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The Star Wars Trilogy

A Digital Star Wars Scrapbook.

24. April 2013 13:41
by jedi1

Starlog Preview of Star Wars

24. April 2013 13:41 by jedi1 | 0 Comments

You may be wondering why this August 1977 Edition is still 'previewing' the film, when everybody knows that Star Wars was released in America on Wednesday, May 25th 1977. Well first of all, Starlog's feature story on Star Wars went to press two months before the release of the picture (See Starlog #9, P.5 where they acknowledge some inaccuracies such as there being no humans inside the robots.), so at the time it was written, it most certainly was a preview.

Furthermore, what most people don't realize is that the May 25th date was only a very limited release. Star Wars did not have the type of opening that movies of today enjoy. That is, thousands of theaters across the country simultaneously opening a film. Rather, Star Wars opened initially in a mere 32 locations across the United States (43 locations by the end of the first week). The film didn't have a wide release until July 17th 1977. This edition of Starlog went on sale at its peak when Star Wars was playing in just over 1,000 theaters in the United States and Canada. The film wouldn't open in the UK until December 27th 1977.

In the 1997 book Empire Building: The Remarkable Real-Life Story of Star Wars by Garry Jenkins, former 20th Century-Fox executive Gareth Wigan offered an explanation for the small opening: "Star Wars only opened in forty theaters because we could only get forty theaters to book it. That's the astonishing thing." "No one knew it was going to be a big hit," remembers Ben Burtt, who was responsible for "Special Dialogue & Sound Effects" on Star Wars. "Nowadays, we take for granted that a big blockbuster will go out with thousands of prints, and open in May. But back then the summer special effects blockbuster did not exist." 

Many theaters played the movie well into 1978. A number of the engagements exceeded one year. The Astor Plaza Theater in New York City, for instance, played the film for 61 weeks, grossing nearly $4 million during that timeframe. Today's blockbusters barely play six weeks!

[Sources: The Original First-Week Engagements Of “Star Wars”, IMDB]

It is also important to remember that - initially at least, Starlog was published as a quarterly magazine. I believe that by the summer of 1977 it was being published every six weeks (and would later become a monthly publication). Certainly the previous issue (Issue #6) had been published in June and inside it stated their intention to cover Star Wars in the next issue.

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Starlog 07_Page_01   Starlog 07_Page_03   Starlog 07_Page_17   Starlog 07_Page_18   Starlog 07_Page_19   Starlog 07_Page_20  
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Preview of the Spectacular New Science Fiction Movie: STAR WARS

About the Cover: This battle in outer space comes from the final climactic scene of Star Wars: an incredible, twenty-minute, rocketship dogfight. The vehicle pictured in the foreground is a T-65 X-winged fighter; the vehicle firing at it is called a Tie-fighter. The "story-behind-the-story" starts on page 18.

The Story Behind the Production of the Glorious New Space-Fantasy, From the Perspective of the Man Behind George Lucas P.18


There's an obvious advantage to attending a con in Los Angeles: you're in the movie capital—where the real costumes, props, SFX men, actors, directors, producers and writers are. While this con had its dominant share of Star Trek films and items for sale, the panels and programs featured mainly other fare—from which came some up-to-the-minute news of current SF projects in Hollywood.

The all-time winner on the applause meter was the presentation and panel on Star Wars. Charles Lippincott narrated the story while slides and a film trailer showed key scenes. Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in the film, said, among other things: "I was really lucky to get this part. I've been a science-fiction fan for years. I used to read Famous Monsters-, I've attended several cons just as a fan!" Indeed, Mark was first spotted at the convention as he was making the rounds of the dealers' tables. SFX man John Dykstra and producer Gary Kurtz answered questions about effects, miniatures, sets and costumes. Lippincott revealed the latest tidbit: the music score by /aws-composer John Williams will be released this spring in an unprecedented (of recent years) two-record set! By popular demand, the Star Wars trailer was shown again at the conclusion of the session and gathered even louder cheers than it had the first time.


(Photo) Above: One of the truly enormous and spectacular sets created for the film—a hangar aboard the Death Star. On the right is Solo's freighter, the Millenium Falcon.
(Photo) Right: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on his home planet of Tatooine. Behind him is a vaporator used to bring moisture to the arid desert land. Instead of repairing it, Luke watches a fight in space.

If you're among those who would rather see a new movie "cold," save these pages until after you've seen Star Wars. If, on the other hand, you want to know why and how the film was made, if you're curious about location filming in the Tunisian desert, special problems the production encountered and solved, who designed Chewbacca and why the alien costumes weren't good enough at first, whether the robots conform to Asimov's laws, how to make a Bantha, what literature and culture influenced the writer, how some of the special effects and settings were accomplished, who the actors and characters are and what they'll be doing, and sundry other bits of data... then read on...



From an interview with Charles Lippincott, ex-USC film student, ex-teacher, ex-non-union filmmaker of all sorts, ex-MGM publicist, ex-Hitchcock coworker on "Family Plot," current member of the Los Angeles FILMEX selection committees, and Vice-President of Star Wars Corporation in charge of advertising, publicity, promotion and merchandising.

Star Wars is a legend ahead of itself.

Prior to the film's Memorial Day premiere, the screenplay was published in the form of a Ballantine science-fiction novel; on the basis of only a few released stills, the Star Wars production office was being deluged by requests (all denied) from collectors; after seeing only a few completed sequences, 20th Century-Fox moguls had already begun to seek a commitment for a sequel; Alan Dean Foster had completed a second story that could form the basis of such a sequel—and it had already been sold as a novel; The Making of Star Wars, an illustrated book by Charlie Lippincott, had also been sold and will be published this summer; the Marvel Comics version of the story had hit the stands in March and was selling well; an enormous toy and model-kit deal was being finalized; there were negotiations underway for a TV series based on Star Wars. . . and while all this was going on, only a handful of people had seen the movie!

