Film review – Star Wars Holiday Special (Steve Binder, 1978)

There was a time about fifteen years ago when very few people had heard of the Star Wars Holiday Special. George Lucas was no doubt thanking his lucky stars as what is generally considered an abomination had disappeared off everyone’s radars, the VHS copies in the hands of the general public were slowly deteriorating and there was little opportunity for the story to proliferate.

Unfortunately for Lucas, however, the internet happened. Nowadays, the average adult fan of Star Wars has very much heard of The Holiday Special and has probably made an attempt to watch it, given that it’s so readily available on the likes of YouTube.

If you haven’t heard of it, the basic backstory is that in 1978, one year after the release of the first film, the rights to the Star Wars franchise were temporarily handed over to Smith-Dwight Hemion Productions, Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings Corporation and 20th Century Fox Television to make a Christmas variety programme with a loose story used as a platform for several musicians and comedians to entertain the viewers.

The general consensus is that the Nelvana-produced Boba Fett animated segments are the only parts of the film worth watching it for. It has to be said that the ten minute cartoon titled “The Faithful Wookiee” is of an exceptionally high standard and if you haven’t seen it yet then seek it out. It is the first time Boba Fett was seen (note that the release was two years prior to The Empire Strikes Back). There is slightly more to it than just this though.

First of all, you do get to see all of the original cast together, which is a pretty rare occurrence outside the original trilogy and the odd fan convention. Mark Hamill is clearly caked in make-up to cover up scarring from the motorcycle accident he had a year earlier.

With the fact it’s a variety show in mind, it is easier to accept the performances from the various musical acts. Jefferson Starship’s song “Light The Sky On Fire” is actually very entertaining. Who doesn’t want to find out if Carrie Fisher can sing? [1]

Unfortunately, the negatives far outweigh the positives. “This Minute Now”, sung by Diahann Carroll, is a segment in which she appears as the fantasy of Chewbacca’s father (or father-in-law) and comes across as if she’s auditioning for one of those late night television programmes we’re told to stay away from as children. The Wookiee segments are embarrassing with far too much dialogue, none of which is subtitled. Anything featuring Harvey Korman, Art Carney, Bea Arthur or acrobatic jugglers is extremely difficult to sit through and take it away from the realms of enjoyment.

So, as a Star Wars fan should you watch it? Well, that’s your call. Just because you’re a huge fan of the original trilogy (or indeed the more recent films) it doesn’t mean you have to watch everything ever produced, but all the toys and read all the canon and non-canon fiction. However, you shouldn’t take other people’s opinion as gospel without trying to give it a try.

Star Wars Holiday Special has never been released on home media, although “The Faithful Wookiee” was an Easter Egg on the Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray boxset released in 2011. You can watch this segment below in lower than SD.

[1] She can, though she never won a Tony Award like Mark Hamill.

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