca escaping from a star destroyer. Blasters fire all around, shaking the telephone-booth size set. Chewie takes this opportunity to remind Han that he needs to get home soon. Han assures Chewie that yes, ok, I'll get you to "Life Day" on time. This is apparently worth risking both of their lives for. He plots a risky jump to light speed (aren't they always risky?) and they're off.
Cut to the logo, fan-fare, and voice-over introductions of the main players in this holiday farce, including, most importantly, Chewbacca's family.
That's right, his wife Malla, father Itchy, and son Lumpy are all in attendance. Even the announcer sounds embarrassed about having to say these names.
Then come the special guest stars, most of which are over the age of too-fucking-old to be in a Star Wars special aimed directly at 10year-olds. Beatrice Aurther, Art Carney, Dianne Carroll, The Jefferson Starship and Harvey Corman. Oh god.
We are quickly ushered away from this car-accident waiting to happen, and land on what must be Chewie's home-world of Kashshiikkkikik, or whatever. We find Itchy building a model X-Wing fighter, while Lumpy is running around with his own model like a kid in ape suit with one-too-few eye holes. This is too much for Itchy to handle, so he barks a few times at Lumpy. Mama Malla tries to defuse the tension by making Lumpy do some work in the kitchen. It should be noted that none of this is in English or even subtitled. It's all in the usual barking and whining you'd expect from wookies. It's sort of like watching mimes retching while directing traffic.
Lumpy isn't having any of it though, instead sneaking a Wookiee Cookie (yes, they are called this later on in the show.) He is then sent off to the laundry room, which is apparently just to the right of a 300 foot drop. Lumpy, ever the focused young lad, decides it would be better to take a walk on the railing.
Meanwhile, Itchy and Malla are wandering around the living room grunting and looking at things. This is television history in the making. Really long, boring history. Eventually, Lumpy comes back, somehow avoiding anything interesting like falling off the railing or even doing the damn laundry. Itchy decides to bust out some entertainment for the young cub, because hey, trying to get him to do something didn't work for 30 seconds, so let's just give up. What he shows him, I swear to god, is a tiny green naked man dancing around. And his many colorful and just-as-gay circus friends.
For some reason, Lumpy wants to see this at life-size, flips a switch, and zap, there you go, life-size green nads. The circus shenanigans continue, with greeny bringing out more and more tumblers and jugglers, each with increasingly pronounced crotch regions. This continues for about forever, or roughly 2 minutes.
Mom breaks up the "fun" by insisting the Lumpy do the dishes, or, at least, the dish. She, in turn, takes advantage of this break in the action to check up on Chewie, but he's still not in the area. Then it’s off to the video-phone, which is conveniently placed behind at least three different panels in the bookcase. She makes a call to Luke, causing him to fuck up some super space-hardware. After more grunting and arm-waving, Luke concludes that Chewie must be late for Life Day. Well, good ol' Chewie hasn't missed a Life Day yet, so he won't miss this one, right? Good job Prof. Luke. So it's back to work on some piece of equipment far advanced beyond our understanding that can be ruined by R2 breathing on it.
And it's back to the ol' boob-tube for Malla. After a bit of fine tuning (OK, far too much fine tuning) she locks on to...well...something. Art Carney running a shop full of curios, apparently. Things like a pocket sized aquarium. The Imperial pilot is not interested. Art sees that Malla is on the wall-screen, and proceeds to tell her that her "shaggy carpet" is “on the way.” Made by a women, by "hand, solo." Wow. After he hangs up, there is some more banter with the pilot, that, like so much else, goes on way too long, and awkwardly ends with Carney talking to himself under his breath.
We're then treated to a very short cut of Vader walking and telling his commander to search "every household in the system" to find the Rebels. This is why they need clones. Every household in the system? Nevertheless, this scene lasts about 5 seconds. Then it's back to the stupid damn wookiees...
Malla is watching a cooking show on how to cook bantha surprise. With Corman playing the woman cooking.
What follows is...wow...dreadful doesn't begin to describe it. Well, maybe it begins to describe it. Again, it's painfully long, with Corman eventually chanting "Stir! Whip! Stir! Whip!" over and over. And over. Then he...ug...grows a third arm to add "Beat!" to the mix. And on and on. Really. That’s all he does. The only reason it ever stops is because Malla turns it off mid-rant.
