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What it was like to experience Star Wars for the first time in 1977.

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Just thought I would share my experience in 1977, and maybe others would like to as well. I think the majority of the newer generation raised on the SEs cannot fully appreciate what a profound influence Star Wars has had on science fiction.

It's not too hard to find a program on TV these days full of special effects, spaceships and aliens. Star Wars just seems to be one of a hundred shows competing for everyone's attention. But what some people don't realize is that Star Wars did it first. Before Star Wars, science fiction was serious and cerebral (not that there's anything wrong with that). Star Wars changed all of that. I was only 8 years old, but I'll always remember what it was like to witness this change take place:

The theater was packed. Shortly after the movie started, there were some chuckles as R2-D2 and C-3PO managed to cross a hallway unscatched during a shootout. Seeing Darth Vader for the first time was an intimidating moment. Soon afterwards, the Jawas appear, everyone laughs at how they sound, Artoo is zapped, and everyone laughs again at how he sounds. We're all pretty quiet for awhile as the story unfolds and the next group of characters are introduced. A lady in the audience actually says, "Awww" when Threepio loses an arm and tells the others to leave him behind in the desert. And then, the cantina scene begins.

Lucas may claim he hated this scene, but everyone in the audience was laughing as hard as they could, and loving every minute of it. This was the first time we were seeing aliens socializing together. (Of course, this scene would have zero effect today. Not only has every 8-year-old kid by now seen hundreds of "aliens" on TV, but the SE tries to cram all sorts of creatures down our throat when Mos Eisley is introduced - now before we even get to the cantina. How could Lucas not realize this diminishes the impact of the cantina when he authorized all of his "improved" changes?)

Next, Han Solo and Chewbacca are introduced. And once inside the Death Star, there's a few laughs when Luke coaxes Han to go along with them by saying, "She's rich." Soon everyone is loving the chemistry between Han and Princess Leia. Her "walking carpet" remark about Chewbacca gets a big laugh. Her hug with Chewbacca after their escape gets an even bigger one.

But the biggest moment everyone seemed to love (next to the cantina scene) was near the end. It's looking like Luke is about to get shot down by Vader's tie fighter. Vader says, "I have you now." And suddenly - there's a laser blast above them. The screen shows Han yelling "Yahoo!" and the crowd goes wild. Everyone is applauding because we like him, and we are so glad that he made the right decision. Having experienced that scene in '77, it's still my favorite moment from the movie.

I was disappointed when I saw the rerelease in 1997. It was my fourth time in the theater, and I was hoping to reexperience it the way I remembered from the '70s. Of course, I didn't like all the changes that were done. But there was something else missing - everyone had already seen the movie a hundred times and knew every line.

Again, the theater was packed. But this time no one laughed during the cantina scene. No one laughed at Luke saying "She's rich." or Princess Leia's "walking carpet" line. And - much to my dismay - no one clapped when Solo triumphantly emerged in the Death Star battle.

The realization that seeing it for the first time in 1977 was an experience that could never be repeated was probably the most disappointing part of seeing the '97 rerelease. I don't even think ESB back in 1980 could repeat the experience. Sure it was a great story that expanded on the characters and never fell into the sequel trap of basically copying the original's plot. But by then, Star Wars clones were a dime a dozen. Aliens didn't elicit laughs anymore like they did in the cantina three years prior.

This is why the original Star Wars will always be my favorite.





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Hats off, rennervision

That sums it up perfectly. It was a magical time indeed.

...the SE tries to cram all sorts of creatures down our throat when Mos Eisley is introduced - now before we even get to the cantina. How could Lucas not realize this diminishes the impact of the cantina...?


Because he's not a great director or story teller. He's just a guy that made a great movie 30 years ago.
originaltrilogy.com Moderator

"Why are you here, Rey from nowhere?”

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Renner, thanks for sharing; I wasn't old enough to experience SW in the theater. Great story; I never realized there was so much humor in it for the original audiences, and your commentary about the original impact of the cantina aliens was very refreshing; sometimes more is not better.
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Having been born in 1979, I'm afraid I can't share any personal experiences of the original theatrical release of Star Wars.