What is this movie? Can it possibly live up to expectations?

Star Wars is a new $10 million science-fantasy film made by Gary Kurtz (producer) and George Lucas (writer-director) and released by 20th Century-Fox. It stars Mark Hamill as farmer/astronaut Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as smuggler Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess/Senator Leia Organa, Sir Alec Guinness as warrior Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Peter Cushing as villainous Grand Moff Tarkin, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca the Wookie, Dave Prowse as treacherous Darth Vader, and robots See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo as themselves.

The story is set in another galaxy and time and concerns a valiant struggle against a totalitarian empire that is spread among the stars. The characters herein have never heard of Earth. Their alien worlds and cultures, their dress and architecture, their technology, history and future (if any) are not of our world.

Even more than was true for Star Trek and Space: 1999, the universe of Star Wars is totally fabricated out of imagination. The fabricator is George Lucas.

He first got the idea for Star Wars six years ago—around the same time he was developing what would be his first box-office hit: American Graffiti. Lucas was a youngster then, not long out of film school at the University of Southern California and with only one feature to his credit—the now famous, little science-fiction understatement— THX 1138.

At one point, one studio was interested in both projects; much of the development money for both Graffiti and Star Wars came from Universal. Finally Universal picked up Graffiti but let Star Wars lapse. They could see that Star Wars would cost them twelve times what Graffiti would. (Ironically, the Star Wars post production office is located at the Universal complex, although it was ultimately 20th who commissioned Star Wars.)

(Photo) Above: Solo and Ben Kenobi (right) are amused as R2-D2 and Chewbacca play a chess-like game. C-3P0 is there to interpret for his friend and companion.

(Photo) The rebel forces, gathered on the moon Yavin, prepare to attack the Death Star. The tiny X-winged craft will destroy the planet-sized war machine.


"A lot of the success this film expects to enjoy will be due to Alan Ladd, Jr.," says Charlie Lippincott, a close associate of Lucas in the Star Wars office. "He's now president of the 20th Century-Fox film company, and this was his pet project. Without him, it probably would not have been made."

Lippincott says that Hollywood is just now shedding its old fogey-ness —as was demonstrated by the youthful production of the Academy Awards program this year, with young comics in place of traditional Bob Hope—and is waking up to the needs and values of a younger generation.

"It's fun—that's the word for this movie," writer-director Lucas told The New York Times, explaining why he developed the project. "It's for young people. Graffiti was for 16-year-olds; this is for 14-year-olds. Young people don't have a fantasy life anymore, not the way we did. All they've got is Kojak and Dirty Harry. There's all these kids running around wanting to be killer cops.

"Nobody except Disney makes movies for young people anymore. I want to open up the whole realm of space for them.

"Science fiction is okay, but it got so involved with science that it forgot the-sense of adventure. I want Star Wars to make them think of things that could happen. I'd like them to say, 'Gee, wouldn't it be great if we could go run around on Mars?!' Kids today seem to be having a very boring childhood."

Charlie Lippincott (incidentally, he and Lucas were school friends back at USC) explains their own classification of the film as science fantasy, not science fiction. "The only people we're going to offend are the die-hard science-fiction people who are into the whole idea that science fiction is what Hugo Gernsbach said it was: dealing only with plausible science of the future on a fictional level.

"Our hardware is so fantastic as to be really impossible. We're not set in the future anyhow; our film is set in another galaxy and, as it says in the credits, it's in the past. It's a fantasy film, a space fairy tale. That's why we call ourselves space fantasy and not science fiction."

(Photo) Above: Above: One of Ralph McQuarrie's pre-production paintings. Luke searches the desert for signs of danger while the robots wait by the 'hopper.
(Photo) Below: Another McQuarrie painting—the Cantina scene in Mos Eisley. Aliens abound but Luke runs into trouble because they "don't serve 'droids."


The story Lucas invented follows the Three Musketeers-like exploits of Luke Skywalker, a restless young farmer who lives with his uncle on the arid planet Tatooine—a place so useless the local inhabitants believe that the dictatorship swallowing up the rest of the galaxy is unconcerned with them. This proves not to be so, and Luke finds himself pulled into the resistance movement as its only
hope: he has with him—unknown to him at first—a robot that contains a message from a captured lady senator.

The message includes information on how to cripple the Death Star—a moon-sized ship that carries enough weaponry to destroy planets (and does), that houses the seat of dictatorship, and that holds the senator prisoner.

Luke's leader and mentor is old Obi-Wan Kenobi, among the last of the noble knights of the old order and among whose pupils were Luke's own father and Darth Vader, the right-hand axeman of the dictator. It was Vader, in fact, who killed Luke's father many years ago.

"The story has influences from all over the place," Lippincott says. "People have pointed out that they see suggestions of things from Lord of the Rings, or Flash Gordon, or Dune, and there are a lot of influences from outside science fiction—like the Samurai tradition of Japan. That's part of the basis for the film's Jedi Warriors, although I doubt that many outside of Japan will be too aware of it. Most importantly, the story relates to legend and fairy tale. It's what Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson were doing."

"It's space opera," Lucas freely admits.

(Photo) Above: R2-D2 and C-3PO are aboard a rebel cruiser when it's attacked. They take an escape pod and crashland in the desert of Tatooine. Stormtroopers follow them down.


Work began on the film back in 1975 when 20th gave the official go-ahead. Of top priority was the physical design of the picture. Lucas called together various design consultants and met with Los Angeles artist Ralph McQuarrie. McQuarrie turned out a sequence of breathtakingly beautiful paintings incorporating set, costume, and effects designs that formed the basis from which later designers worked. Many of the paintings were completed a full year before Star Wars began its 17 weeks of shooting. (Some of those paintings are reproduced here; two were reproduced in color in STARLOG No. 6; and another is the back cover illustration for the STARLOG Photo Guidebook to SPACESHIPS.)

