Happy Holidays Killer Moose readers! And an especially happy one to all of you who join me in the dingy corner in the back where we keep the bad movies. You’ve stuck with me through erotic popcorn eating, scottish-accented Spaniards, even the passion of Tennessee Williams. Now, for our last Bad Movies with Brad of the year I have something special in store for you all, something special for the holidays. Something so mind numbingly bad that I recommend you put on your favorite boss fight music, you’ll need it again.
Star Wars is to be frank, my favorite thing. I can’t honestly tell you how many times I’ve watched those movies, I can only tell you I’ve already owned five separate copies of the original trilogy in my lifetime. I’ve read stacks of Star Wars comics, and novels, and even burned through my fair share of video games which I almost never do. It seems that if you put a lightsaber in something I’m automatically on board, and at the end of this week, I will be sitting down to squee at more Star Wars all over again. Of course, I’ve now lived through two time periods where everyone thought there would be no more of it and it seems like now they will make more movie every year until the world ends. However in this golden age of Star Wars no one ever mentions the prequel films, and it seems that many fans are prepared to pretend that they never happened. They want to forget this dark stain on their favorite fandom. There’s really only one thing I can think to say to that.
Oh, you sweet, summer child.
If there’s one thing Star Wars teaches all of us, it’s that there is a light side and a dark side to the universe. We’ve spent a whole year since last december basking in the light side of our beloved fandom, and hiding the dark side under an Ewok rug. But some younger fans may not have heard that there is even more Star Wars to be had, if one knows where to look, and it is far, far darker than Jar Jar Binks. And for that we have to go back to 1978.
George Lucas was flying high on the success of Star Wars and was already getting ready to start work on The Empire Strikes Back. No one quite agrees on what happened, but at some point that year, several shadowy figures from CBS approached George and offered him a giant bag of money in exchange for him allowing them to make a TV special out of Star Wars, at Christmas. Now we all know George Lucas loves giant bags of money. So he said yes, scribbled down some ideas on a cocktail napkin and wished them the best. So on November 17th, 1978, the darkest day in Star Wars history, darker even than the fall of the Galactic Republic: The Star Wars Holiday Special aired for the first and only time.
Don’t try the doors, trust me, they’re already locked. Now I’m sure some of you are staring at the screen in shocked silence, probably similar to the looks I got from the Killer Moose when they each got a copy from me two christmas’ ago. It’s a look that says, “Why are you doing this to me, Brad?” Well there’s a reason, first off, as bad as the prequels are, any Star Wars is better than this, even if it’s Attack of the Clones. Others of you are just the tiniest bit curious. So what you’re going to need to to do is find yourself a bootleg. There are several different versions available with various quality, and some of them have the original 70s commercials. I usually steer clear of those as I don’t want to prolong the experience for anyone. So once you have your bootleg, gather some unsuspecting friends (Don’t watch this alone!) and get ready for the very worst of Star Wars.
The Special opens with Han and Chewie on the run from Imperial Star Destroyers. Han is trying to help Chewbacca get back to Kashyyyk for the Wookiee Holiday: Life Day. What’s LIfe Day? Apparently Christmas if you’re a Wookiee. We then cut to Chewie’s home where his father, wife, and son are all eagerly anticipating his return. So with the help of their local junk dealer who happens to be Art Carney, Chewie’s family struggles through preparing for life day, hoping he can make it home. In the process we’re treated to cartoons, juggling, musical performances, and some truly awful sketches. You know what? You can go ahead and watch it along with me:
Happy Life Day.
I know, hard to pick out the worst thing isn’t it? Watching this thing is like having your eyelids pried open for a solid hour and half. You want to stop watching, you really want to stop, but you can’t. Probably because some lunatic like me has locked the doors and is making you watch it. There are, however a few hilarious things to look at here. First, the idea of making a Star Wars Holiday Special is silly enough from the get go, but instead of using the characters from the movie to make some kind of holiday story, the producers decided to make it the same as every other Christmas special on TV in the 70s: a variety show with music, celebrity guests, and impressively unfunny skits.
Not all of these are bad on their own either, for instance Jefferson Starship, while not the most highly regarded band, certainly deserves better than the psychedelic pink light show that they got stuck doing.
The same goes for the actors, Art Carney was a part of television history at that point, and was a venerated American actor. It’s not his fault he doesn’t have any idea what Star Wars is or that no one knew how to pronounce ‘Kashyyyk’ in 1978, making him say ‘Kazook’ every time. Probably the greatest tragedy of the whole thing is Harvey Korman, who by all rights is a certified comedic genius and his work on The Carol Burnett Show, Blazing Saddles, and High Anxiety can bring you to tears with laughter. Then they make him play three roles including a narcoleptic robot, a cantina patron with a mouth in his head, and this thing.
FYI to all sketch writers, don’t ever attempt sci-fi cooking, it can cause spontaneous eye bleeding in your audience. Though kudos to the flat-screen tv 30 years ahead of its time.
If you think the guest stars are abused, it only gets worse when you start to see what they did to the poor Star Wars actors. Mark Hamill seems to be slathered with enough makeup to paint a house, probably to cover up the scars from his recent motorcycle accident. Harrison Ford looks like he’s being held at gunpoint, and Carrie Fisher seems to have decided the only way she could get through this is if she was high during the whole thing, which honestly was probably the only time that was a reasonable decision. Not even the Star Wars music is safe, as we have to endure both the cantina song, and the main theme being turned into full on songs.
You know, if Bea Arthur can’t save your damn Holiday Special, you probably should just give up.
As crazy as all of this is, the craziest thing is up until two years ago when Disney dumped the expanded universe, all of this was canon:Chewbacca’s family, Art Carney the junk dealer, even the stormtroopers who can’t hold their guns right.
Yeah it’s pretty bad, isn’t it? Really hard to find someone to declare a bad movie hero in this whole mess. You could say that George Lucas was one. I mean, while he did allow them to do it in the first place, he didn’t let them make another holiday special. I mean it’s not like he actively helped them right?
Apparently George was more than forthcoming with information on the wookies, Kashyyyk, and anything else the producers wanted to ask him. Of course, none of them ever bothered to ask him the right questions but that didn’t stop George from sharing some very scary pet theories of his. Like Han Solo being secretly in love with a wookie and unable to share it publically.
If we’re going to have a Bad Movie Hero for this, it has to be the kind of anti-hero everyone loves to hate. So I think I’m going to have to go with Boba Fett.
Yes in the middle of this slog of awfulness you get ten minutes of blissful peace, thanks to the animated origins of Boba Fett. The ralph bakshi-esque animation done by Toronto studio Nelvana ltd. is incredibly trippy, but the story is downright coherent compared to the rest of the special, and the original cast actually seemed to enjoy doing the cartoon. So we’ll award our hero award to Boba Fett, who made the animated segment necessary and downright saves this thing from being a total garbage fire.
And so we close out our first year of Bad Movies with Brad. Thank you for putting your eyes on the line to watch the very best of the very worst. Join us in 2017 when we’ll be taking on more, including next month when we’ll be heading into the future to find a version of Beowulf.