Saturday, 19 December 2015

Star Wars Holiday Special

Chances are you’ve heard stories about this. Maybe you’ve seen it and had your memory wiped, like C3PO at the end of Revenge of the Sith. I am of course talking about the infamous television special, The Star Wars Holiday Special. A film so bad even George Lucas said “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.” But I’m here to shovel my way through this pile of bantha excrement to see if somewhere in it’s stinky depth there isn’t just the smallest nugget of the Star Wars we know and love. 

The plot that hinges together what is essentially a couple of subpar variety show performances, is pretty simple. Chewbacca with the help of Han Solo is trying to get home to the Wookie planet of Kashyyyk for Life Day, the Wookie version of Thanksgiving. Here’s the big problem, well one of the numerous gigantic problems. The majority of the show follows Chewbacca’s family, so it’s just an awful Wookie sitcom for an hour and a half. Most of the runtime is the Wookie clan doing various, funny, ‘Wookie stuff’. But it’s not funny, it’s a two minute sketch stretched out for so long you forget what the joke was in the first place. No Wookies pulling arms out of sockets here, try weirdly sexual dance numbers starring Diahann Carroll and the worst cooking show since Greg Wallace lost all that weight. 

The famous faces you all know and love are here too! Well if you look past the dead eyed expressions, or heavy post car crash makeup (in Mark Hamill’s case) the familiar faces are there somewhere. Harrison Ford is there and in all honesty, watching him is just kind of sad. He hates it, we hate it, he KNOWS we hate it and the special is still a touchy subject with him to this day. Carrie Fisher gets the dubious honour of singing the Life Day song, on ode to the Wookie tradition awkwardly set to the Star Wars theme by John Williams.

There are a few celebrity guests too. The most disappointing is Harvey Korman. He plays a role in three sketches, the crowning jewel being Gormaanda the four armed cooking show host. Harvey Korman was a funny guy. He was arguably the funniest part of Blazing Saddles, one of the funniest films of all time, so why are his multiple appearances here so…odd? Also making an appearance is everybody’s favourite band with a vaguely space themed name, Jefferson Starship. They make a short appearance belting out ‘Light The Sky On Fire’ into suggestively shaped microphones.

One especially odd thing about the Star Wars Holiday Special is how it was the first appearance of some now famous Star Wars elements. Han and Chewie are trying to get past a trade blockade, a plot device reused for The Phantom Menace. The Wookie home world of Kashyyyk appears here for the first time ever. Now one of the most famous planets in the Star Wars universe it appears here years before it’s appearance in a film or novel. The special also marks the first appearance of everyone’s favourite bounty hunter, Boba Fett. And his part, well it’s not all that bad.

Boba Fett’s first canonical appearance is in a somewhat shoddily animated section that Lumpy the Wookie watches while Imperial forces ransack his parent’s house. Luke and the gang crash land on a planet and meet a badass guy riding a sea serpent. That guy? Boba Fett! I said the animation in this section was poor but it’s poor in a cool 70’s sort of way. It’s scrappy and the colours are garish but the design is great and there are some cool set pieces although some of the character designs are atrocious. This might be the only part of the Star Wars Holiday Special that LucasArts aren’t completely ashamed of, so much so it’s actually hidden away in the depths of the 2011 Blu-ray collection.

Overall the Star Wars Holiday Special is as bad as it’s reputation suggests, and parts of it are even worse. The Wookie scenes are a real test of endurance for even the most die-hard Star Wars fans. It’s not so bad-it’s-good, it’s just painfully bad. The sketches and the comedy are dire, and the cast and talent behind it are so much better than this. It’ll come as a surprise to absolutely no one that people still refuse to talk about it to this day, with it never even getting an official re-release. Looking at this makes you realise people should really cut the prequels some slack.

The animated segment is well worth a watch for Star Wars fans but even that can’t save this notorious heap of 70’s awkwardness from getting zero stars. If it were possible to give minus stars, this would be the film to award them to, as you feel like you are losing a part of yourself by witnessing it. It deserves to stay buried.


Jack Bumby

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