Then, a blessed release from this hell. We are brought back to Han and Chewie, still running from the Empire. They entered the wrong coordinates, sending them into the middle of an Imperial convoy. Harrison Ford’s acting here is just as good as anything from the actual movies (well, the one that had been released thus-far at least) and he deserves nothing but respect for his performance. Cutting in movie footage of the dog fighting doesn't hurt either. Unfortunately, it doesn't last long. Probably because it was making everything else look oh so bad.
Meanwhile, back at home, the Empire has declared marshal law because of some Rebel activity on a planet called Kazook. Do they mean Kashikkkk (or however you spell that sillyness)? There's a knock on the door. It's not something interesting like a stormtrooper or paint drying.
It's Art Carney. Bearing gifts. Nothing like any other holiday we know of. Nope, this is Life Day, so shut the hell up.
Lumpy gets a computer. Oh good, 'cause they don't already have about 15 of them. Itchy, however, gets something, "it's kinda like…wow…" as Carney describes it. He plugs it into one of those old-style salon hair-dryer chairs, slaps the helmet on, and, well, wow ensues.
Fade in to a kaleidoscopic background with swooshy, spacey music. Add a bunch of women "swimming" around in white leotards. A voice says "I know you're searching for me. Searching..." What follows is quite familiar to anyone who has ever dialed a phone-sex service. Dianne Carroll saying things like "I'm here just for you." and "Oh, we are excited, aren't we?" And, Jesus Christ, "Just relax. Now, we can have a good time." "I am your pleasure, so enjoy me." They stop short of actually showing Itchy jerking off, but trust me, it's only because they keep the camera above his waist. Really. No. I'm not exaggerating. They do have him grunting and jerking around a lot. Then Carroll sings her song about wanting to hold on to "this minute." It's quite tame, but pretty psychedelic none-the-less. And runs about 6 minutes. Itchy still has a little staying power after all these years.
Cut to C-3PO and Leia trying to contact Malla. They do. After Leia stands and wobbles rather drunkenly to the screen, they find that Chewie and Han are still missing. No one seems to care. End of scene.
Cut to Han and Chewie nearing the planet. Too much Imperial traffic causes them to land on the far side. Chewie will have to walk. After-all, we're only about 1/3 of the way into this "special." Dear god…
The ship passes over the house, everyone thinks it's Chewie, they run to the door, and Zing! Stormtroopers! Yes! Maybe now something interesting will happen.
And it does. That is, if you think of Jefferson Starship as interesting.
Yes, after a lot of shuffling around, stormtroopers tapping on walls, Carney getting interrogated by the Imperials and stuttering his way though way too much of the same dialog over and over, he presents a box to an officer. Again, more fucking around follows, and eventually the box displays a tiny, pink, totally lame sounding band. Some of the worst pantomiming ensues, as well as some of the worst lyrics "Will you light the sky on fire? You can take me higher than the diamonds in the sky." It's obvious that they spent at least 14 seconds writing and recording this song.
The actual "drama" section of this scene is actually OK, or at least acceptably horrible. Carney is asked to leave, and the search continues. Malla tries to rough up a 'Trooper, guns are waved around, and eventually she acquiesces. Lumpy wanders off to yet another computer console, straps on some headphones, and watches a cartoon.
There are few things I know about this show. I've avoided reading all but one review of it. But I do know that most people say the cartoon is the best part of the show, mostly because it's the very fist official appearance of Boba Fett. Naturally, I've been looking forward to this. Two notes, the voices are all done by their respective actors (good) and the art is fucked, up. (very bad)
Han and Chewie are missing. (Can't these guys get ANYWHERE on time?) They have been looking for some sort of talisman that makes things invisible. They appear on a screen with Han bouncing around up-side down in the background. Luke sets off to intercept. The Falcon crash lands on a moon made of pizza sauce.
Luke follows, fights off a sea monster, runs away. Then the monster is zapped by...
Boba Fett! On a similar, but much bigger, sea monster. Fett saves Luke, calls him "friend," and warns Luke of Imperials in the area. He also says that "no lower life-form is worth going hungry for, friend."
They find the Falcon, Chewie tosses out the talisman because what the fuck did they want it for anyway really, and Luke gets shot in the back by Fett. 3PO tells Fett to stop because Luke is a friend, and that there is some sort of sleeping virus that only contaminates humans. The only way to keep them alive is to let the blood rush to their heads. Fett is familiar with the Imperial virus and can get a remedy from the city.
Chewie follows Fett into the city.
Fett ditches Chewie and makes contact with Darth Vader.
