10. May 2005 · Comments Off on Once Upon a Star Wars Movie · Categories: General, Memoir, That's Entertainment!

I am not at all sure I will go the new Star Wars movie; I gave a miss to the last one with no particular regret, since the one before that was such a drear, mechanical and glum experience, bloated with set-piece special effects, and only one remotely amusing moment. (When stranded on wherever it was with all the sand, one of the Jedi made a reference to the Queens’ terribly ornate and extensive wardrobe. Swear to god, people, that was the only time I came close to cracking a smile.) The build-up to it was so terrific, it seemed like every magazine except for a handful of foreign affairs, or animal husbandry publications were pounding away relentlessly with triple sledgehammers: “It’s Star Wars – The Beginning!” (Blam!) “See the beginning of the Empire!” (BLAM!) “Light-sabers! Jedi Knights! Special Effects Up The Whazoo!” (KAH-BLAMMO!!!) I was tired of it, even before seeing the picture – which I did eventually, after willfully and maliciously holding out for about three weekends. I stumbled away from the multiplex with a headache, and a numb behind, although it may have been the other way around. How very far George Lucas had come, how very different that move-going experience was from the very first Star Wars – as if it had really been a long time ago, and in another galaxy.
I was home from technical school at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, when the first Star Wars movie opened in the Los Angeles area. I was fresh from a week with the boyfriend whom I adored, with orders for my first duty station in hand. Japan! What adventure awaited! (Of course, the week with Ted had been pretty adventurous as well.) I had been in the Air Force for six months, and would be away for at least a year, maybe more. My absence had not been long enough for the family to close up ranks and fill in the space where I had been – it was pretty much like it was when I came back from a summer away, and one afternoon JP suggested that we go and see that cool new space movie. There had been a huge, quarter-page ad in the movie section of the LA Times, and an indulgently rapturous review.
“It sounds pretty cool,” said JP, “And different, anyway.”
The only theater it was showing it locally was the Cinerama Dome, down on Sunset Boulevard, which we thought was pretty cool. It had only been a few years since Mom had given up driving over to West Hollywood to the church we had attended for years, below Sunset on Doheny. We knew the way— down into the Valley, over the hills and along Laurel Canyon to Sunset Boulevard, where the Garden of Alla had been, and the Wisky-a-Go-Go and the revolving Myra Breckenridge figure, and the Chateau Marmont— so driving over that well-known route was pretty much a snap. We figured that we would catch an early evening show, and be home a little after midnight, a plan that pretty much dissolved when we actually got there, and discovered that the first evening show was sold out. And so was the mid-evening show – and the line at the box office was for tickets to the late evening show, an excited and enthusiastic crowd, mostly of people our age.
“It’s my only chance to see this,” I said, “Let’s find a phone, and let Mom and Dad know.”

The line for tickets went down Sunset Boulevard to the corner, around the corner, and up to the next corner, eventually meeting up with the line to get into the theater, which started at the door, went down Sunset in the opposite direction, to that corner, etc cetera. After consulting with a couple of mad Star Trek fans in line with us, JP and I made the rational decision that I should stay in line for tickets, and he would go wait in the line to get in. The Star Trek fans made a similar decision. Our lines crawled in opposite directions, all that evening. Did we eat dinner? I don’t think so, we were too excited to be hungry. Triumphantly, the ticket line advanced, around the corner, up to the box office; with a pair of tickets for the last showing of the night in hand, I set off down the sidewalk to where JP waited, still half a block from the door. By the time we get into the theater, we were as excited as we used to be, going to one of the grand old Art Deco picture palaces in Pasadena with Granny Jessie.
Inside the very modern Cinerama Dome, the atmosphere was electric with excitement and anticipation. The lights went dim, and the music came up, and the great letters of the opening titles swam through dark space. We were sucked in, from the very first opening scene, with the fleeing transport shooting back at the Imperial battle cruiser, which grew bigger, bigger, unimaginably huge, the sound of it rattling your heart in your chest. Ahh, that was an exhilarating, dazzling roller-coaster ride of a movie, with all the classical elements, dashes of wit and adventure, of battered technology and strange creatures, bursting with visual creativity, Robin Hood and Buck Rogers and all. JP and I stumbled out of the theater two hours later, feeling like it had only been twenty minutes or so.
“Wow. Just wow.” JP said earnestly. Just wow, indeed. I was off to Japan, in a week or so… where everyone wondered what it was all about, until the movie showed up on the AAFES circuit, six months later. I saw the second part, on a bootleg Beta tape at my daughters’ baby-sitters’ house in mid 1980, and the third part at the AAFES theater at Hellenikon AFB in 1984. It was terrific, each of those times… but nothing ever quite equaled that first time. Don’t tell me why, I already know.

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