Lucas had several important ideas that integrated the picture with regard to design, believability, and visual character. "George wanted the look of the show to be spectacular," Lippincott explains, "and for the hardware to be unfamiliar enough to continually suggest another time and place. But he was also careful not to make it too different—because then the audience would be so wrapped up in the sets that they would not pay attention to the storyline."

(Photo) Above: This is how artist McQuarrie envisioned the film's final scene: the triumphal return of the heroes to the rebel stronghold. The princess waits for them.

Anyone who has read the Star Wars novel can appreciate the necessity for this; the plot moves extremely rapidly with ample twists and turns, like the melodramatic suspense thriller it is. "It's not a film one would want to come in on the middle of," Lippincott warns.

Lucas also insisted that the worlds of Tatooine, the Death Star, and the jungle satellite Yavin (filmed in Central America) have the look of used universe. So the smuggler's ship that's supposed to be a century old has grease smears, strafe marks from countless scrapes with the law, and meteorite pits. The buildings look lived in. Even on the allegedly newly built Death Star, there's evidence that the construction crew hasn't gotten around to cleaning up. And so on.

"These people have a life and history of their own," says Lippincott; "and we're just interrupting, momentarily, that life."

(Photo) Above: Luke and Ben walk though the port town of Mos Eisley. They are looking for a space pirate who doesn't ask questions.
(Photo) Left: Ben Kenobi crosses light-sabres with his former pupil (and current Dark Lord), Darth Vader. A classic confrontation.


To insure a sense of realism amid the spectacular imaginative trappings, Lucas hoped to utilize a documentary-style camera. Both Lucas and Lippincott had been impressed, back in their school days, with the style of Britisher Gil Taylor—who photographed Repulsion, Hard Days' Night, Dr. Strangelove, Hitchcock's Frenzy, and others': "To me," says Lippincott, "he was the best black-and-white cameraman of the sixties. Amazing guy. He was Polanski's favorite, and he was Hitchcock's favorite. Hitchcock wanted to bring him to America." (Lippincott worked with Hitchcock before joining Star Wars.)

"But Gil's head was in a different place altogether." The Star Wars cameraman saw the dark drama, the brilliant action, a creative use of color and wild camera angles. Now the finished product has a combined artistic/documentary look. "Gil never really produced the sort of documentary style George-was after. Personally, I don't think the film ever merited documentary," Lippincott says, reflecting. "I think George sees that in retrospect."

Home base for the production was the EMI Elstree facility in London, where approximately 30 sets were built on the eight rented stages (Elstree's ninth stage was being used by Paul McCartney's Wings group). The Star Wars company took over everything there— studios, stages, technical facilities, scene shops, prop storage—for three months prior to the commencement of filming. Their big deadline: to prepare for the desert planet scenes which were to be shot in Tunisia just ahead of the tourist season.


"But they had problems with the robots and the sandcrawler," Lippincott explains, "and couldn't quite make it on time."

There are numerous robots throughout the film that serve the humans in various ways, and two of them are actually major characters. See-Threepio (C-3PO) and Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) are mechanical sidekicks reluctantly devoted to each other—with very human personalities.

See-Threepio is a mildly effeminate public relations 'droid who speaks most of the languages of the galaxy and is given to frustration and sarcasm. He's made of gleaming gold metal and has a roughly humanoid appearance.

Artoo-Detoo is a squat little cylinder bristling with lights, sensors, and manipulating mechanisms, who is the feisty brains of the pair, and can speak only an electronic gibberish that has to be interpreted by See-Threepio.

According to Lippincott these are not men in robot suits. (There is one robot suit in which a man appears for perhaps three minutes of screen time.) Some of the robots are animated by various trick photographic means, but a number of them are real robots with internal motors and radio controls.

Lucas apparently hoped he could actually advance robot technology. He wanted his mechanical men to be the real thing. He sent his SFX expert, John Stears, to visit the top English roboticists—who told him sadly that what Lucas had in mind was just not
possible with the state of the art today. Compromises, time-consuming ones, had to be made.

"I think George was really disappointed that he did not beat the existing robot technology," says Lippincott. "But today's robotics deals with things that do not look like the robots of fiction—today's robots are things that put bottlecaps on soda pop and stuff like that. There are some experimental models—like the little robot up in Palo Alto, California, that used to run around and find its own power source, plug itself in, and feed itself. That's certainly unique, but it was just a gimmick, something they made for pleasure and to show off to other robotics people." (Artoo-Detoo performs a similar feat in Star Wars.)

Do the Lucas robots conform fo Isaac Asimov's famous laws of robotics?

"Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics, formulated for the stories collected in I Robot, published in 1950:

1—A    robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2—A    robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3—A    robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

(Photo) Below: This awesome "sandcrawler" is the home of the nomadic sandpeople. They travel the desert dealing in used robots.

"As George says," conveys Lippincott, "anybody who's going to do robots nowadays is into science fiction and is going to be aware of Asimov's laws. George was certainly aware of them, but he was determined to work around them. What Asimov described was an ideal situation—what a robot should be within our culture. What is the case in Star Wars is humanoid robots with individual quirks, just like human beings have quirks. Both of our robots have their own ideas as to who their masters are and what their responsibilities are. So there can be conflicts between the two robots."


When the time came to pack up and head for Tunisia, the robots were not the only problem. From the Star Wars novel: ". . . two Banthas stirred at the approach of their masters. Each was as large as a small dinosaur, with bright eyes and long thick fur. They hissed anxiously as the two sandpeople approached, then mounted them from knee to saddle. With a kick Banthas rose. Moving slowly but with enormous strides, the two massive horned creatures swept down the back of the rugged bluff. . ."

