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But "Wait!", you say. "I've never heard of a Star Wars Holiday Special." Well, friend, you'd be not the only one. You see, in today's world, we are meant not to know that such a thing ever existed. But yet, if we set the wayback machine to November 17, 1978, homes across America were preparing to witness the follow-up to last summer's blockbuster hit STAR WARS, this time right on their own television sets at home. The initial reaction to this special was so terrible that George Lucas ordered that the special never air again, and that all master copies be destroyed. It was his goal to make sure this atrocity was never again viewed by human eyes. However, a few people with the aid of VCRs preserved the special enough to where it has become pretty easy to come by on online shopping pages and at fantasy conventions worldwide.
Of course, being one of the few "official" pieces of Star Wars canon (along with the six theatrical films, "Droids" and "Ewoks" animated series, and two Ewoks TV movies) we do get many of the actors from the films themselves. Returning to full glory are Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison ford, Peter Mayhew, and the voice of James Earl Jones. But as an added bonus, we get a slew of celebrity cameos as well. The likes of Art Carney, Bea Arthur, Diahann Carroll, Harvey Korman, and even Jefferson friggin' Starship appear in this one. And I'm sure they all put this gig at the top of their resumes.
Now I know that I generally only review feature films on this website, but sometimes something comes along that just has to be an exception to the rule. You see, this little gem is just too good to pass up, especially considering the time of year. If you've never seen the thing, let me clue you in: it's absolutely horrific. Atrocious. Abhorrent. Hell, I can't even find the words. It must be seen to believed. Having last seen it a good five or six years ago, I had successfully cleansed my memory of the special, but recently I was able to procure another copy, and just for your reading pleasure, will give you the rundown.
While we here on Earth celebrate such holidays as Christmas, Hanukkuh, Kwanzaa, and assorted others during the winter months, apparently a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away they had something called Life Day. And each year on Life Day, our Wookiee pal Chewbacca has returned home to his family on his home planet to celebrate this fine holiday. This year should be no different for Chewie, except that his family begins to worry that he's running late. Or, at least, we think that's the problem. You see, after some stock footage and a brief cameo by Han and Chewie in the Milennium Falcon, for the next twenty minutes it's All Wookiee. We meet Chewie's wife Mala, his father Itchy, and his son Lumpy. I'm not sure exactly what was going through Lucas' mind when he decided to name the Wookiees Itchy and Lumpy, but I'm even more puzzled as to why he thought that 20 minutes of Wookiee grunting with no subtitles was going to draw a huge audience.
The English barrier is broken through thanks to the aid of Hamill, reprising his role as Luke Skywalker. After Mala uses what appears to be a Commodore VIC-20 to learn that there are no starships in the area, she contacts Luke to, well, grunt at him. Hamill is wearing way too much makeup in this scene, as he and R2-D2 attempt to fix a very low-budget prop.
But fret not about your lost husband, Mala, because there's always the trading post. Here's where we meet Art Carney as Saundan, who runs a Wookiee trinket shop. Because of a visiting Imperial Officer, Saundan talks in code to Mala on the videoscreen, making a really bad "Han Solo" pun. The jerk of an Imperial steals some of his merchandise, and Carney gets all worried. Which leads us to...More Stock Footage! You see, they didn't have the budget to actually get the Darth Vader suit back, so they show a clip from the movie and overdub James Earl Jones' voice. This happens quite often in the special. The special effects are almost as effecrive as the matte backgrounds at the Wookiee homestead, all of which look like they were painted by eight-year-olds. And Lucas wonders why this thing was poorly recieved by the folks who made STAR WARS a huge hit.
The next bit of quality entertainment features Harvey Korman as a multiple-armed Julia Child clone, who teaches Mala how to make something in the kitchen. While I assure you that the scene is comedy in its purest form, it goes on for a good five minutes before Mala finally gets frustrated and turns off her TV set.
Now, with Solo and Chewy being chased by Imperials (whoohoo! Real Star Wars fighting -- oh wait, it's all stock footage we've already seen) the Empire has disallowed any ships to pass, worrying Chewie's family. Ah, conflict. It's what all great stories are built around. So to pass the time, Itchy tries out his new Life Day gift: Virtual reality sex with Diahann Carroll. No, I'm not kidding you. This scene has to be seen to believed. The shopkeeper insinuates a sexual tone as he presents the gift to Itchy, and sure enough, that's what it is. She moans, talks about fantasy, speaks in a tone that would make Madonna blush, and arouses Itchy to the point that he almost breaks the machine.
