"Hey, Patrick. It's your conscience."
"Oh hey, how's it going. Here, have a diet Barq's."
"That's nice. Now, about Bad Fiction...."
"What about it?"
"You know, it's supposed to be bad movies and worse politics. Seems like lately you've been all about the politics."
"Sigh. Yeah, I know. I need to do a review. I haven't done one since "The Violent Years"
"Okay, I'll fire up the DVD player and start "The Touch of Satan" then. That should do it".
"No. You know which one."
"Space Mutiny?" "Evil Alien Conquerors"?
"No. You know which one. It's got Mark Hamil in it".
"Oh, "Laserhawk!" then....."
"I don't have 'Corvette Summer', but I suppose I can get a copy....."
"Yes, THAT one!"
"But that's the five scariest words to a Star Wars fan!! That is, of course, next to "Jabba The Hutt's Prostate Exam" and "Jar-Jar Binks Fetish Porn".
"You know what needs to be done......"
Considering some of the political sewers I've waded though, it's amazing that reviewing this special sends a special chill down my spine. But I've put off this task for three years now. Time to bite the thermal detonator and man up.
On 17 November 1978, CBS aired a two hour show. Running off of a popular movie of a few years earlier, it stared cameos by that movies actors, along with a bevy of TV actors from that era.
When it showed, there was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of stomachs were turned, and were suddenly empty. Something terrible had happened.
Namely, "The Star Wars Holiday Special".
I will point out that it only showed *once* on US Television (Other countries got their own taste of hell later). Considering we've seen the Ewok movies, Droids, and that Gungan abomination known as Jar-Jar Binks since then, we can only guess at the sheer level of suck that The Star Wars Holiday Special (SWHS) showed. Considering George Lucas has stated a desire to destroy every existing copy of the SWHS, we have the right to be scared.
So it starts off with John Williams' soundtrack, and stock footage of the Millennium Falcon being shot at by two Imperial Star Destroyers. Han and Chewie are having an argument, Han wants to turn back, Chewie is arguing with him. Finally Han reassures Chewie that he'll be back in time for "Life Day" before he knows it. They jump to light speed, and the credits roll, with a list of those actors who shall have their names forever tarnished by appearing in this.
But it's not just the main actors from Star Wars, oh no. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, R2-D2, Anthony Daniels, et al get to share the spotlight with Art Carney, Bea Arthur, and Harvey Korman. No, I'm not kidding. Gods I wish I was.
You also meet Chewbacca's family. His wife Mallatobuck (Malla), son Lumpawaroo (Lumpy), and father Attichitcuk (Itchy) The fact that I have to give them at least semi-dignified names (rather than the names used in the special) says something right there.
Anyway, credits are done, and we get to see a matte painting of a treehouse. Turns out were on the wookiee home world of Kashyyyk, and the treehouse is the home of Chewbacca and his family. Malla is making dinner, Itchy is carving a wood X-Wing toy for Lumpy, who already has one.
I will pause for a moment to note that making toys of the Rebel's primary snub-fighter may not be the smartest thing to do when one's planet is garrisoned by the Empire and your race enslaved. Especially when the head of the family happens to be an infamous smuggler's co-pilot. But that means applying logic to this show, and that boat sailed before the opening credits.
Anyway, we have this idyllic home life of mommy wookiee, grandpa wookiee, and little kid wookiee, with Lumpy taking out the trash and walking along the treehouse railing (with a few hundred meter drop if he slips. Grandpa comforts Malla, who's missing Chewie, (and, one suspects, his skills at wookiee nookiee). The main problem is that at this point, the entire dialog is in Shyriiwook, (the wookiee language), and the viewer can't understand A SINGLE SMEGGING WORD THEY"RE SAYING. Instead, you're treated to a choir of moans, growls, and bellows that sounds more like the collected intestinal sounds of a three day chili cook off.
Anyway, Lumpy is bored, Grandpa puts on a hologram of some proto-Cirque du Soleil show. This might make sense to someone who was on 1970's levels of recreational drug use, but it made no sense to me at the age of 12 when I first saw it. Nor does it make any sense to me at the age of 46. It ends, and we're back to the wookiee intestinal choir, except now that Lumpy has to wash the dishes. Nice to see that wookiees go though tweenadude too.
