Rejoice, fellow denizens of that galaxy far, far away! Star Wars Day is once again upon us!
A now-recognized official fandom day by Twentieth Century Fox, Star Wars Day originally began as little more than a pun, “May the 4th be with you.” As these things tend to, it quickly spiralled out of control, becoming a day when Jedi and Sith, Rebels and Imperials alike celebrate perhaps the greatest cinematic saga of all time. This year, however, holds special significance, as it is the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars film, and of the saga itself!
And so, in anticipation of this glorious day, I’ve prepared a special marathon for you all, revolving around the original 1977 film and its era in keeping with the 40th anniversary. Keep in mind, many of these suggested viewings are fan edits and preservations, so it will take some online hunting to acquire them. But don’t be discouraged, as it isn’t that hard of a feat to accomplish. After all, if Luke could blow up the Death Star…
Star Wars Begins: A Filmumentary by Jamie Benning
Beginning the marathon (pun intended) is one of Jamie Benning’s excellent ‘filmumentaries.’ What is a filmumentary? According to Benning himself, it is a format in which a “viewer can watch a film whilst additional material appears on screen including: deleted scenes, alternate takes, on set audio, text facts and information, audio commentary from cast and crew etc.” Far from being a rehash of previous Star Wars documentaries, Star Wars Begins includes such rare material as bloopers, an alternate opening crawl style, previously unreleased on-set video, in all a truly unique experience in behind-the-scenes archives, playing very much like a branching video commentary to the film.
How to get it: Simply visit Jamie Benning’s channel on Vimeo and watch away!
Star Wars: Puggo Grande
Once you’ve finished expanding your behind-the-scenes knowledge, it’s time for sheer entertainment! But since this is a special Star Wars day, we have to do something different. My recommendation is the Puggo Grande, a homemade preservation of two 16mm prints of the original Star Wars film. “Puggo,” already well known in Star Wars fandom circles for his preservations of two 8mm condensed prints, was able to acquire two 16mm prints, an American print most likely struck for educational purposes, and a Swedish print which he used for the audio and several shots during the Trench run, which were too damaged to recover from the American print. Scratchy and dirty, this version is nonetheless extremely charming to watch, and includes some little key differences in audio from most commonly available versions. I like to imagine myself in a grindhouse theater, or a library screening room whenever I watch it. Pure, cinematic magic.
How to get it: This one is a little tougher, as it is only available as a DVD disc image, meaning you will have to burn it to a disc. To find it, you will have to search through downloads, mostly torrent sites.
Decision Time! Let’s inject a little variety into the proceedings. Once Puggo Grande reels off the projector (cheesy, ain’t I?), pick any one of the other main saga Star Wars films. My pick:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I’m going with The Force Awakens, due to its narrative and spiritual similarities to A New Hope, and because, well, Rey is just about one of the best things to happen to Star Wars in ages. It also works as a great metric to see just how much has changed since 1977. Other than this one, I would usually go for either Empire or Jedi, but hey, I won’t diss the prequels today. There’s plenty of room for even them on Star Wars Day, plus, now that I think of it, Revenge of the Sith might be another good choice. The birth of Vader leading into the first introduction of Vader….Gah, I can’t decide! You could even really change it up by remembering that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is hitting theaters soon, and throwing in the first Guardians. Sure, it isn’t Star Wars, but it comes pretty close to being the Marvel remix of it, so why not?
How to get it: Uh…own them.
Decision time again! Your choices are:
The Star Wars Holiday Special
Released on primetime television during the Christmas season of 1978, the Star Wars Holiday Special is quite the anomaly, seeming more an excuse to broadcast Bea Arthur and Art Carney skits than to advance the world of Star Wars. However, being the first “official” spinoff and hailing from the early era of the franchise, it makes sense to see what all the hubbub’s about. Just be warned; it’s as zany a Star Wars experience as you’ll ever find, with half of the cast appearing high as a kite, loads of reused visual effects shots, a plotline that more follows Chewbacca’s weird (and frankly creepy) family, and Carrie Fisher singing. Yes, she sings. No, it isn’t wonderful. Come to think of it, this one would be a hell of a basis for a drinking game. Note to self….
How to get it: It’s actually available on YouTube!
Star Wars: Droids
If the Holiday Special is too crazy for your blood, then I suggest you try out a few episodes of the Droids animated series from 1985. Acting as a loose prequel to A New Hope, Droids depicts the early adventures of C-3P0 and R2-D2, that most lovable robotic duo of the galaxy, as they navigate the treacherous new Empire, and serve several different masters. Some noteworthy episodes to consider include “A Race to the Finish,” which features Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett, and the Roon arc of episodes that finishes the series.
How to get it: The entire 15-episode run is readily available on YouTube.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story / Star Wars
Close out Star Wars Day 2017 with a truly epic double feature: Rogue One, and the original 1977 version of Star Wars! Click here to check it out in full.
How to get it: For Rogue One, go out and buy it!
If you don’t own or wish to use a VHS copy of Star Wars to view the original version (since it is unavailable officially on DVD or Blu-ray), I would suggest tracking down either Harmy’s Despecialized Edition, an HD reconstruction of the original theatrical version, or Team Negative-1’s Silver Screen Edition, a preservation of a real, 35mm print of the original cut. The Silver Screen Edition will be the harder one to acquire, as it is only available as a disc image that one must burn to a BD. Harmy’s Despecialized is available in several different packages; refer to this guide to acquire one.
And that would be a wrap! Now, of course, these are only suggestions, feel free to mix and match or go against the grain. Even if you cannot acquire some of the fan preservations here such as Puggo Grande or the Despecialized Edition, that’s okay. Star Wars even at its lowest point is still Star Wars. So enjoy the day, and May the Force Be With You!