' ' Cinema Romantico: Star Wars: The ABC Saturday Night Movie Re-Release

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Star Wars: The ABC Saturday Night Movie Re-Release

There have, of course, been roughly 1.5 million re-releases of the original “Star Wars” trilogy in some sort of home video format. VHS & DVD & Blu Ray & Gamma Ray & A-1 Ionisation & Orographic Advanced. It has been re-released with new footage & bonus footage & special footage & special bonus footage & deluxe special bonus footage & enhanced deluxe special bonus footage featuring Cloud City reimagined as a Blanket Fort (unless I’m confusing that with an episode of “Community” – I honestly don’t know anymore).

All I ever wanted, though, was the original versions. That’s it. The “Star Wars” where Mos Eisley still looked like a sleepy desert town off I-80 in Nevada and “The Empire Strikes Back” where Cloud City still looked like a leftover Emerald City set and “Return of the Jedi” still had The Yub Nub Song That dream finally came true in 2006, even if Grand Chancellor Lucas still stuck the special edition versions on there too. Didn’t matter. I had the originals, Jabba didn’t show up ‘til the third one, you barely saw the Wampa and the X-Wings lifting off from the moon of Yavin were still tiny blips of light in the sky. It was – to quote Shelley Duvall in “Annie Hall” – transplendent! Except……

Well, just recently Ryan McNeil of the ever-fabulous Matinee wrote a post detailing how one of the crucial ways in which he first watched film as a young lad was off TV – watching broadcasts and taping broadcasts to VHS and so forth. And this made me realize something. See, kids, there was a time when home video meant there was no such thing as “Netflix streaming” or some such fancy-pants nonsense. No, it meant your whole family piling into the car and driving to the Roadshow Video and arguing for who-knows-how-long about what to get from the severely limited options and getting something like Howie Mandel’s “Walk Like A Man” which even if you were all of 10 years old you knew was a cinematic atrocity.

It also meant gathering around your TV set for the ABC Saturday Night Movie because cable was niche-driven and an afterthought, something your family might not even have for another handful of years, and mostly unnecessary since ABC, CBS & NBC ruled the roost all on their lonesome. Way back when we had “Star Wars” (that is to say, “Episode IV: A New Hope”) taped onto Betamax from an ABC Saturday Night Movie telecast, and THAT’S the version I want most of all. I want the feeble sound and the dodgy visuals and the dude saying “We will return to ‘Star Wars’ after these messages” and I want those messages. I want Karl Malden hawking American Express and Wendy’s customers wondering “where’s the beef?” and people arguing about whether Miller Lite tasted great or was less filling.

Look, I get it. I do. I’m as nostalgic as anyone, if not possibly more than anyone, and asking for a “Star Wars” re-release of a TV telecast with freaking commercials from around the end of the Reagan administration is essentially hitting nostalgia rock bottom. And it’s not that I don’t love Netflix, because I do. And it’s not that I don’t adore DVR, because I do. And it’s not that without Turner Classic Movies I wouldn’t have a nervous breakdown, because I would. And it’s not that my DVD collection isn’t more important than the possibility of finding life on mars, because it is. And while it certainly has something to do with wanting to gather around the TV with my family for popcorn and “Star Wars”, that’s not all of it.

Nowadays we become discontent when our movie-viewing experience isn’t the biggest and/or brightest and/or best. There was a time when you could watch a movie on a middling TV with middling sound and middling special effects and still have it be.........special.


3guys1movie.com said...

Don't forget having to get up and change the channel. You know what Star Wars TV experience I would like to forget? The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), I was only 7 but still recall how excited my brother and I were to watch this horrible show.

Nick Prigge said...

You know, I've never seen the Holiday Special. I was only one when it aired and a few years away from Star Wars fandom. I've heard the legend of its awfulness many times and I guess that's why I've just never sought it out.