Every method considered seemed far too expensive a way to make a Bantha. Finally, they put off solving the problem and it was decided that the Bantha would be done back in the United States and the footage would be inserted into the Tunisia work. (Here, much later, they rented an elephant, transported it to the sands of the Mojave Desert, dressed and camouflaged it to look like a Bantha, and got the missing shot.)

From the novel: "Gravel and fine sand formed a gritty fog beneath the landspeeder as it slid across the rippling wasteland of Tatooine on humming repulsors. . ." How do you make such a craft when you don't actually have "repulsor" technology?

"It was a big problem," Lippincott confides. "Ultimately John Stears— who was head of production special effects—did it. He got a tri-wheel vehicle and completely redesigned around that. George still doesn't think it works completely, but I do. In some shots it really looks like it's floating in air. The problem was always that we couldn't use a hovercraft because it would toss up a cloud of sand and just cause all sorts of hell."

(Photo) Above: C-3P0, Ben and Luke in the Tatooine desert. While they were filming in Tunisia, Lucas finished rewriting the script—with an assist from Alec Guinness.

(Photo) Above: One of the additional aliens designed by Ron Cobb for the Cantina sequence. This is an ambulatory plant creature, casually sipping a cocktail.

"No," he says, in answer to my question, "there was no problem with tire tracks—because," he adds, keeping the secret to himself, "it was rarely used with the wheels."

From the novel: "At the bottom of the canyon—like some monstrous prehistoric beast—was a sandcrawler as enormous as its owner and operators were tiny. Several dozen meters high, the vehicle towered above the ground on mutiple treads that were taller than a man. Its metal epidermis was battered and pitted from withstanding untold sandstorms." It was found that building the sandcrawler full scale and transporting it to Tunisia was economically out of the question.

The solution: they built only about two stories of it, the bottom section with the tank-like treads, for Tunisia. There exists a complete version, but not in full scale; it was used in the United States for the creation of the insert shots. That complete miniature is four stories tall!!

So the crew was a bit late arriving in Tunisia and got there just as the tourist season was beginning. To make matters worse, they ran into terrible weather-cold, heat, wind, rain—dramatic conditions that might have been advantageous for some other film, but not for this one. Still, by working odd hours and making the most of the good days they did have, they left Tunisia only a few days off schedule.

Above: Another of the rebels' T-65, X-winged fighters. What it lacks in defensive armaments it makes up for in speed and maneuverability; it almost looks real.

(Photo) Below: Chewbacca and Solo strike an intimidating pose. Having been captured by the Death Star, they prove themselves to also be proficient in dealing death.


The cantina sequence was also troublesome. To get it done, after just returning to London from Tunisia, the company went onto the French system of filming: the workday starts at noon and proceeds for an uninterrupted eight hours. They kept a lunch wagon on the
side all the time. Lucas was determined to make the scene a classic among fantasy and science-fiction extravaganzas.

In the story, Luke and Ben and the two robots go to a rough dive in the port town of Mos Eisley to recruit a pilot who is mercenary enough to take them into dangerous space without asking questions. In the cantina, they meet lovable, if unscrupulous, Han Solo—a smuggler and pirate with a patched-together hot-rod of a spacecraft.

From the novel: "Luke found himself squinting as they entered the cantina. . . . Luke was astonished at the variety of beings making use of the bar. There were one-eyed creatures and thousand-eyed, creatures with scales, creatures with fur, and some with skin that seemed to ripple and change consistency according to their feelings of the moment. Hovering near the bar itself was a towering insectoid that Luke glimpsed only as a threatening shadow. ..."

The Star Wars makeup man was Stuart Freeborn—presumably most famous for his Ape suits in 2001. Freeborn had completed his costume for Chewbacca—Han Solo's seven-foot furry sidekick—and was working on assorted aliens that were to populate the cantina, when he was taken seriously ill and was rushed to the hospital.

Already behind, the company had no choice but to make do with the best aliens they could come up with— without Freeborn.

"He got out of the hospital," Lippincott explains, "just about the time we had finished making the cantina sequence, maybe a little after. He was never able to offer us his expertise; and we really needed him."

The inadequacies of the scene haunted Lucas. After the company had completed its 17 weeks in London, Lucas called in artist McQuarrie and an underground newspaper editor known for his wild imagination, Ron Cobb, for assistance. "Eventually, George had pratically everything redone here, with all new creatures edited into the film. The sequence turned out somewhat different from the painting, and the way it was originally conceived."

(Photo) Left: C-3PIO, Princess Organa and one of the rebel commanders anxiously await the outcome of the desperate raid on the Death Star from the safety of Yavin.

(Photo) Below: How do you build a vehicle that works on "repulsor" technology when there isn't any such thing? This is the kind of problem that could cause a rewrite.

(Photo) Above: Infiltrating the Death Star is one thing; leaving it is quite another. Kenobi must turn off the tractor beam that keeps them captive. He is aided by the force.

While both Lippincott and I were admiring the set of McQuarrie paintings—which are now arrayed splendidly on the wall behind his desk* — he mentioned, to wrap up our interview, various other problems and solutions encountered in making the look of the film conform to those pre-production masterpieces:

* A few days after this interview took place, the Star Wars office was broken into. Many of those exquisite Ralph McQuarrie paintings were taken along with the slides, photographs and other promotional materials. Anyone offered such material for sale, at a convention or through a private contact, should be aware of the fact that this is stolen merchandise. Not only does partaking in such transactions encourage future thefts, it is illegal. If you are approached with Star Wars material you can contact us here at STARLOG with the pertinent information. We, in turn, will forward the information to the Star Wars legal department. Thank you for cooperating in this effort to discourage unscrupulous dealers and collectors from ripping-off the rest of us.    H.Z.


