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A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE: HOW THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL HAPPENED

Blu-Ray review


A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE can be purchased on blu-ray by clicking the image above


In an attempt to keep the STAR WARS (1977) fever burning hot in-between the original films release and its sequel THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), Charles Lippincott, then head of Marketing at Lucasfilm, pitched to George Lucas the idea of creating a TV Special in the vein of the classic Christmas specials that had been a staple of 1960's and 70's television. Lucas was particularly obsessed with the idea of creating a story focused purely on Chewbacca, his Wookie homeworld and his family - and so that concept became the basis for what would become one of the strangest artistic creations known to humanity.


For STAR WARS fans of every generation, THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL is the subject of never-ending fascination and ridicule. It only aired once, November 17, 1978 and for years the only way to watch it was to seek out a bootleg copy circulating in the gritty Star Wars fandom underworld. Being a fan of the younger generation, THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL was already easy to find on the internet before I even discovered what exactly it was - a perplexing, tasteless and absurd amalgamation of talents that should never have been brought together in the same arena.


A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE first and foremost does a superb job of digging deep into the story behind the conception and making-of the special, featuring interviews with Bruce Vilanch, the main writer and Steve Binder who came in late to direct. The overriding conclusion one comes to, in order to explain the unintentionally hilarious final product, is that a) the story changed many times along the way to the final product, from the initial concept Lucas had conceived and b) the special featured a lot of 'old guard' tv producers who were not tuned into what was hip in the late 70's.



Top tier interview subjects help round out the narrative, simultaneously adding to the special's making of story while also providing humorous commentary along the way. Among the interview subjects are celebrity Star Wars fans Seth Green, 'Weird Al' Yankovic, Kevin Smith, Kyle Newman and Paul Scheer. I was especially happy to also see Gilbert Gottfried amongst the interviewees, dishing out his classic shtick. His interview for this was probably one of his last, before his untimely passing in 2022, and it really made me miss him as a comic presence.


Lucas himself once openly stated in an interview with author Steve Sansweet that he wish he could get his hands on every copy of THE HOLIDAY SPECIAL in existence and have them burned. If Lucas had his way, THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL would be wiped off the face of the galaxy and never be spoken of again. Luckily for fans of both the campy, and the "so bad, it's good" genre the special is easily available on YouTube HERE, having been recorded live off of CBS on VHS by many on that fateful night in 1978.


I still hold out hope that DISNEY will throw up the HOLIDAY SPECIAL on their streaming service in an official capacity just for yucks, but until then, the legacy continues to grow and DISTURBANCE helps continue to build on that wonderfully bizarre legacy, in one of the best documentaries of the year.

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