Malla checks traffic control on an antique computer to see what's holding up the Falcon, and finally resorts to a secret transmitter to the Rebels. (Note, ALSO not a smart thing to have in one's house). She gets Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 on the screen, and we finally hear something that's NOT being grunted. We establish that Chewie is rather delayed, and they since they left on schedule, they might be in trouble. But it's okay, he'll make Life Day after all, since Luke is the eternal optimist and R2-D2 seems to have misplaced his repair programming for the episode.
We then get a Trading Post, an Imperial Guard, and the Trading Post operator, one Art Carney. Malla and Carney trade badly-hidden quips, and then he gets back tp trying to selling crap to the Imperial Guard.
Back to Stock footage, and it's stock footage of Darth Vader himself, with maybe two lines by James Earl Jones. Back to Malla's kitchen, and Lumpy being a pest of himself. So she puts on a cooking show, with a four-armed mutant Julia Child who plans to show Malla the dish of the day (Bantha Surprise). Said four-armed mutant Julia Child being played by Harvey Korman.
Yes, you read that right. Sad to say. I'm sure SOMEONE out there thought this was funny, but I have to wonder how many lines of coke were snorted before they got to that point. Several minutes of "stir stir whip whip stir beat beat whip" leaves the viewer with "kill kill die die kill die maim maim kill die" running though their head.
Back to stock footage, and a few TIE fighters scorching the Falcon's paint job. Some more conversation between Han and Chewie…..
…..And back to Malla staring wistfully at a picture of Chewie, just in time for an Imperial alert on the vid screen. The local Imperial commander makes himself a spoilsport by declaring martial law, with a no ship allowed blockade around Kashyyyk. Which should make getting Chewie to Life Day on time a bit problematic. Someone's knocking on the door, and it's Art Carney making a delivery and trying to be gruffly sympathetic to the worried family.
And he has Life Day gifts to boot! Lumpy gets a large box. Carney has Malla kiss him to get her package, while Lumpy scoots upstairs to unpack his box. Which seems to be some Heathkit fun set. Back downstairs, and Grampa Itchy gets some Virtual Reality set up with weird floaty things and a tinsel-haired scantaly-clad Diahann Carroll telling him that she's been created by Itchy's mind to "have a good time", because she is his fantasy and his pleasure.
Oh dear Gods, no. Grandpa's perving out over human females here.
Diahann Carroll sings a love song for Grandpa Itchy in the virtual world, while in the chair, Grandpa Itchy seems to be….
Look, Grandpa Itchy is flogging his little ewok in the chair, okay?? There's no other way to describe it.
THANKFULLY the wookiee wankfest ends and it goes to Malla, who's harassing yet another hard working Rebel. This time the cameo is Princess Leia and C3P0. Carrie Fisher has stated she was on so many drugs at the time that she doesn't remember doing the SWHS. Would that the audience had a similar escape. We establish that yes, Han and Chewie are late and Art Carney is supposed to take care of the Chewie family in the meantime. Trader Carney then asks for "Wookiee-Ookies", which, thankfully, seem to be a baked treat and not what Grampa Itchy was doing in his chair a few minutes ago.
Oh look, more stock footage of the Falcon, with Han and Chewie evading the blockade to land as far away as they can. The Chewie family meantime hear a ship flying overhead, run excitedly to the door to great the delayed twosome….
….except, oops, it's not Han and Chewie at the door, but two Imperial Stormtroopers, a Navy trooper, and an Imperial officer. Awkward! Trader Carney steps in as the token human and runs interference while the bucket heads search the treehouse. Trader Carney distracts the Navy trooper with a music video by……Jefferson Starship.
I kid you not. THE Jefferson Starship. There are parts of the SWHS that are so 70's that you're surprised it wasn't filmed in Avocado and Harvest Gold.
During all of this, Lumpy is making a pest of himself (again), and the Imperials demand he be kept occupied while they search for anything to connect the family to the Rebels. So they put him down in front of a cartoon show.
A cartoon show. About the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. Oh sure, that isn't at ALL obvious!!!
The cartoon, BTW, is about the only thing most people remember, since it's the first appearance of Boba Fett. Which marks the ONLY redeeming thing about this whole thing.
