The 1970s was an odd decade, indeed.
Sure, you had some cultural landmarks set during those 10 years — the first Star Wars film, Smoky and the Bandit and the incredible gain in popularity of the National Football League, to name a few.
But for every cultural landmark in the 1970s, it seems there were two or three things that make one wonder what the heck was wrong with people in the 1970s. Think of the total oddness of the Jimmy Carter presidency, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park or disco, for instance. Add to that list The Star Wars Holiday Special — a two-hour slice of misery that aired once and only once — Nov. 17, 1978 — and has existed only in bootleg form since then.
This clinker of a special has never been distributed on VHS tape or DVD by any official source, but an enterprising type with some knowledge of the Internet’s back alleys might be able to find a digital copy sourced from the original broadcast. Heck, some of those even have the original commercials aired during the special and those are more entertaining than the main event.
Now, you’ve heard people ramble on about horrible television that has value as pure camp? You’ll not find that in the Star Wars Holiday Special. No, it is is just downright awful on every level and making it through the entire special is unpleasant at best.
The idea behind the special, seemingly, is that Han Solo and Chewbacca are flying back to the Wookiee’s home planet to celebrate Life Day (a holiday that is, apparently, similar to Christmas). The whole thing starts off in the worst way possible in that we’re treated to about 10 minutes of Wookie chatter as Chewbacca’s family — wife Malla, son Lumpy and father Itchy — sit around their home and confuse the heck out of the viewers.
Now, here’s the thing about Wookiee chatter. It works in Star Wars because there’s always someone around to interpret it for us. Trying to keep up with it without an interpreter is not enjoyable at all.
At any rate, we get the idea after a time that Chewbacca’s family is waiting for him to return and are pretty much killing time until then. Oh, and we also learn that the evil Empire is searching for Rebel sympathizers on Chewbacca’s home planet. All of that imperial activity means ships are flying around and are delaying Han and Chewbacca’s return.
So, that’s about it for plot. Really. Honest.
The odd thing about this show is that the thin plot is stretched over two hours by skits common to variety shows in the 1970s (think of Donny & Marie only more awful here). That means we wind up with very strange bits featuring the likes of Art Carney as a merchant, Bea Arthur as a bartender and Harvey Korman as a maniac giving a cooking show. Oh, and you get a horrible performance from Jefferson Starship (a version of the band without Grace Slick) and a very odd and inappropriate bit from Diahann Carroll playing the role of an erotic hologram who thrills Itchy (and this was a show for kids?)
Meanwhile, you do have cameos from all your Star Trek favorites. I’ve mentioned Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) already, but joining in on the special were Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels). You even have Darth Vader show up briefly. Well, sort of. His segment was simply lifted from the movie and tossed in the special.
Sadly, a lot of scenes from the movie were thrown in this special and in the most lazy way possible, too. You’ve got some overdubbing where the lips on actors don’t match up with the words they are allegedly saying and disjointed segments caused by sloppy editing.
Some other things of interest include an awful cartoon in which bounty hunter Boba Fett is introduced, Fisher’s odd singing and Arthur launching into song, too.
Honestly, this is one of those things you really do have to see to believe. Still, the question remains whether someone should actually go out of his or her way to watch this mess. Uh, no. You really don’t want to do that.
By the way, this disaster was directed by Steve Binder — the same guy who gave us Elvis Presley’s fantastic ’68 Comeback Special. Wow. How does one fall down that far?