The Star Wars Holiday Special is the worst film ever made. Period.
The Star Wars Holiday Special was, for many years, a legend that only the most devoted and/or luckiest fans could get their hands on. It was rumored to be a myth in casual fan circles and it was a closely guarded secret among nerdkind, used often as a point of reference when trying to impress other nerds. A typical conversation in the late 1980's may have gone like this:
Nerd 1: "Can I play D&D with you guys? I've got a 9th level elven wizard."
Nerd 2: "No way. Our party is already full and we've got a good system where everyone gets three Mountain Dews out of a twelve pack and exactly two slices of pizza. Besides, I heard you like sports and listen to Mili Vanilli."
Nerd 1: "Well, then, I guess I'll just have to stay home and watch the tape of The Star Wars Holiday Special my uncle picked up at the flea market."
Nerd 2: "You've got the Holiday Special? You know, our wizard has been getting on my nerves lately. I think maybe it's time to replace him."
The Star Wars Holiday Special was a 2-hour made-for-TV movie that aired only once. It aired sometime after the release of Star Wars (known to those under 30 as Episode IV or A New Hope) and sometime before the release of The Empire Strikes Back (known to those over 30 as one of the best films ever made, and certainly as the best Star Wars movie ever made). It was made with George Lucas' blessing, but please keep in mind that Ewok Underoos, Jar Jar Binks beach towels, and Attack of the Clones were also made with George Lucas' blessing. Lucas did not write the special, however, and is rumored not to have seen it until it aired.
Star Wars fans are, for all of their love of the Force, some of the most capitalistic people in the world. They're not necessarily better or worse than anyone else at making money, but they do love to spend it. How else can you explain the fact that there are so many variations of the same characters in Star Wars action figure line? Before Star Wars, people collected coins, stamps and baseball cards. After Star Wars, people collected everything under the sun, provided it had the Lucasfilm logo on it.
Try to decide which of these two elements represents a bigger money-whore.
They inherit this trait from Star Wars creator George Lucas, who is such a perfect capitalist he would probably bring a tear to Henry Ford's eye. Lucas, in his hunger for money, has re-released new versions of each of his original three Star Wars movies every few years since the early 90's, and each time fans have flocked to see them, whether in the theater or on the shelves of their favorite home video retailer.
Ten years ago, Lucas began a new trilogy of movies in the Star Wars setting, which raked in unfathomable amounts of dough despite being, in order of their release, horrendously boring, horrendously uncomfortable to watch, and horrendously disappointing. There are countless Star Wars novels, comics, toys, and the list goes on. The point here is that George Lucas loves to make money, and he loves it twice as hard when it's made off of Star Wars.
So why hasn't The Star Wars Holiday Special gotten the royal treatment with its own three-disc collector's DVD set in a Wookiee-fur lined box? Because (and you're going to want to sit down for this) the Holiday Special is so bad that George Lucas has banned it from ever seeing the light of day again. In fact, legend has it that he said: "If I had the time and a hammer, I would smash every copy of the Holiday Special".
Take a minute to think about that, with special focus on who is reported to have said it.
Wait a second, are we to believe that George Lucas - the same George Lucas who wrote Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - has deemed something unreleasable?
It's the truth. The Holiday Special is so embarrassingly bad that Lucas bought up all the rights, pulled it from television after a single airing, and has never released it. This, of course, gave birth to the mystery surrounding the special, as kids in the 80's didn't know whether to believe those who claimed to have seen it when it aired.
Of course, the internet has changed the way media is traded. These days anyone with a computer can get their hands on a copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special. The mystique is gone, and with it the guaranteed position of alpha-nerd status.
It is life-day, a pretty big holiday on the planet Kashyyyk. This is Chewbacca's home planet, and apparently it turns out that between all of the spice-running and Jabba-avoiding and life-debt-swearing and prisoner-being, Chewie somehow managed to have a family. This sort of makes Han Solo a dick. Keep in mind that, in Star Wars canon, Chewie has sworn a life-debt to Han for rescuing him from slavery in the spice mines of Kessel. Most decent people would probably say after rescuing a slave,"I'll tell you what; why don't you go home to your family, and I'll call you whenever I need help?" But not Han. He makes Chewie zoom around the galaxy with him, doing illegal stuff while Chewie's poor wife, Malla, is left not only to raise their son with no help, but to care for the boy's elderly and very creepy grandfather as well.
Look at the sadness in this face and tell us you don't have a lump in your throat.
Han has given Chewie some time off for Life Day, though, and he's even giving him a ride home to Kashyyyk for the occasion. Unfortunately, the Empire is pursuing them and Chewie may not make it home in time to celebrate with his loved ones.
We spend most of the special with his family, who speak no English and convey their ideas through a combination of Wookiee grunting and over-exaggerated gesticulation. We also get to peer into the deepest recesses of the Wookiee mind, which turns out to be a disturbingly perverse place full of zoophilic fantasies. The main characters of the Star Wars universe are actually nothing but bit players in the Holiday Special, and have less screen time than the "special guest" cameos.
Please note that there is no shame in googling any of these people to see who in the hell they are, with the exception of Bea Arthur.
Itchy, Chewbacca's mangy and apparently undersexed father, hooks into a virtual reality machine that taps into his fantasies, which appear to be of a disco diva in the form of Diahann Carroll. This is at once the most uncomfortably unwatchable and the most disgustingly fascinating part of the show.
Pictured: Wookiee porn.
