Sunday, May 27, 2007

So You Think You're a Star Wars Fan?

30 years, six movies, a gajillion product tie-ins and fan conventions which seem to occur every few seconds at some place on the globe -- all that has made George Lucas' "Star Wars" a bona-fide legend (and made Lucas one rich man). Memories of the first film (now known as Episode IV) have been abundant this weekend as fans mark the anniversary of the release of the original film.

I have my own personal memory. It started on a summer night in Newport, TN when some friends and I went to watch a movie at the Woodzo Drive-In. I can't recall what movie we went to see, but I vividly recall seeing the preview for "Star Wars." First, though, a little background. Way back then, the Woodzo was adjacent to another drive-in, called Scenic Drive-In. That drive-in exclusively showed soft-core porn - which was a little odd in that the screen actually faced the highway, so anyone driving past might catch a glimpse of a 40-foot close-up of a boob or butt check or even more.

Anyway, on that night, my friends and I were scooting across the fence between the Woodzo and the Scenic to watch some movie with naked girls. However, just before I scooted across, I happened to hear and see the first images of "Star Wars." The announcer was talking about aliens from 1,000 worlds and spaceships firing off lasers and robots talking and walking around and that preview just froze me to the spot. For the first time in my young life, thoughts of naked women became a secondary issue.

I was friends with the owner of the Woodzo, so I immediately went into the projection booth to talk to him about the preview he had just shown:

"Harold, what was that movie?"

"It's called The Star Wars," he said.

"When will you show it?? I have to see it!"

"Well, not fer a while. All the hard-top theatres will get it first, but it'll come here later this summer." (NOTE: hard-top theatre is an indoor theatre.)

By the time it did arrive at the Woodzo, I had already seen it in a hard-top theatre, which was a good thing, since it was nearly impossible to get to the Woodzo in time for a parking spot for their showings as the movie was a monster hit by then. And yes, I was one of those legions of folks who saw the movie about 40 times during it's first release.

Still, I often ponder if it was the movie or the marketing for it which made it such an icon of entertainment. The marketing continues full tilt to this day. As the photo above shows how folks today can order Star Wars Halloween costumes for their pets.

Back in the early days, you could even buy your little girl Star Wars Underoos. Insects now have scientific names based on Star Wars' character names.

The inter-web, of course, is loaded with collectibles, parodies, jokes, essays and more - there is a four-page collection of links here at Look At This (such as the rock band that wears Star Wars costumes and is named AeroSith) and the Star Wars related theme posts on MetaFilter is likewise a huge list of links.

One odd bit of movie trivia I learned from watching the movie and it's sequels so much was the inclusion of a sound effect scream, known as The Wilhelm Scream, The scream is in all the Star Wars movies, but dates back to the early 1950s and is still being used today, in movies like "Reservoir Dogs", "Spiderman", and "Shrek the Third". A full list of the movies with the scream is here, and the history of the scream here. Whose voice made the scream? Best bets say Sheb Wooley.

So these days, I divide the fan loyalty (or madness) into two groups: those who know about the Wilhelm Scream connection and those who don't.

RELATED: Some other remembrances are here from Kat at NiT.


  1. When do the next three episodes start arriving?

  2. Thanks for the link! Keep listening!

  3. Joe -- i keep hearing some animated TV hoo-ha is Lucas' plans. Maybe it will be as legendarily as bad as the Star Wars Holiday Special from the 70s.

    And Steve - your site, Hollywood Lost and Found rocks!!! Thanks for visiting here, where we hold Hollywood's lost and found in high esteem.

  4. james1:00 AM

    I think pet owners that dress their pets up deserve to be bit.

  5. Cinemonkey7:12 PM

    Butt check? How 'bout spell check?

  6. howls of laughter, cinemonkey!!

    the spell check worked but there ain't no grammar check. normally i would correct an error in a post i write, but that one is too damn funny so it says.

    and cinemonkey wins for spotting the error first.

  7. it stays!! not says!! jeez!

  8. Cinemonkey6:19 PM

    Well, as my daddy used to say, don't write no check your butt can't cash.....