Then for some reason they see fit to cut back to the Wookie family for the commercial break. Nothing happens.
Back to the cartoon. 3PO and R2 intercept the transmission.
Fett then tells Chewie that he's got the serum and they leave the city. Fett fires wide of their pursuing stormtroopers, but Chewie grabs a gun and blows the shit out of them.
They join their friends and give them the serum. Luke calls Fett a loyal friend, but R2 and 3PO inform them otherwise.
Fett takes his leave.
Chewie says he knew all along that Fett wasn’t a friend because he smelled bad. Cue Scooby-Doo laughter.
This has been far and away the best part of the special so far. The sounds are taken right out of the movie, the voice acting is as good as can be expected from a bunch of actors who are getting paid well for a days work, the animation is fluid, and the character design is, well, troubling to say the least. Still, overall, in the grand scheme of this horrid spawn of some drunken dare, it’s pretty good stuff.
We are now officially over half-way into the special. One out of almost two hours down.
I think I'm going to die.
Back to the Wookiee home and the Imperials are ransacking the place. Lumpy finds his bantha doll missing a head, so he puts the pieces under a blanket. Then, like every other good American boy, he turns on his computer.
Following an instruction video, Lumpy begins to construct his new computer. Once again, Harvey Corman fills the screen. This times he's a malfunctioning robot of some sort, a lot like Max Headroom. No, a lot like Max Headroom. Pretty annoying. Nothing really happens until Corman eventually burns out. End of scene. Wha?
Next *sigh* the troopers all gather 'round the TV to watch an Imperial video about the wonderful life on Tatooine. It's a soap opera, or something very close to one, set entirely in a cantina similar, although much much much smaller, to the one in the movie.
It's got Bea Arthur and Corman, again, as a bartender and loser, respectively. Corman wants Bea to go out with him. She's not interested.
Then a curfew is proclaimed. Bea has to get everyone out of her bar. No one wants to leave and they all start pounding on the tables. And then, Jesus fuck, she starts singing.
It's really not too bad, but by now all I want is for this to end, and another quarter-assed song is not what I was hoping for. Eventually, Bea get everyone to leave (and who wouldn't) by singing at them. As is the way with this…thing, the song goes on and on for way too many choruses. It eventually ends with Corman giving Bea a rose. Aww. At least it ends. And there were a lot of neat-o aliens.
The Imperials are ordered to return to base, but they leave one trooper behind. It turns out that the command was actually sent by Lumpy and his new computer! Wow, something vaguely interesting. The trooper finds him, smashes the computer, and chases Lumpy out to the deck, where Chewbacca is waiting!
Yes! Finally some action. Han sneaks up behind the trooper and knocks the gun out of his hand. The trooper dives for the gun, but goes over the railing instead.
Han says hello to the family, then good-bye. Don't blink.
He even gives Chewie a for-real hug. Once again, even though he has few lines, Ford totally saves the day with his 100% performance. What a trooper.
A lot of Wookiee hugs and grunts follow as the music swells, but their reunion is cut short by a knock at the door. Of course it's good ol’ Art Carney again.
Then there’s a general alert looking for the missing trooper. I can't imagine how the Empire ever gets anything done, what with having to send out a universal call over the entire Imperial network every time someone takes a few-second break to go piss. Regardless, Carney saves the day by contacting the Empire and telling them that the trooper just ran off with some food. Of course the Empire has never heard a more convincing story and sends out a search party far away from the house. Problem solved.
Art leaves, and the Chewbacca clan all gather 'round, holding some glass bubbles aloft. The are then somehow transported to some place where a host of other wookiees are gathering.
Oh, and R2 and 3PO are there. After the droids wish they were alive and could feel joy, Leia comes bouncing in all her beautiful bra-less glory along with Luke and Han. Han? Wasn’t he just…didn’t he leave… what? Anyway, Leia gives a speech about peace and harmony, and how we are all the same in our fight against evil. It doesn't sound rehearsed at all. Nope. And then, goddamnit you guys, Leia starts singing! Ahh!!!
Han and Luke instantly go into puke-prevention mode. Leia just keeps on belting it out. She's not bad, really. Or maybe I just blew a funny-fuse.
After her surprisingly short song, there is a montage of footage from the film, most of which prominently features Chewbacca.
And that is the end.
Happy Life Day, everyone?
(here are some of the people responsible)
(and, as a palate cleanser and reward for sticking it out all the way, here are some toys!)
Happy Life Day!