Friday, March 17, 2017

Silent Star Wars

To round off this (unplanned) themed week of 8mm movie digests and shorts, something slightly more up to date: a ten minute Star Wars digest from 1977.  This was produced by Ken Films, a rival to Castle Films, which started at the low budget end of the business, producing condensed versions of AIP B-movies, but, by the seventies, was producing and distributing digests of Twentieth Century Fox blockbusters like Towering Inferno and Planet of the Apes.  These were often in colour, with soundtracks and would run thirty minutes, divided into two parts.  (There was alao a forty five minute digest of Towering Inferno).  Naturally, such productions were relatively expensive, so Ken Films would also produce shorter versions, shorn of both sound and colour.   An example of which is what I'm presenting here.

There is something slightly surreal in seeing something like Star Wars in this format.  Having seen the film on its original release and marveled at the sheer scale of the film and its (then) amazing special effects, I do find it disconcerting to see it in this diminished form.  It brings home how important the sound effects and colour photography were in helping to create the film's impact.  But, if nothing else, it gives us a chance to see what Star Wars might have looked like if it had been made before the advent of sound.  For the record, the colour two-part 8mm digest versions of Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back are very impressive productions and probably represent the pinnacle of the 8mm digest genre.  But by the time they appeared, the writing was on the wall, as the prices of home video players were beginning to fall, bringing them within reach of ordinary people.  There's no doubt that VHS tapes were a far more convenient form of home viewing (you also got to see the whole movie), but there's no denying that the 8mm digests brought with them some of the romance of celluloid, allowing viewers to create a true home cinema experience, complete with grainy immages and the whirring of the projector.



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