"Happy Life Day, Mr. O'Reilly"
My local cinematheque held their annual holiday party last night, and naturally, amid the celebratory food & beverage, rampaging rug-rats, and speechifying, they showed kitschy, retro baby-boomer holiday programs. You know the type: Sonny & Cher sing-along with Captain Kangaroo; Gumby & Pokey accidentally kidnap Charles Dickens - that sort of thing.
But, the pace day resistance of the evening was the airing of a grainy, 12th generation bootleg copy of a long-lost gem from the late '70's, the much whispered about, but seldom seen "Star Wars Holiday Special".
Yes, friends, a "Star Wars" holiday special.
I vaguely remember having seen this during my freshman year of college, but recall not making it all the way through its two-hour length. After watching it again nearly 30 years later, it was easy to see why: friends, it's bad. I mean BAD. Not "good" bad, but, embarrassingly, painfully, mind-scorchingly bad. So bad you can understand why George Lucas once stated he wished he could track down and destroy every copy in existence by smashing them repeatedly with a baseball bat.
I'm not going to torture you with the details, but suffice to say, any holiday program that includes not only musical numbers by Bea Arthur and Carrie Fisher, a cheesy power-pop anthem by Jefferson Starship (sans Grace Slick, who for once was probably thankful the drugs kicked in before that recording session), but which requires the audience to be fluent in Wookieese in order to follow the plot (something about Chewbacca trying to get home to his family in time to celebrate some non-denominational holiday called "Life Day") was just doomed from the start - even if every kid on the planet with access to a television was probably watching the thing.
Needless to say, I rapidly lost interest after the first of Harvey Korman's three unfunny Peter Sellers-ish cameos, although I did occasionally flit back in for a few minutes at a time (because some genius decided the screening room where it was showing would be the ideal location for the snack tables) and managed to subject myself to additional excrutiating moments such as: Diahann Caroll singing a sultry love song to a geriatric, snaggle-toothed "grandpa Wookiee" saddled with the unfortunate (albeit probably accurate) nickname of "Itchy"; Art Carney as an intergalactic home-delivery porn peddler; and poor Mark Hamill, whose recently broken nose was so heavily made up it seemed to float about six inches in front of the rest of his face.
But, the Bea Arthur number was what finally did me in. That, and the fact that the food had run out. Thankfully, this spared me from watching Carrie Fisher open her mouth, or from suffering through Harrison Ford's Han Solo suddenly being reduced to the most dismal, touchie-feelie, I-just-gotta-give-every-wookiee-I-see-a-great-big-HUG! wimp you could possibly imagine.
Although, really it's better if you don't.
One thing the experience reiterated for me, however, was that, like the contents of sacred arks and about half the entries on Warren Ellis' website, some things are just not meant to be seen by human eyes.
Mr. Lucas, if you're out there, I've found another copy for you to destroy.
on 12:28 PM