"We used one other stage in England besides those at Elstree—the huge stage at Shepperton, which at one time was the largest in the world. We needed it for the two hangar sequences—on the Death Star and at Mos Eisley—and for the throne room sequence that plays under the end titles."

Big as the stage was, it was never quite big enough. "Everything around the ship became a stationary object and the hangar sets were completely built around the ships, to cut down on expenses. I mean, they used the actual walls of the stage and just redid them— because the hangars had to take up that much space."

The throne room (the painting looks like something from Land of the Pharoahs) also proved a problem; the huge stage was just not big enough. "They had to work out forced perspectives to simulate the vastness." Still it did not turn out quite as vast as the painting shows it.


The rockets and their dogfights and battle sequences gave the SFX men fits. "They actually built a full-scale X-wing and a full-scale Y-wing and about half the pirate ship as well. These are quite small in comparison to some of the larger vessels like the star destroyer and the Death Star itself—which we've been saying is 200 miles in diameter. I don't know what it really is when you 'compare it to other objects in the pictures with it." The leviathan ships were miniatures, of course.

"While the filming was still going on in England, here they were still into research for the special effects that would have to be inserted into the film. They had to work out this whole thing involving movement at unbelievable speeds. They did not want to go for the lyrical movement Kubrick went for in 2001. They spent a lot of time studying, frame by frame, footage of actual aerial dogfights. Then they did storyboard on that part and re-adapted it for our own dogfights. I think they did four complete storyboards before they were satisfied with the dogfight climax.

"They developed a new way of doing optical effects, a way of layering the different elements of the pictures so as not to encounter grain by going to too many generations of negatives. Kubrick {2001) faced a different problem: he had to put all the elements of the shot in the same picture and just shoot and shoot until they got it right. It was very expensive. A good deal of our budget went into research and development. Some of the space work was done with stop-motion animation; some involved computergenerated images."

Charlie Lippincott's unabashed enthusiasm for the film is always evident as he speaks of the project, of his friend George Lucas' brainchild. Clearly he could entertain for days with behind-the-scenes glimpses into the creation of a movie that is a success already in his eyes—even before the final touches have been added.

"The film is almost finished, from what I saw last week. There are still a few opticals to incorporate...."

(Photo) Above: The "sandcrawler" is truly aweinspiring in its conception. Not only couldn't the whole thing be built, but the miniature stands four stories tall.

Star Wars was filmed at a cost of approximately $10 million at EMI Elstree and Shepperton facilities in London, England, with location units filming in Tunisia (Tatooine) and Central America (Yavin), with post production work conducted in Los Angeles, California.

Conceived, written, directed by George Lucas

Produced by Gary Kurtz Released by 20th Century-Fox, Alan Ladd, Jr., president

Premiere date: May 27, 1977 in 50 U.S. and Canadian cities*


Mark Luke Skywalker

Harrison Han Solo

Carrie Fisher .... as Princess Leia Organa

Sir Alec Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi

Peter Cushing .... as Grand Moff Tarkin

Dave Prowse Darth Vader

Peter Mayhew Chewbacca

Also featuring Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker

Production credits:

Production designer—John Barry
Pre-production art—Ralph McQuarrie
Director of photography—Gil Taylor
Music by—John Williams
Miniatures and optical effects—John Dykstra
Production and mechanical effects (robots)—John Stears
Makeup and alien designs—Stuart Freeborn
Additional alien designs—Ralph McQuarrie and Ron Cobb
Film editing —Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew and Paul Hirsch
Special sound effects—Ben Burton

Related credits:

Paperback books now or soon to be available from Ballantine Books:

Star Wars —From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker—a novel by George Lucas.

The Making of Star Wars —a log of the production, by Charles Lippincott.

Star Wars (a second novel, not yet titled), by Alan Dean Foster.

Star Wars—a six-part Marvel Comics serialization of the film story by Howard Chaykin and Roy Thomas.

*New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco engagements will feature 70mm prints with 6-track magnetic Dolby Stereophonic Sound. All other cities will screen 35mm prints with Dolby 2-track optical Stereophonic Sound tracks.

[Source: Starlog Magazine #7, August 1977, P17-28]

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The Star Wars Trilogy | The History of Star Wars videogames Episode III

The Star Wars Trilogy

A Digital Star Wars Scrapbook.

1. October 2013 14:57
by jedi1

The History of Star Wars videogames Episode III

1. October 2013 14:57 by jedi1 | 0 Comments

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Retro Gamer Issue 15 April 2005_Page_1   Retro Gamer Issue 15 April 2005_Page_2   Retro Gamer Issue 15 April 2005_Page_3   Retro Gamer Issue 15 April 2005_Page_4   Retro Gamer Issue 15 April 2005_Page_5   Retro Gamer Issue 15 April 2005_Page_6  


Last month we followed the ups and downs of Star Wars gaming as it grew out of the 8-bit home computer market and rode the wave of console gaming into the mid-90s.

In this final chapter, Dan Whitehead picks up the story as the home PC went from being a fancy-pants calculator and started to make its mark as a games machine, right up to the release of the Star Wars prequel movies...

While the Star Wars platform games had been making waves on the NES and SNES, the software division of George Lucas’ empire, LucasArts, had been making something of a name for itself on the PC with games outside of the realms of Jedi and droids.

The late 80s and early 90s saw such classic adventures as Maniac Mansion, Zak McKraken and, of course, the start of the Monkey Island franchise. The other Lucas cashcow, Indiana Jones, had also been successfully translated into the old point-and-click genre, with an adventure based on The Last Crusade and also a whole new Indy escapade entitled The Fate of Atlantis, so it was only a matter of time before the company treated the rapidly growing audience of PC gamers to some Star Wars action.

