Many people doubt the existence of Bigfoot. There are copious stories of what Bigfoot looks like, what he is supposed to be and there is even grainy film footage of him. Many people just dismiss Bigfoot witnesses as opportunists trying to fool people into believing what is essentially just a myth. George Lucas would like you to believe that the Star Wars Holiday Special is just that: a myth.
There are many horrendous car crashes captured on film, but the Holiday Special is certainly the biggest. It is so bad that even George Lucas wants nothing to do with it. The man who created Greedo shooting first, Jar-Jar Binks, and Vader’s unintentionally hilarious birth scene and who wrote all the dialogue in the Prequel trilogy, thinks something is awful. Just try and imagine how bad that is.
Luckily, thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, you don’t have to imagine how bad it is. Throughout the 1980s and for most of the 1990s, the Holiday Special was only available on VHS at conventions and by mail order in adverts tucked away in magazines. Now thanks to the internet, you can watch at your leisure.
The plot of The Holiday Special concerns Chewbacca and Han Solo visiting Kashyyyk, Chewbacca’s home world, to celebrate Life Day (Christmas). Along the way they are pursued by agents of the Galactic Empire, who are searching for members of the Rebel Alliance on the planet. The Special introduces three members of Chewbacca’s family: his father Attichitcuk, his wife Mallatobuck, and his son Lumpawarrump.
During the Special, scenes also take place in outer space and in spacecraft including the Millennium Falcon and an Imperial Star Destroyer. The variety-show style segments and cartoon introduce a few other locales, such as a cantina on the desert planet of Tatooine and a gooey, reddish ocean planet known as Panna.
The program also features brief appearances by other Star Wars characters, including Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa (who sings the film’s “theme song”, set to the music of John Williams’ Star Wars theme, near the end). The program includes stock footage from Star Wars, and also features a cartoon produced by Toronto-based Nelvana that officially introduces the bounty hunter Boba Fett.
To say that Harrison Ford seems uncomfortable with the whole experience would be an understatement. He has the demeanor of a man having to scrub down the corpse of his own father. The smiles are there, but the insides are hollowed out and he rolls through each scene like he is just waiting to drink the poisoned Kool Aid. As the subsequent years have shown us, there is nothing more unsettling than the sight of Harrison Ford being happy and smiling. It is like watching the Teletubbies crying over the corpse of Noo-Noo the Hoover.
Mark Hamill had the sense to only appear briefly. He is strikingly pretty and has genuine star quality, so much so that you wonder what his future would have been had he not had the tragic car crash that marred his good looks. He really sells his role of trying to cheer up some men in bear costumes and he must have whistled a fair old tune as he skipped out of this disaster. He shows up at the end, but luckily he is so well camouflaged by Carrie Fisher and her singing disaster of epic proportions that he is barely noticeable.
Rumour has it of course that Carrie Fisher was into method acting at around this time. Her method was simple, she took so many drugs that she began to believe she was actually Princess Leia. In fact her drug use was apparently so bad that even John Belushi warned her to slow down. She is the one member of the Star Wars cast that really embraces the Holiday Special (surprise, surprise), which only goes to prove how high the writers, producers and director must have been to let it be broadcast on national TV. Fisher even performs a few songs, these songs alone should be enough to scare anyone straight. They are at best horrific and at worst psychologically damaging.
I cannot over emphasise how awkward and disturbing it is seeing Han, Luke, Leia and Chewie acting like utter love-sick emotional twats for two hours. It’s nocuous and upsetting. Like watching Elvis take a break from the 1969 comeback special to sing “We are the world” for two hours while smooching a puppy and patting the head of a blonde child. Your brain just cannot handle the sight of Han Solo cuddling a monkey-bear and smiling. It is just too much to take. Never mind everyone treating Chewbacca like a special needs child heading home for Christmas to meet his special needs family. To top it all off, the ending plays out like the last day of a very long pantomime production in which the cast have decided to all take ecstasy tablets.
The Holiday Special is so bad that if it were made today you would immediately assume that Lucas wrote, directed and designed each and every scene. This is how low his stock has plummeted in the last thirty years. There are moments in it that beggar belief, such as a group of Wookies having a nice chat for few minutes in their made up language with no subtitles, highly bizarre and mind-boggling dance numbers, Bea Arthur (of Golden Girls fame) running the Mos Eisley Cantina and then breaking into song, Harvey Korman turning up in various guises and goofing around and various other “funny” moments crowbarred in, which are about as funny as telling a knock knock joke at the funeral of a man who was gunned down and killed while answering the door.
George Lucas himself has rarely commented on the special, or even acknowledged its existence. He is said to have nothing but the utmost contempt for it. At one Australian fan convention, he reportedly said “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.” In an online chat with fans, he reportedly said: “The Holiday Special does not represent my vision for Star Wars.“ Later, in a May 2005 interview with StaticMultimedia.com, Lucas was asked if the film had soured him on working in television. He replied: “The special from 1978 really didn’t have much to do with us, you know. I can’t remember what network it was on, but it was a thing that they did. We kind of let them do it. It was done by… I can’t even remember who the group was, but they were variety TV guys. We let them use the characters and stuff and that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but you learn from those experiences.”
Except that he didn’t of course, he made the same mistakes himself twenty years later using a computer and a comfortable chair. The Holiday Special was not Lucas’ vision of what Star Wars should be, nor were the theatrical verisons of the Original Trilogy, but the Prequels are. There is not much more that needs to be said about that.
With the release of the Blu Ray saga, George’s vision of Star Wars is clear for everyone to see and it is a vision that is only he and a few thousand paid staff members at Lucasfilm and ILM share.
For many, the Star Wars Saga is a once grand and warm house with lovable flaws and quaint charm that was always a pleasure to visit. Many people have wonderful memories of frequenting each nook and cranny of the house and when they leave they want to return immediately. Years later, a new house is built next door. Sadly, it’s a monsterous carbuncle of loud colours and mechanical noises. Each room is full of flashing neon lights and irritating noises which cause headaches and nausea. There is sewage and toxic waste dripping from each crack that runs from the badly built foundations all the way to the leaky roof. The way that the builders of the new house find to repair it is is to use the sewage and waste that is leaking from the new house to paint the old one, so the old house matches the new one, thus tainting it forever with the same smell and feel of the new house next door, making it just as loud, unpleasant and unattractive as the other.
Hopefully this will cause the regular visits to stop and people will retreat to copies of pictures of the old house just the way it was.
Anyway, enjoy Life Day 1978. It is literally unbelievable.