A Disturbance in the Force takes a look behind the scenes of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978.
PLOT: Behind the scenes of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.
REVIEW: Young people today have no idea how hard it was to see the Star Wars Holiday Special in the days before the internet. I remember only being aware of the Holiday Special in the mid-nineties thanks to the occasional mention in Starlog or Sci-Fi Universe. In about 1996, some friends and I attended a Star Wars Convention in Montreal, and the big attraction was that they would be screening the Holiday Special in full on someone’s bootleg tape. My pals and I were so excited, but after all the years of reading about it and dreaming of what it could be like, we walked out after ten minutes. Nine minutes of unsubtitled Wookie was enough to turn us off, and to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever actually sat through the whole thing.
The fact that it was made at all makes it an intriguing pop culture footnote, and the new doc, A Disturbance in the Force, does a great job explaining just how the whole thing came together. While a variety show centred around the Star Wars universe probably sounds like coked-up nonsense, it wasn’t that unusual for the seventies. At the time, these types of shows were riding high. The format was so popular they even made The Brady Bunch Hour (an all-singing, all-dancing Brady Bunch reunion) and some shows, like Donny & Marie, were enormous. Watching them, now shows like Wayne Newton at Sea World (with special guest Shamu) seem ridiculous, but hey, this was the era of the leisure suit and bell bottoms.
As the movie does a good job illustrating, the Star Wars Holiday Special is bad, but it’s not even close to the worst variety show from the era. Heck, it’s not even the worst Star Wars variety show, with them unearthing the now infamous Donny & Marie Star Wars Special that featured Kris Kristofferson as Han Solo and R2-D2 singing (via his beeps and boops). If you’ve never seen it – well, here you go:
While the makes of A Disturbance in the Force (Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak) weren’t able to nab Mark Hamill or Harrison Ford for an interview, there’s enough vintage footage of them discussing the special floating around to make due (including a funny bit by the late Carrie Fisher) as people have been asking them about it for years. As far as new interviews go, probably the biggest coup is they got Donny Osmond to talk about his own special’s take off on Star Wars, and he seems pretty good-humoured and self-deprecating about the whole thing. They also got Bruce Villanch, one of the show’s writers, and many other people involved. Most seem to blame the involvement of Ken and Mitzi Welch, writers of the Carol Burnett Show who knew nothing about Star Wars but A LOT about old-timers like Harvey Korman and Bea Arthur, which is why they showed up here.
The documentary acknowledges the weird place the Holiday Special has in the current Star Wars canon as Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, who are fans, worked a bunch of references into The Mandalorian, including a “Life Day” mention. Most folks involved, even those who profess to hate the show, like the late, great Gibert Gottfried, have some lingering affection for it. The documentary also takes time to praise “The Story of the Faithful Wookie,” which introduced Boba Fett and is the only part of the special you can currently find on Disney Plus. One thing’s for sure – the fact that Lucasfilm never put it out officially only enhanced its cult status, and as long as there’s any media, but the internet or even video tapes, it’ll always exist.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/a-disturbance-in-the-force-fantasia-review/