I experienced Star Wars for the first time by watching it on VHS at a friend's house. I would have been about 3 years old at the time. I remember being fascinated by the moment when the Jawas put a restraining bolt on Artoo and suck him up into the Sandcrawler. We watched that moment several times on slow motion and slow rewind.

I subsequently went to see the re-releases of the movies in cinemas. I remember seeing all three in a row at one cinema and I was almost on my way out of the cinema when the Emperor was killing Luke. I stood with my Mum at the door and only went back to sit down once it was clear Luke was going to be okay!

As a fan, I found that my enjoyment of the films in 1997 was impaired by my noticing changes all the time. I went a second time to each film to try and ignore the changes and just enjoy them, but it wasn't so easy. And I was certainly left with the conclusion that I would be fine as long as I could choose to watch the originals or the SEs. I knew that I didn't rate the SEs as highly as the OOT.

I can't be the only one who found the special effects in Star Wars convincing! Why does everyone have a problem with the Wolfman in the cantina?!
Don't you call me a mindless philosopher...!
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Originally posted by: auraloffalwaffle

I can't be the only one who found the special effects in Star Wars convincing! Why does everyone have a problem with the Wolfman in the cantina?!
I don't! I like him.

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I can honestly say the experience was a pretty defining moment for me. It's why I have such an appreciation for film today. It's why I'm very much into home theater. It's why I love movie soundtracks and equate them with modern day classical music. The first soundtrack I ever owned was, of course, Star Wars - on 8-track tape no less!
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Maybe it was the venue of the Chinese Theater, but when I saw Star Wars SE about six times in '97, the audience went wild at the Death Star climax each and every time, laughed at the Cantina scene, and - for the most part - experienced the film as if they hadn't seen it a hundred times.

By that time, of course, I had. And my experience the first time 20 years earlier was fantastic. I lived on Long Island, New York - - far, far away from the glorious Chinese Theater in Hollywood. But I saw the film on the biggest screen in Long Island ... which was the biggest screen I had seen in my young (16 year old) life.

I remember trying not to be impressed at first. Sure, word had been out for a couple of weeks that this movie ruled, and yes I had to wait four hours in line to see it. This alone was a first for me, but I remained cynical ... for oh, about 3 minutes. When the huge Stardestroyer passes overhead and you could hear the collective gasp of the huge audience ... I sat there thinking ' yeah, this looks cool 'cause its gigantic, but it's the same effect they used in Space 1999, and that title crawl was just ripped off from Buck Rogers.' A minute later, though, Darth Vader made his first appearance. The audience instinctively hissed at his arrival, reacting unabashedly with fun and involvement. And I started to glimpse the genius of this retro throwback of a movie done with a spectacular modern sensibility.

The Cantina scene was a comedy showstopper. The Millennium Falcon's escape from the Death Star brought down the house. And the climactic space battle with the forgone conclusion telegraphed in text at the beginning of the film had a thousand people cheering in exultant surprise.

I had two personal moments in the movie where I increasingly "got it," but I can't say that was true of the audience as a whole. What I can attest to is that the crowd loved it. Laughter and applause peppered the entire film. And the lines to get in just got longer and longer, the mania erupted on the world stage, while the only things to buy were some t-shirts, posters and the soundtrack album (I went through six copies). Despite the lack of consumer product, the initial exhuberance of the Star Wars phenomenon outshone anything that came along later with toys galore and Burger King tie-ins.

It changed the world.


(a little bit)


And I'm really glad I was there, old enough to appreciate what was going on, young enough to be swept away.


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Originally posted by: Mielr
Originally posted by: auraloffalwaffle
Why does everyone have a problem with the Wolfman in the cantina?!
I don't! I like him.

Me, too. Mostrously vicious. And having a drink?

