I can’t let today pass without acknowledging it, since, like so many of my contemporaries, the premiere of Star Wars was a defining moment of my childhood.
When Star Wars was released on May 25th, 1977, I was 5 and a half years old. I can’t remember if we saw it opening day, but it was definitely in the first few weeks. I do distinctly remember sitting in the back of my next door neighbor Glen’s mom’s car, a white late-60’s model Mustang (his last name was Ford, oddly enough), and telling them that I was going to see a space movie as we came back from the water slide park. Even though I had no idea what I was in for, I was clearly looking forward to it. I remember that it was playing at the huge (for 1977) Northpark Mall theater in Dallas. I remember the theater being packed. I think I remember waiting in line, although that may have blurred with waiting in line for Empire Strikes Back.
The most vivid memory, however, was the opening crawl that gave the back story of the movie, followed by the opening scene of what seemed to be the largest ship in the universe to me at the time, that nearly interminable passing of the Star Destroyer across the screen was the most awesome and thrilling thing that I’d ever seen. It was massive. My 5-year-old brain could hardly take it all in. I still remember the wonder of how BIG that thing must be (only to have it shattered later when they tried to imply how much bigger Darth Vader’s flagship, The Executioner, was in the next film).
The whole film was an amazing ride and I remained transfixed throughout. I remember re-enacting whole scenes over and over again with my friends: the ending throne room scene, complete with fake medals; the assault on the Death Star with my bunk beds as two X-wings; molesting Princess Leia (wait, that’s later). I remember all the crazy speculation afterwards of what happened to Darth Vader as he careened off into space on his own after being knocked away from the Death Star by his own wing men (courtesy of Han Solo and the Milennium Falcon). As I mentioned in a old post, Joe Gross from the Austin-American Statesman pointed out (archive.org link b/c of the Statesman’s shitty policy on keeping old articles accessible) when Attack of the Clones was released 5 years ago, the original was great precisely because it left so much to our own imaginations and let us fill in the details before and after. I ordered the first promotional pack of figures through the mail as soon as they were available.
Regardless of how badly George Lucas has screwed up the memory of the original, it’s that wonder of first viewing that allows him to sucker so many of us in time and time again. It’s why many of our own kids sleep on Star Wars sheets and pore over Star Wars Encyclopedias or watch the films on DVD.
BTW, when I was 5, we had to go back to the theater to see it again or wait for them to re-release it in the theater, which I remember them doing more than once. We didn’t have VCRs or DVDs for that matter. It took them FOREVER to release the VHS versions even after everybody and their dog had a VCR. If memory serves, we didn’t get legitimate retail copies until 1989 or so. Now get off my lawn, you kids!