Skip to comments.'Star Wars' Memories: A long time ago, in a Fourplex far far away ...
Posted on 05/18/2007 10:32:23 AM PDT by fgoodwin
'Star Wars' Memories: A long time ago, in a Fourplex far far away ...
By Jim Gorant
Published: May 14, 2007
It was a blazing day in June 1977 when my aunt and cousin came to visit. I was 10, my brother 8, our cousin 6, an awkward playgroup to start with, and to make it worse, our house in northern New Jersey was not air-conditioned.
The adults encouraged us to play outside. We made a humid and soggy attempt at wiffleball, but it was no use. We were hot. They didnt care. We were bored. They didnt want to hear it. We were annoying. They decided to take us to the movies.
Star Wars was released on May 25, close enough to the end of school that the details had not really come to light. But by the middle of June word had spread: Star Wars was cool. So thats what we decided to see, although I didnt really care. I wouldve watched Mary Poppins if it meant spending the afternoon in the frosty darkness of a movie theater.
The previous summer I was too young (and too scared) to see Jaws, but I remembered hearing about the huge lines that clogged city streets, the cultural phenomenon that became known as the summer blockbuster. But that didnt prepare me for what I saw as we pulled into the parking lot of the Fourplex. Thousands stood in a line five or six wide that wrapped around the building and meandered across the parking lot, extending so far I could not tell where it ended.
I stepped out of the car. Squiggles of heat rose off the blacktop. I looked at my mom, hoping she wasnt going to say what I knew she was thinking. She must have seen the desperation in my face and taken pity: Against any rational possibility, she said we should go to the front and see if the line was for ticket-buyers or ticket-holders. The masses, who stood sweating through their K.C. and the Sunshine Band T-shirts and their matching Adidas shoes and shorts, stared in droopy-lidded contempt.
We approached the box office, and luck (or destiny, as Obi Wan would call it) leant a hand. A manager emerged and called for everyones attention. My aunt, a savvy hustler from the streets of Brooklyn, took my brother by the arm and sidled up next to the velvet ropes. Not yet, she whispered. Not yet.
Im sorry to say, the manager announced with a quiver of fear in his voice, that the show is almost sold out and anyone past this point in the line is not going to get in.
The crowd groaned and shouted. A moment of chaos seized the afternoon. My aunt lifted the velvet rope. Now, she said, handing my brother a $20. Go!
My brother skittered under the rope, through the door and right up to the ticket window. Five, please. We were in. We were giddy. But if we thought that was an adventure, we had no idea what awaited us.
I still believe that my brother and I were just about the perfect ages for that movie: old enough to grasp the quasi-religious underpinnings of The Force and young enough to be totally jazzed by laser weapons, dog-fighting space ships and far-off planets populated by needy princesses and asthmatic incarnations of evil.
From the moment Darth Vader walked into the opening scene I was spellbound. I did not talk, I did not look away, I dont think I blinked. Im still amazed by the details I took away from that first viewingfrom the habits of the Sand People to the variations of storm trooper uniforms. I was mesmerized. When Luke watched from a distance as Vader went Tarantino on Obi Wan, I gasped and slid forward in my seat. I didnt want it to end.
The ride home was electric, like coming off a ride at Disney. We rushed to retell scenes, as if we hadnt all just watched the same thing. We reveled in favorite moments. We made light sabers out of old lollypop sticks we found in the back of the car, quickly mastering the sound effect of a laser-electric sword sizzling oxygen atoms (scchhung). When we got home we ran into the woods behind our house, found sticks, and made real light sabers. We spent the rest of the day, the rest of the summer, playing Star Wars.
The impact was not short lived, either. Eventually, I came to read the works of Joseph Campbell, the mythologist/historian who inspired George Lucas. Star Wars, and its theme of maintaining humanity in the face of technological advancement, even worked its way into some papers I wrote in grad school.
Earlier this year, I rented the video. My 6-year-old son wanted to watch it. I had hoped to wait until he was a little older, but all his friends had seen it, and the plotlines and characters were starting to seep out. I knew it was now or never.
As we settled into my bed and Darth Vader came onscreen, I could see him being sucked right down the road I had traveled 30 years earlier. I answered his questions (he was a little young to follow it all). I fought the urge to point out my favorite scenes. I watched his face as much as I watched the movie.
When it was over I asked him what he thought. He loved it, he said. I loved it more.
Skipped the last day of my high school senior year to catch the opening day at the Uptown Theater in DC.
30 years later and it is still the best day of my life.
I had just finished fourth grade, with really good grades, so my Dad took me to watch it on Opening Night...I have been hooked ever since.
I snuck into a drive-in theatre with my brother. It was the only time we got caught.
I saw it in 1977 at the North Park cinema, back when it was two screens in separate theaters. I remember the lines wrapping around the parking garages — but afterwards, I knew it was definitely worth the wait.
I must’ve seen it another 5-6 times in the next couple of weeks. I’ve never been so moved to repeat viewings of the same movie as I was Star Wars. Not even TESB or ROTJ, and certainly not any of the current incarnation.
I almost felt that way about Raiders of the Lost Ark, and even though I saw it several times, the “adventure” wasn’t quite the same.
So what theater did you see it in?
Saw it 11 times that summer. Only movie I’ve seen more than once in a theater.
It’s still the best.
Wow!!! That's where I saw it too, North Park Cinema in Dallas.
I saw it before it became popular. I was 16.
I thought it was good. However, the friend that I saw it with went absolutely ga-ga over it. He still talks about that first time.
North Park Cinema was awesome.