X marks the spot

Despite being known for its adventure games on the platform, LucasArts’ first PC offering was, in many ways, a throwback to Atari’s original 1983 arcade machine, only now boasting polygon graphics and beefed up from a simple shooter into a fully-fledged flight simulation. X-Wing was the self-explanatory title, and it hit the shelves in 1993 to much excitement. With the console concentration on platform leaping and baddie blasting, the bygone thrill of piloting Star Wars vessels had gone unexplored for several years. With the advance in PC graphics, hopping into the cockpit of that iconic fighter was a tantalising proposition.

No mere 3D shoot-em-up, X-Wing’s joystick and keyboard combo required plenty of practice to master, while the ELS system (Engines, Lasers, Shields) allowed gamers to share their ship’s power between those three vital areas. In retrospect, the game was a fairly linear affair and the flat polygons from the original release are pretty ugly. Later rereleases would spruce up the looks with some great gourad shading effects. The PC hard drive also allowed LucasArts to build on the original game with expansion packs, and within a year X-Wing addicts could pick up two such add-ons, B-Wing and Imperial Pursuit, helping to extend the rather limited core game and build a somewhat rabid fanbase.

Flushed by the speedy success of this foray into PC gaming, a sequel followed in 1994. TIE Fighter flipped the whole thing on its head and, for the first time, allowed players to fight on the side of Darth Vader and the Empire. Gameplay was much the same as X-Wing, the quick turnaround not really allowing room for massive overhaul of the game engine.

Even so, there were some improvements that addressed problems with the dogfighting in the previous title. A quick-key shortcut allowed you to automatically match the speed of an enemy, so you could concentrate on actually fighting them rather than chasing them, while a tractor beam weapon could be used to stop craft flying away. As with X-Wing, two expansion packs - Defender of the Empire and Enemies of the Empire - followed in the same year. Between the two games, and the brace of add-on missions, Star Wars had hit the PC in fine form.

A certain point of view

Of course, 1994 also saw the release of a PC game the effects of which we’re still feeling in 2005 - a charming little tale of demons and space marines called Doom. Though the first-person shooter genre had been around in various forms for many years, and truly came into its own with Wolfenstein 3D, few would argue that Doom didn’t cement the FPS genre into the dominant force we know today. Naturally, LucasArts was quick to realise the sales potential of this hot new genre, and just how excited Star Wars fans would be to blast Stormtroopers in glorious first-person perspective.

Dark Forces debuted on the PC in 1995, and quite apart from being a great shooter, it remains notable for many reasons. From a technical standpoint, Dark Forces managed to take the Doom blueprint and make some improvements which helped to evolve the FPS genre. For one thing, the blasting action was tempered with a sense of strategy and even outright puzzle sections. The environments were more immersive, with fog effects and revolving holograms in the background, and the level design was complex. Players could also look up and down, opening up the gameplay from the forward-facing maze chases of Doom.

But within LucasArts, Dark Forces represented an even greater shift in direction - it was the first game to tell a new Star Wars story outside of the official movie chronology. Previous titles had always followed the events of the classic trilogy, stretching certain events and taking some artistic liberties, but always within the guidelines of what George Lucas had put on-screen. With the inclusion of a new Imperial threat - the Dark Troopers - and an all-new story that slotted in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes back, this was the first time gamers had been allowed to explore outside the mainstream Star Wars narrative.

Photo: The first X-Wing title blasted onto the PC in 1993, and add-on packs and sequels quickly followed

Expanding horizons

The Expanded Universe, as it came to be known, was the name given to all the comics, novels and other spin-offs that contributed stories to the Star Wars saga once the movies left the cinema. Though their relationship to the official movie continuity has always been dubious, there’s no denying that it was this steady stream of new Star Wars content that kept the fanbase alert and interested during the early-to-mid 90s.

In 1996, LucasArts decided to experiment with the Expanded Universe a little to see if they could engineer an event with which to drum up publicity for the forthcoming Special Edition re-releases of the original movie trilogy. What they came up with was Shadows of the Empire. Not only would this be a videogame, there were Shadows of the Empire action figures, a comic book, a novel - even a soundtrack CD!

The story followed a new Star Wars hero, mercenary Dash Rendar, whose story intersected with those of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Despite being technically neutral in the war against the Empire, Rendar found himself siding with the Rebellion and was involved in the battle on Hoth. Helping in the search for Han Solo after the events of Empire Strikes Back, he was then asked by Princess Leia to investigate a conspiracy to murder Luke by the sinister Prince Xizor of the Black Sun crime syndicate. Of course, all this took place in between the movies and was never mentioned on-screen.

The Shadows of the Empire game continued the Lucas bias towards Nintendo, appearing as an N64 exclusive - though a PC version was also released. While titles like X-Wing and Dark Forces had taken a genre and dressed it up in Star Wars clothing, Shadows was a patchwork of different gamestyles designed to appeal to as many people as possible, quite fitting given the marketing driven genesis of the concept.

It opened with, predictably' enough, the battle on Hoth against the AT-ATs. This snowy skirmish was clearly a fan favourite when it came to gaming, and its inclusion in Shadows as the first level can be seen as a rather cynical attempt to get the fans hooked with an easy hit from the start. The game then shifted to third-person view for sections in which Rendar tracked the bounty hunters IG-88 and Boba Fett on the trail of Han Solo, before leading him into conflict against the villainous Prince Xizor. As Star Wars stories go, it was passable enough -though the events sat awkwardly in the middle of two movies that didn’t mention them at all -but the game itself was of dubious value.

By trying to cover so many game genres - flying, exploring, shooting, racing - the game fell short and never really came together as a cohesive whole. Plagued by clumsy camera angles, the on-foot sections could be played in third or first person perspective, but it was no Dark Forces. Equally, the flying sections weren’t up to the standard of X-Wing. The addition of pointless features such as an overhead camera, or a ‘movie’ camera that cut to different viewpoints during play suggests that LucasArts was more interested in something that could act as a surrogate movie than in creating a game that was worth playing.

