I was eight years old the summer of 1977 when Star Wars came out. I still remember how my friend Todd, who was the first among us to see the movie, described the opening sequence as two battleship-like spaceships firing lasers at each other. It was all my young imagination to do to wrap around that idea, so blown over by the incredible coolness of how that sounded. This was sometime in mid-June, I believe, the first flashes of what would become a pop culture phenomenon like no other. Little did anyone realize what kind of juggernaut it was to become.
And little did I realize what an impact that Star Wars would make on my life.
Living in the suburbs with no movie house being within an acceptable bicycling distance, it was hard for me to get to the movies unless one of my parents took me. Thus I was left with trying to get glimpses of Star Wars whenever I could- commercials on TV, news reports about its continually growing box office returns and the like. But what really opened my eyes was when the “Making Of” special aired.
Although I tuned in to hopefully catch a glimpse of the Millennium Falcon shooting down TIE fighters, but what I saw opened my eyes. For the first time, I was introduced to the world behind the camera and everything that goes into making a movie. More importantly, it introduced me to the serial adventures of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, major inspirations to George Lucas. A gateway drug, if you will, that led to other old movies starring the likes of Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart and George Raft. An infinite world of flickering celluloid dreams and nightmares, stories and legends. A world that I’m still exploring.
True, the bloom is off the Star Wars rose somewhat, thanks to Lucas’ incessant tinkering with the films in the form of “Special Editions” and a rather disappointing set of prequels. But even as he tries to redefine his epic through such changes as Han shooting first or replacing the sweat and hard work of the original craftsmen of those spectacular space battles with the coldness of computer generated effects, he can’t deny that it was those original films that shock the pillars of the world’s popular culture, redefining how we go to the movies, how we interact with the movies and how Hollywood presents its films to us.
I consider myself fortunate to have been the age I was when I was to not only witness film history happening but to have it swirl around me, pick me up and put me on a path I’m still traveling today.