I’m glad they showed Star Wars in that theater. Now the multiplexes with their 32-inch screens hardly do justice to blockbusters like LOTR, H-P and other movies that deserve the big-screen treatment.
I think I remember a curtain actually pulling back before the opening fanfare, or was that another theater? I think Casa Linda in East Dallas also had a curtain in front of the screen.
Man, those were the days . . .
After a full day like that..its only down hill from there.
I remember my first time too. It was the best!
Yep, that’s just how it was.
Does anyone remember when “Episode IV: A New Hope” was added to the scroll at the beginning? I know it wasn’t there when I first saw the movie — Lucas later explained he had no idea how successful it would be, and wasn’t sure there would be more episodes. He added “Ep IV” only after Fox agreed to fund additional episodes.
I do remember seeing the “Ep IV” (sometime after 1977 but before 1980 when TESB came out), and being shocked, then hopeful, knowing that it meant more would be forthcoming, as well as confused that the series we were seeing started in the middle of the story.
I remember it all being kinda confusing at the time (there was no public internet in the late 70s to get the word out — it was all word-of-mouth and home-brewed fanzines).
I was born in 1975, so I was too young to get in on the first movie release. I did go see ESB when it came out (1980) and loved it. I’m not sure if I’d seen ANH at all yet, but at some time in the early 1980s they re-released it to theaters and I got my mom to take me. I was expecting ESB (i.e., Hoth, AT-ATs, asteroids, etc.) and was actually quite disappointed with the original. I appreciate it now, of course, but ESB is still the best in the series.
I agree that ESB is the best of all of them.
But you have to understand that in 1977, nothing like ANH had ever been seen before in theaters or anywhere else, outside of Lucas’ imagination.
2001 came close in its technical wizadry, but it lacked the swash-buckling fun and fantasy of ANH.
Of course, audiences now look at ANH and see how dated it is by modern standards, but it can’t be judged by modern standards. Without Lucas and “ANH”, I doubt if we’d have blockbusters like LOTR, for example.
I’m sure we would’ve gotten there eventually, as everything goes more and more digital, but its just hard to explain the impact and “wow” factor of Star Wars back in the pre-digital, pre-Internet culture.
And because SW changed things forever, I’m not sure we’ll ever see anything else have that kind of impact again.
Remember the hype for “The Matrix”? It was well done and all, but it wasn’t the ground-breaking trail-blazer that ANH was.
I’m glad I was there to see it first hand, because I doubt we will ever again see the like.
I remember feeling that “wow” factor when I saw “Jurassic Park” back in ‘93, due to its advances in CGI as applied to living creatures (as opposed to space ships).
JP set a new standard, but now we see even better CGI every day in commercials. I fear that some day, CGI will get so good, even real actors will become outmoded, and everything we see on screen will be CGI, making it no more original than a cartoon. (”Outland”, anyone?)
To be perfectly honest, the first time I saw “Star Wars” I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed. The previews were comparing it to “2001,...” with it’s special effects. So I was expecting something deep and profound like “2001”. What I got instead was something along the lines of “Buck Rogers in the 24th Century.”
At least 10 for me.
...which is about what I thought of it.
The Star Wars series is really not great science fiction. Its good science fiction that appeals to a wide audience.
Nevertheless, I thought it was good fun and the special effects were somewhere between outstanding and breathtaking. And it made me appreciate how really good “2001” was for its time (and still is).
I wasn’t really into the toys & collectibles (I was in my first year of grad school in ‘77).
But I did collect certain magazines like Time, etc. I wish I still had them, but I long ago threw them all out. Those and my Farah Fawcett poster collection!
I was in the 8th grade in ‘68 when 2001 came out.
Yes I thought it was awesome film-making, but honestly, I didn’t understand the psychedelics of the scenes of Bowman going into the atmosphere of whichever moon it was.
I thought the action and story of ANH made it a far more exciting movie than 2001. The spaceship scenes in 2001, while technically brilliant, were slow and ponderous (”Blue Danube Waltz”, anyone?). The dogfight scenes in ANH were much more fun and engaging.
No one is claiming ANH is great sci-fi — but it was awesome storytelling and movie-making, in a different way than the grand sweep of 2001, but grand in its own way.
My brother broke his leg that winter and a friend gave him the novelization - we were so raring to go when the movie came out. We drove up to Paramus (where the writer saw it), one of only two theaters in the state that had it. The movie went far beyond our expectations.
Now, it seems so hokey - we’ve been spoiled by all the special effects that Lucas pioneered. There’s so much dumb stuff mixed with marvels in the later movies that you could wish Lucas had never been let near his own films.
My favorite story is when we took our kids to see TESB in 1980.
Our daughter was 7. After Yoda had been on screen for a few minutes, at a point where nothing was being said on screen, our daughter pipes up in her little girl voice that carries thru the theatre and says...
“Daddy, why does Yoda sound just like Fozzie Bear?”
The laughter went on for several minutes.
I remember it and it made sense to me. I remember Lucas saying he started where he started because it had a planet blowing up.
If I’m a film maker, and I have this massive story I don’t know if I’m going to be able to tell the whole thing, I’m going to want to start with blowing up a planet.
Of course, after Return of the Jedi, I wanted it to stop there. I hated the whole “cute puppy” things and I wasn’t too thrilled with the redemption of Darth Vader. And after suffering through the first three episodes, I don’t really think he deserves redemption. Especially not such a hokey redemption
Lucas had “cute” things in Star Wars from the very beginning: R2D2. But I agree that he started to go overboard after introducing Yoda in ESB.
The Ewoks were too much for me, and of course, Jar Jar was inexcusable. Seems like there were fewer “cute” things in Eps II and III, but by then, the damage had been done.