The Shadows of the Empire ‘multimedia project’ certainly attracted a lot of interest, both from fans and the media, but Dash Rendar didnt really make much of an impact on the franchise in the long term.

Where the experiment did have an impact was in showing LucasArts that there was a market for Star Wars games that extrapolated unseen events from the movies, and from this point on almost every new game would ignore the movie storylines in favour of playing in the Expanded Universe.

Rebel scum

In 1995 the Star Wars template was applied to another popular game style, this time the FMV-driven space shooting of Wing Commander. Rebel Assault was the game - released on PC, Mega-CD and the doomed 3DO console - and it boasted actual footage from the movies! Gasp! Of course, this meant the game was CD-ROM only (and thus very posh) and had to stream all the gameplay straight from the CD. Despite the digitised movie scenes, the game itself was cripplingly linear and little more than a shooting gallery. A sequel appeared the following year, with more varied gameplay and a unique selling point - the first new and official Star Wars footage to be shot since Return of the Jedi. The game still wasn't up to much though, as between Dark Forces and X-Wing fans could already get the same thrills from far better games.

Return of the Dark Forces

The criticism levelled at Shadows of the Empire seemed to find its mark, as 1997 found LucasArts returning to familiar, but fruitful, territory with sequels to its two biggest successes.

Jedi Knight was the follow-up to Dark Forces, and it took the technical advances in PC technology over the intervening two years and turned in yet another superb shooter with yet more innovations in the genre.

For the first time, you could use a lightsaber in a first-person game, putting gamers up close and personal in a series of startling duels. This game saw another new character added to the Star Wars canon, Kyle Katarn, the first in what would be a long line of hitherto unmentioned Jedi lurking in the background of the movies. The FPS was now a firmly established genre, with Quake moving things into the realms of full 3D and building on Doom’s tentative online and network play.

Since the release of the original, Dark Forces has gone from strength to strength, with the excellent fourth game, Jedi Academy, appearing on PC and Xbox last year with a dedicated multiplayer system. Jedi Knight was no different, and multiplayer lightsaber action across the Internet was at last a reality.

Photo: (Jedi Knight) Finally - the chance to introduce your lightsaber to those pesky Imperial droids.

The other big Star Wars release of 1997 also used the Internet to distinguish itself from the pack - though the result wasn’t quite as popular as Jedi Knight’s winning formula. X-Wing vs TIE Fighter was the game, and by combining its two hugely successful space combat sims with the lure of online dogfighting, LucaAarts should’ve been onto a winner. Neither X-Wing nor TIE Fighter had included any sort of multiplayer options, so there was a readymade audience of die hard fans who had honed their skills against computer controlled enemies and were champing at the bit to test themselves against their peers. Sadly, the game was not well received by these fans who had waited several years for the chance to blast their friends. For one, the single player missions were disappointingly short, had no narrative and seemed to have been bolted on as an afterthought. With Internet access still not widespread, this made those uninterested in - or incapable of - online play less than happy. Unfortunately even for those who did have the required kit, the online play was far from great. The difference in power and ability between various craft meant that fights could be painfully one-sided if matches weren’t handicapped to give every player a fighting chance.

The lack of 3D card support, and somewhat choppy online play that required the visuals to be stripped bare for maximum speed, also added to the general air of dissatisfaction that surrounded the launch. Most fans were able to make the best of it, and with lowered expectations the basic melee battles could be fun.

Thankfully, 1998 saw the now-obligatory expansion pack, Balance of Power, and this addressed almost all of the problems that players had suffered in the original release. Despite the sour taste from having to make another purchase in order to get the game they wanted, the fan community soon accepted that blowing your friend’s TIE Fighter to atoms with a proton torpedo was worth the wait.

Photo: X-Wing vs TIE Fighter lured players with the promise of massive online multiplayer battles

A New Beginning

By now, Star Wars fans had witnessed the Special Editions of the original trilogy, thrilled at the chance to see them again on the big screen - and screamed bloody murder at the changes wrought on their childhood classics.

It was also common knowledge that a whole new trilogy was in the works, and that we would finally get to see how Obi Wan muffed everything up and let Anakin Skywalker turn into the galaxy’s most lethal asthmatic. Naturally, the LucasArts games nozzle was juiced up and ready to start pumping out Star Wars product into our faces at every possible turn.

Returning to the console market, 1998 saw the release of one of the best Star Wars games and also one of the worst.

Rogue Squadron for the N64 was yet another title that took peripheral characters and events from the movies and followed them off into all-new stories. Based around an elite group of Rebellion pilots led by Wedge Antilles, one of Luke’s X-Wing pilot buddies (played in the movies by Ewan McGregor’s uncle, Dennis Lawson), the Rogue Squadron concept had already been established in spin-off novels and comics. The game once again found LucasArts going back to the Hoth battle for easy thrills, but with a focus on arcade aerial combat you won’t have heard fans complaining too much. Outside of the PC sim titles, Rogue Squadron is still the best of the Star Wars vehicle games and the franchise is still going strong today on the GameCube.

But with every silver lining there must come a dirty great cloud, and in this case it came in the grey oblong shape of the PlayStation. With the N64 struggling to make an impression, Star Wars games began to appear on other formats, with Sony’s hip games machine top of the list. First came PlayStation ports of Dark Forces and Rebel Assault 2, then came the first exclusive Star Wars PlayStation entry. And it was bad. Really bad.

By now, the Star Wars brand had been applied to pretty much every popular genre possible. Every genre except one. The beat-em-up. The advent of the 32-bit consoles had seen the fighting game go through a seismic shift not unlike the one that rippled through the PC shooter genre with Doom.

Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Toshinden - polygon pugilism was all the rage. And so the world was made to suffer Masters of Teras Kasi.

Based around a jedi martial art invented for the occasion, this rushed fighter tossed a grab bag of Star Wars characters into one-on-one combat with little thought or care for remaining faithful to the films. Thus Han Solo and Chewie fought to the death, Darth Vader duelled with a Tusken Raider and fans wept silent tears of horror at the stiff animation, uninspired fight mechanics and the unpleasant smell of a franchise being milked. It was a smell they would soon grow tired of.

photo: The final few Star Wars games of the 1990s. From left to right: the good, the bad and the damn right ugly

The beginning of the end

The Phantom Menace was now hurtling towards Star Wars fandom like a rancor monster with piles, and feverish excitement was the order of the day. LucasArts produced two more PC titles based on the classic trilogy before clearing the decks for the prequel onslaught. Star Wars: Supremacy was yet another successful genre dressed up in Jedi robes - this time the resource-harvesting strategy of Command & Conquer Playing as either Empire or Rebellion, and set just after the destruction of the first Death Star, players had to muster their forces to control planets while driving the enemy back into deep space. The first game to take a step back from visceral action, Supremacy (released as Rebellion outside the UK) once again found a game that tried to ape a popular existing franchise, but came up woefully short in comparison. Poor pacing meant that gamers needed superhuman reflexes to cope with the deluge of information windows cluttering the screen, and the ugly graphics didn’t do much to entice strategy fans to stick around. LucasArts would attempt strategy again in 2000 with Force Commander, which swapped spaceships for ground troops, but was, if anything, even worse to play.

photo: The X-Wing series ended on the high, with the mostly excellent Alliance

Far better was X-Wing Alliance, a welcome return to serious simulator territory and a game that dared to expand on previous games without stumbling along the way.

Bolstered by one of the best stories to grace a Star Wars game, you starred as a young pilot with no allegiance to either Rebellion or Empire. Indeed, your main priority was to keep the family business afloat. Of course, destiny soon comes calling and you find yourself drawn into the war against the Imperial forces, culminating in an impressive final set of missions during the attack on the second Death Star above Endor. With a compelling story, genuine drama, 50 single player missions and a solid multiplayer skirmish mode, Alliance provided a fitting end to the beloved X-Wing series.

The year 1999 was, as we all know, when Star Wars both exploded and imploded all at once. Episode I hit cinemas, and left legions of fans struggling to cope with the conflicting highs and lows of finally getting a new Star Wars movie and realising that the magic had dimmed over the years. [Also see: What if Episode I and II were good?] The Star Wars gaming scene was similarly confused.

Lucas, remembering all too well the delay in getting merchandise on the shelves back in 1977, swamped the shelves with an endless array of Star Wars tat, much of it aimed at pre-schoolers. This also led to such strange sights as the educational Star Wars CD-ROM package, Pit Droids on the PC and Macintosh, and other quirky & niche offerings, such as the Zelda-esque Yoda Stories ‘desktop adventure’ for the PC.

The official game version of the long-awaited movie formed a suitably frustrating companion piece to the film. The Phantom Menace, released on PC and PlayStation, was little more than a top-down maze game which followed the plot of the film with a seemingly endless number of battle droids to hack through with your lightsaber. As you could simply stand still and automatically deflect their blaster ire back at them without touching a single button, the greatest challenge was to your patience - the vast featureless levels and poorly designed jumping sections proving more deadly than any Sith conspiracy.

And this, sadly, is where our story must end. 1999 brings us neatly to the start of the new Star Wars trilogy and, in a wonderful piece of temporal kismet, the beginning of the current generation of gaming with the launch of the PlayStation 2 in 2000.

That’s almost 20 years of Star Wars related gaming we’ve sped through in just three issues, two decades that left fans both ecstatic and agonising at the way their beloved galaxy was treated. It’s not changed much, has it? Maybe we’ll be back in 2025, older and wiser, for a look back at how Revenge of the Sith fared in the land of games. Until then, live long and prosper.

No, wait. May the Force be with you! That’s the one.

The best retro Star Wars games

Star Wars (Arcade)

Because it’s the daddy of them all. Because it’s retro arcade greatness personified. But mostly because it’s just an awesome game.

Super Empire Strikes Back (SNES)

The Star Wars platform game perfected, with a fine blend of Mode 7 graphics, fast-paced exploration and frantic blasting.

Dark Forces (PC)

Technically, Jedi Knight is superior, but that’s also too similar to today’s FPS games to scratch that retro itch.

X-Wing vs TIE Fighter (PC)

But only with the Balance of Power expansion pack. Deep space dogfighting? On that new-fangled Internet? Yes please!

Rogue Squadron (N64)

As good as vehicular action gets for console gamers. Plus, the best version of the obligatory Hoth battle. Ever.

The worst retro Star Wars games

Return of the Jedi (Arcade)

A sloppy Zaxxon clone marred by shonky controls and a horrible camera angle. And Ewoks. Not even Virtual Billy Dee can save it.

Star Wars Jedi Arena (Atari 2600)

Pointless deflection game with only passing relevance to the Star Wars saga. A shameful cash-in from Parker Brothers.

Super Return of the Jedi (SNES)

Not entirely awful, but the weakest of the SNES series and a cluttered mess of brainless twitch-gaming nonsense.

Masters of Teras Kasi (PlayStation)

A truly grim beat-em-up in which Darth Vader minces like a pixie, while Han and Chewie punch each other. Rock bottom.

The Phantom Menace (PlayStation)

As deflated as the movie, the only challenge in this bland and characterless maze game was making pixel-perfect leaps.

Photo: The future of Star Wars videogames? Revenge of the Sith is due out in May, on just about every platform you can swing a lightsaber at

[Source: Retro Gamer Issue 15, April 2005, P42-47]

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