I guess Itchy gets the mess cleaned up before a slew of Imperials arrive at the door. An Imperial soldier, an officer, and lookie there...the properties department actually shelled out the cash for a couple authentic Stormtrooper costumes. While they scope out the joint, Saundan again comes to the rescue and entertains them by transforming a boom box into a miniature ampitheater, and delights them to a performance by the Jefferson Starship! You know, I mentioned in my Dragon*Con Article that Starship actually played there. I guess this is where the demand comes in. And then, as Lumpy looks for something to pass his time -- finally we get what we've all been waiting for: The animated portion of the special. I won't ruin it for you, because it's really the only salvageable portion of the whole special, but I will tell you that it is the first time we get to see everyone's favorite bounty hunter, Boba Fett, in action. And they actually call him by name, something that never occured in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Okay, by this point the Imperials have overstayed their welcome. I mean, aren't there other Wookiee families thay can terrorize? They're ripping apart Lumpy's toys, and just being general assholes. Fuckin' cops. And just to prove they can sell this special on anything, they show yet another entire sequence of Lumpy doing chores. Yes, Lumpy cleans his room, and in doing so, finds some instructional video for how to work one of his toys. And HEY! It's that kooky Harvey Korman again conducting it! You know, I could be watching Carrie Fisher at this point, but no, you have to stick me with even MORE Harvey fucking Korman. If I wanted to see this much Harvey Korman, I'd rent BLAZING SADDLES.
You gotta be thinking this thing has to be reaching a close soon. I mean, this can't go on forever, and it surely can't get any worse, right? Well, unfortunately, you'd be dead wrong. It gets worse. Oh, it starts out promisingly enough. Some neat shots of the old Cantina on Tatooine we were familiarized with in the movie, but...hey, I don't remember Bea Arthur working there. Or, is that...goddamn Harvey Korman again? Poring cocktails into a hole in his head? Having a lover's quarrel with Dorothy from the "Golden Girls"? And...oh, God no....please tell me she's not breaking in to song. I have to turn this off. I just can't watch this anymore. But it's like a car wreck at this point. And I've made it this far, right?
Well, the Imperials all finally decide to leave, save for one rogue Stormtrooper who chases Lumpy around until our heroes finally arrive and knock him off the balcony of their treetop estate. Now, and please help me out with the logic on this one, this happens because the Stormtrooper darts at Han and hits the railing, and it collapses like it's made of balsa wood. Okay, the Wookiees live high up in the trees. Hundreds of feet high. And Wookiees are pretty big. They're like seven feet tall at full growth. So wouldn't it make more sense to have a pretty strong balcony railing? I mean, common sense is talking here, so I may not be getting at the idea of it at all, but it just seems like the Wookiees would have a higher safety standard than that. So Han finally delivers old Chewie to his family, and the Life Day celebration can begin. And after the tearful reunion, we see with the baffling image of Wookiees, in red Life Day robes, walking through space. I don't understand a bit of it, bu tI'll just learn to accept it, only because this thing is finally over.
And finally, in the most baffling thing I've ever heard in my life, CARRIE FISHER SINGS! And not only is Princess Leia belting out a tune complete in her cinnamon-bun hairdo, it's to the tune of music from the original STAR WARS soundtrack. You know, if John Williams were dead, he'd be rolling in his grave.
If you've never seen it, then I just saved you two hours of your life by filling you in on all the (upcoming term being used very loosely) good parts. The only redeeming part is the animated feature, and even that's not really even close to being good enough to make up for the other 95% of it being utter shite. Oh, and my copy has the original retro commercials from the fiirst airing, including ads for Fruit of the Loom's "Superband Waistband", a "Look for the Union Label" spot, and for this toy car that I had when I was a kid that followed crayon lines that I totally forgot existed. Oh, and while "The Incredible Hulk" and "Wonder Woman" will return next week, be sure to stick around for an all-new episode of "Flying High", featuring Connie Selleca.
I'm just glad we don't celebrate Life Day here on Earth, because, man, what a shitty holiday.
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