Star Wars, Grindhoused

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When George Lucas was making Star Wars back in the ’70’s, the 1930’s space serial throwback approach was a far from sure thing, with overshoots, over budgeting, and last minute untried special effects. It’s easy to forget how unusual it was, with it being so prevalent now in pop culture.

The grungy, “used-universe” look of the film is therefore well suited to the “grindhouse” style of underground exploitation film. I’m slightly late to this, but Vimeo user The Man Behind The Mask has created an edit of Star Wars (A New Hope) called The War Of The Stars. The scratchy 16mm print, added effects (bloody gore during the Imperial corridor assault on Leia’s ship, textural pops and crackles to cover inserted footage, a new opening crawl, subtitles for R2!), and extra dialogue and scenes (fan short Troops gets an insert, Biggs, Camie and Fixer are back with Luke on Tatooine! ) give a more adult tongue in cheek approach in places. As befits the patched together feel of such rough reels there are missing scenes (at some points the screen bubbles up) and a shorter run time. It makes for a fun alternate take on the saga, and lead-in to the upcoming back to basics Rogue One.

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Darth Vader gets some new left-field dialogue with Princess Leia courtesy of James Earl Jones dialogue sourced from other films. When he force chokes an arrogant Imperial officer in the Death Star briefing room, his eyepieces glow red, and the air seems to shrink around the victim as the frame edges blur (the officer is left with blood seeping from his nostrils as Vader snaps “Address me as Lord Vader!”).

There are lots of other quirky touches to familiar scenes. Judas Priest’s “Peace”, with its melancholic guitar chords, plays over Luke’s realisation that the stormtroopers have traced the droids from the Jawas to his home. Cue a poignant scene with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru superimposed over the double sunset.

Vader opens his interrogation of Leia with “Hey baby, we got this real sweet thing goin’ on, it can go on forever as far as I’m concerned.” As the menacing droid approaches, he coos “Don’t look so down,” and giggles menacingly.

The best sequence is probably the Cantina scene, now an even grubbier “hive of scum and villainy,” thanks to the black and white B-roll footage, complete with the originally cockney-voiced barkeep.  The uptempo alien jazz band is replaced by a live recording of Neil Young’s “Twilight” echoing off the adobe walls, lending a melancholic air to proceedings. Han Solo complements Kenobi’s “Nice moves” before dismissing the girl he’s been canoodling with. And of course, Greedo speaks in English! The changed dialogue and bluesy monochrome feel makes the Cantina even more Casablanca-ish.

Later, using further behind the scenes japes, Leia hands Luke a beer (a malt brew?) before the Death Star  assault. Vader takes out X-Wings with a snarled “You little son of a bitch.” Incredibly the trench run is almost as tense with a disco groove. After a BIG(gs) surprise, that “Noooooooo!” from Revenge Of The Sith gets a funny and well-deserved use. And you won’t believe what plays over the medal ceremony.

All in all, this is a fun, funky fanedit that is well worth diving into.

 

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