There is a Jefferson Starship video inserted awkwardly into the middle of the movie. That's right, I said Jefferson Starship. Please do not confuse them with Jefferson Airplane, the psychedelic 60's band responsible for "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love", even if both bands are made up of the same people. Jefferson Starship is the middle ground between that band and Starship, the 80's horror that gave us "We Built This City On Rock And Roll".
This should give you an idea of just how out of touch the makers of this special actually were. "Starship," they said, "Hey! There are starships in Star Wars! Star Wars, Star Ship. Star Wars, STARSHIP! Get me Grace Slick on the phone!"
Art Carney appears as a trader who is friends with Chewie's family. He has one of the best lines in the show. "In fact you might say she did it by hand... solo!" This awful piece of wit is one of the high points of the dialogue in the Holiday Special.
Harvey Korman appears in no less than three roles, each somewhat less funny than the one before.
Bea Arthur sings. Bea Arthur dances with Greedo. Bea Arthur is in a fucking Star Wars film.
Do you need any more proof that this is a bad movie?
Pictured: Mark Hamil's sister.
Mark Hamil is here as Luke Skywalker, looking like he just got caught in mommy's makeup case. The patronizing look he gives Chewie's wife when he hears about her sadness is especially worth watching for.
Harrison Ford somehow managed to have the most critically acclaimed and successful post-Star Wars career of anyone involved in the franchise, despite appearing in this special.
David Prowse and James Earl Jones are sort of in this movie as Darth Vader, but in the same way that John Lennon was in Forrest Gump. Vader's appearance relies on archived footage from the first Star Wars movie.
R2-D2 and C-3P0 are both in the movie. Neither has much screen time.
A very doped-up looking Carrie Fisher plays Princess Leia. She sings a poorly-written song about Life Day. Purely by coincidence, there were no Carrie Fisher albums released that year.
But if there had been, this would have been the cover.
Peter Mayhew, of course, is in the movie as Chewbacca, and manages to keep more dignity than any of the others by not having to actually speak.
The first ever appearance of fan favorite Boba Fett is in The Star Wars Holiday Special.
Back in the 70's, celebrities used to attach their
names to stuff that had nothing to do with their fame.
Aren't you glad those days of blatant commercialism are over?
By far, the best part of watching a copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special that was taped when it aired is the commercials. The 70's clothes, the Star Wars toy commercials, and the Reggie Jackson candy bar ad are gold. If your copy doesn't have those or any commercials, there is still one redeeming part.
Chewie's son, Lumpy (I'm not making these names up, I swear) spends much of the movie watching videos of one kind or another. At one point, he watches a cartoon about Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and their friends. This raises a lot of questions, such as: Who in the Star Wars universe made a cartoon about them? Did they have permission to use their likeness? Does the inclusion of Darth Vader as the villain violate Imperial law, or does it fall under the "parody" clause like Tina Fey's Sarah Palin impersonation? How can Boba Fett be any good as a Bounty Hunter if he's so famous that animators are using him in their work? Wouldn't anyone who saw him hide from him? Why isn't Lumpy freaked the fuck out that his dad just happens to be in this cartoon?
Ignoring all of this, the cartoon is easily the most enjoyable part of the Star Wars Holiday Special. For a blissful ten minutes or so, we are spared any chance of seeing Itchy in a state of sexual arousal or listening to dialogue that sounds like it was written by an eight year old (see: Art Carney, above). The cartoon is somewhat similar to the Droids cartoon that aired on Saturday mornings a few years later, but with a little bit of a darker feel. In fact, it's the closest this special comes to foreshadowing The Empire Strikes Back, the blockbuster Star Wars sequel that would come out in 1980.
Boba Fett, who gained nerd-demigod status by simply looking badass on screen before being ruined in the Special Edition and prequels years later, is fairly well-done here. It's not hard to see why Lucas decided to allow him to catch Han Solo instead of the other bounty hunters in Empire.
Boba Fett, riding some sort of space dinosaur.
Sadly, the cartoon is nowhere near long enough or cool enough to save the rest of this awful movie. Before you know it, we're back to Itchy, Malla and Lumpy's life of growling and overacting, and eventually we have to hear Carrie Fisher's song.
As stated above, this movie was a rare "gem" in the 80's and 90's, and even though it's probably not hard to find these days, most people still have not seen it. Typically, reaction to the special seems to follow a particular pattern.
1. Surprise: There's a Star Wars movie I haven't seen?
And you have a copy???
2. Denial: I don't disbelieve you when you say it's bad, but it can't be that bad. After all, it was made between the two best movies of the franchise, so how could it be worse than Attack of the Clones?
3. Joy: You're going to let me borrow it? Awesome!
4. Puzzlement: What do you mean you'll only lend me this VHS tape on the sole condition that I promise not to turn it off until I've watched the whole thing? What an odd thing to say...
5. Amusement: Look at Luke's makeup! Hahahahahahaha...
6. Realization: Um, I'm starting to think this movie isn't going to get any better than this. How fucking long is this furry kid going to watch this holographic Cirque du Soleil?
7. Sadness: My childhood... my poor, poor childhood...
These used to be good memories. Now all I can see is Bea Arthur.
8. Despair: It has to be over soon... oh, god... the horror!
9. Disgust: Carrie Fisher is singing.
10. Enlightenment: I have survived the worst movie of all time, and I am now a member of an elite club. Come what may, no one can take the fact that I have suffered and survived to tell of it.
11. Spreading the word: No, trust me, lando46731_wisconsin, whatever you've heard about The Star Wars Holiday Special cannot do justice to just how awful it really is.
This man has just seen The Star Wars Holiday Special
and has made it his mission to stop the curious fans at
imdb.com from making the same mistake.