Luke chases after the Falcon in a Y-Wing, they do a belly flop landing on a mud planet and gets befriended by Boba Fett. They find the Falcon, Luke gets hit by a "sleeping virus" that also got Han, and Chewie and Boba Fett go to get the antidote. This is all a ruse by Boba Fett and Darth Vader to capture Han, Luke, et al. R2-D2 finds out, Han and Luke find out, Boba Fett flies off, and the NOT AT ALL SUSPICIOUS cartoon comes to an end,
Meanwhile, the troops are ransacking Lumpy's room, which includes ripping off the head of a stuffed toy. Because, you know, they're supposed to be the bad guys. Since they don't find anything, they make it back down stairs, and Lumpy is told to go clean up the room the Imperials trashed. Lumpy finds his beheaded stuffed toy and falls apart, then being a kid, decides that playing with the new toy is better than cleaning up the trashed room. So he puts in the instructional video on how to build the new toy, and…
…..oh dear sweet gods, it's Harvey Freaking Korman AGAIN!! Playing some being with some weird motor tics and issues. This would have been funny for 15 seconds, not the 3-4 minutes this bit is on. Or the 95 minutes that it felt like it was on. At this point in the SWHS, I started to lose my will to live.
Back to the treehouse painting. And a propaganda video about life on Tatooine, and that fun for the whole family place known as the Mos Eisley Cantana. In walks HARVEY FREAKING KORMAN, and he starts to hit up on the bartender, which is Bea Arthur, turning in one of the few decent performances in the entire SWHS. Korman's wooing of Bea Arthur's charms is interrupted by Tatooine getting placed under curfew and the cantina getting closed down. Followed by a song number by Bea Arthur, and the viewer looking around for something to slit their wrists with. (Which is not to say Bea Arthur's performance was bad. She did the best she could with this horrible, horrible abomination of a holiday special.)
Meanwhile, the charming little scamp known as Lumpy comes up with a plan to get rid of the Imperials. The new toy is a mini-communicator/translator, so he spoofs a "return to base" message that all but one of the Imperials follow, leaving behind one Stormtrooper. Lumpy forgets to turn the transmitter off though, and comic hijinks ensue as the Stormtrooper breaks the new toy (because, they're the bad guys, right), and chases after the little rascal.
Lumpy runs outside, straight into the arms of Papa Chewie. The Stormie points a gun at them both, Han comes up behind the Stormie, they fight, Han trips the Stormtrooper, and the trooper goes for a long fall over the railing. After killing off the bad guy, they go in to greet the Chewie family. Han greets everyone, wishes them a happy Life Day, and then gets off the set as soon as humanly possible. We have a wookiee reunion, sounding like even more severe intestinal distress, and then there's a knock on the door!
Never fear, it's Trader Carney and a big bag. However, the Imperials are looking for their fallen Stormie. Trader Carney spins a song and dance about the trooper running for the hills. The Imperials actually buy it, Trader Carney wishes the Chewie family a happy Life Day, and beats feet himself off the set.
So, gathered together at last, the Chewie family goes to get some crystals, which they raise over their heads…..
…..and suddenly they're wearing red robes. And they're in space. And all the wookiees are walking into a star.
WHAT THE HELL????
But wait, inside this star/tree/whatever the hell it is, we have….R2-D2 and C3PO. What they're going in some wookiee spiritual gathering spot we leave as an exercise for the interested, since I gave up trying to make sense of this a while back. Threepio makes some homily that he wishes he wasn't a droid so he could appreciate Life Day. Got news for you tin-pants, it makes as much sense to you as to me.
But that's not all. Luke, Han, and Leia show up. Princess Leia makes a totally not coked-out speech about freedom, joy, Life Day, yadda-yadda, and then…..
….she sings. Dear GODS she sings. Squarely hitting every note off-key, and set to the Star Wars theme to boot. She sings. Isn't there something in the Geniva Convention about things like this??
Thankfully, she doesn't sing for long, as we we get the Yavin IV processional and Chewie remembering a lot of stock footage from the original Star Wars. Afterwards, they all walk out of the whatever the hell they were at all.
Finally, we get the Chewie family sitting down to their holiday dinner (Bantha Surprise?), with wookiee prayers, and a segue back to the treehouse painting and the blessed, blessed ending credits.
You may never see the "Special Edition" of the Star Wars Holiday Special. No 3D release, no extended version, no Lego sets. In the world of Star Wars, this is George Lucas' drunken hangover "No shit, I did WHAT??" moment.
This is the professional resume stain, the awkward morning fumble with the person they came home from the bar with. There is a dark side to the Force, and this special is a bullet train special express right to downtown Sithville. Let your anger about this special flow though you. Let your hatred of it's existance swell. Good.
Happy Life Day everyone.