That's a nice memory, Obi. Wish I could've been old enough to have one of those in-theater experiences. It's great to hear the details of those audience reactions.
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Originally posted by: rennervision
And then, the cantina scene begins.

Lucas may claim he hated this scene, but everyone in the audience was laughing as hard as they could, and loving every minute of it. This was the first time we were seeing aliens socializing together. (Of course, this scene would have zero effect today. Not only has every 8-year-old kid by now seen hundreds of "aliens" on TV, but the SE tries to cram all sorts of creatures down our throat when Mos Eisley is introduced - now before we even get to the cantina. How could Lucas not realize this diminishes the impact of the cantina when he authorized all of his "improved" changes?)
You know, it occurred to me while reading this that Lucas probably got the wrong idea when people started laughing during the cantina scene.

He probably thought people were laughing because they thought the scene was stupid and the creatures were hokey-looking. Yet the real reason people were laughing was more likely because they loved it, and it was the laughter of enjoyment--precisely because this was the first time they had seen aliens socializing in a bar together.

Unfortunately, George was too hard on himself over this scene. And so he finally ends up "improving" it by changing things digitally later. What a shame.

--SKot

Projects:
Return Of The Ewok and Other Short Films (with OCPmovie) [COMPLETED]
Preserving the…cringe…Star Wars Holiday Special [COMPLETED]
The Star Wars TV Commercials Project [DORMANT]
Felix the Cat 1919-1930 early film shorts preservation [ONGOING]
Lights Out! (lost TV anthology shows) [ONGOING]

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I saw Star Wars for the first time in 1982, during it's pre-Jedi theatrical re-release. I saw ESB for the first time later that same year.

I really don't remember much about my first time seeing it- I've seen it so many times since then, all of my memories of my first viewing have kind of been blended away. I seem to remember more clearly my first viewing of ESB, and of Jedi on opening day in 1983.

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As I was 2 months old when Star Wars first opened in 1977 (I was born in March), I was obviously waaaaaaaaaaaaaay to young to see it in the theater. My first experience with the Star Wars universe was when I was 3 years old in 1980 when Empire came out. My dad took me to see it a few days after it opened.

The theater in my home town was a 2 screen theater and had all these lightbulbs underneath the entrence. I didn't understand how theaters worked and thought Star Wars owned the theater (because of the lightbulbs for some reason). For a couple years I thought it was how it worked and movies owned theaters and then rented it out to other movies. Sorta funny.

Anyway, when my dad took me to see Empire in 1980, I was just blown away. I don't know how much I understood the plot and all, but I got Luke as good and Vader was bad. Like most kids, I was just amazed at the special effects. I don't remember the crowds reaction that much.

After I saw Empire, they were playing Star Wars up on campus (at the Penn State University) and since my dad worked there we got in for free. Anyway, Star Wars blew me away as well, the crowd loved it too (remember this was before video tapes became popular so they haven't seen it in a few years). Since then, I was infatuated with the Star Wars Universe and had to have all the toys I could have. I had a pretty big opperation when I was 4 and my grandparents bought me a huge set with all the action figures and a remote controlled mini R2-D2. I still remember walking around the hospital playing with it. Man, I wish my grandparents bought 2 sets of each so we could have stored one of them LOL.

I went and saw ANH in '97 on opening night. It was a packed theater with all college kids (I was in highschool at the time). I think the same lady was at that screening rennervision, b/c a bunch of girls went "Awww" at that scene also. The crowd laughed their asses off at Luke's "power-converter" line. I don't remember that much else about the screening, but the crowd did love it and cheered when Luke blew up the death star. I remember thinking though when Han shot 2nd, WTF!?! I didn't mind the other changes but thought Jaba looked aweful, though I did like the scene except for Han stepping on the tail. I didn't see Empire or Jedi SE's in the theater though so it must have said something in my sub-conscious.
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great memories by both rennervision and yanksno1.

i loved the small details you guys remember... especially the theater having lightbulbs under the entrance.
we had one just like that in my hometown until they tore it down.


and being too young to see the original in the theatre i like the fact that i can sort of live out my fantasy through your memories. very much appreciated!
"Never. I'll never turn to the darkside. You've failed your highness. I am a jedi, like my father before me."
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Originally posted by: rennervision
I can honestly say the experience was a pretty defining moment for me. It's why I have such an appreciation for film today. It's why I'm very much into home theater. It's why I love movie soundtracks and equate them with modern day classical music. The first soundtrack I ever owned was, of course, Star Wars - on 8-track tape no less!


Very similar to my experience. I saw it for the first time during the summer of 1977. My first soundtrack was purchased later that year... Star Wars, on LP (20th Century Records). During my first viewing I was so involved with the movie that for long periods of time I would forget all my surroundings other than the movie itself. The theater I saw it in was amazing. The Dickinson Glenwood Theater of Kansas City. I am now unsure if I saw the movie in 35 or 70mm, but seeing it on a 70 foot wide screen was an amazing experience. I'm also very much a home theater nut now striving for perfection in both audio and video.
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I actually wrote a short story about the first time that I saw Star Wars for a creative writing class when I was college. It was over a dozen pages long as I remember. I could write a short book about the entire experience.

I was very young when I saw Star Wars, only four and a half, but I remember it as vividly as though it happened this evening. Now, I had had absolutely no knowledge that a movie called Star Wars even existed and had expressed no desire to see it. I just remember my mother telling me that when my father got home from work that he was going to take me to the movies after dinner. That was a big deal for me in and of itself. I adored going to the movies, especially at the old, but beautiful theater where my parents usually took me for Disney features and the like. I just knew that I was going to the movies, and that was excitement enough.

I imagine that this must have been towards the end of the summer as the theater was nearly empty on the night that my father took me to see it. Very few people. I remember that it was a very hot and muggy night, and how good it felt to walk into that air conditioned theater smelling of popcorn and licorice. I remember seeing the words "Star Wars" on the large neon marquis outside the theater. But, again...those words meant nothing to me.

I don't recall my reaction to every moment of the film. But moments did burn themselves into my brain and I think I burned my knees from propping myself up on the upholstered theater seats. I remember being absolutely transfixed, spellbound. Once the movie started, it was all over. Taking me to that movie was a decision that my father would regret for decades.

The assault on the Blockade Runner was almost overload for me, but it all stuck with me. The images of the stormtroopers and of Darth Vader were powerful ones that simply burned themselves into my mind, and were always the characters with which I was most fascinated, perhaps because they were the first ones that I saw. When I saw the film again in re-release a few years later, I was amazed by how much I had remembered and how many little details stuck with me.

The Jawa canyon scene I remember slightly scaring me, with those hooded figures peering from behind the rocks. That sequence to this day recalls that sense of mystery and uncertainty in me as a four year old. It's weird how your brain retains those things.

The other scene from the first half that captivated me...of course, the presentation of Luke's Lightsaber. It was hypnotic...the site, the musical sound. I mistakenly called it a "lifesaver" for a few years, and I ached for a real one the way that grown men ache for true love, throughout my childhood. I made them out of anything that looked like it could be a lightsaber.

Obi-wan's death stuck with me, as well. Because he was this gentle, old man, much like my grandfather, it bothered me to see him die. It didn't scar me, but I think I cried when he was killed. I can't remember for sure. And even though he killed him, I LOVED Darth Vader. Who didn't?

I don't remember the final battle in detail. Again, I think it was overload for me. I just remember leaving the theater, after waking my father up, wanting my own lightsaber, a friendly little R2-D2 of my own, and a Wookie. Ah, the memories.
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ahhhhh goosebumps!!!
absolutly great memories...

if you ever come across that short story again please i would love to hear it...

i feel that the only way that our kids and future generations will begin to understand the fandom of star wars is to relive it through the eyes of those who were there..
only then could they realize what we are all fighting for...

we just want our memories to stay with us...
keep these stories coming!!!
"Never. I'll never turn to the darkside. You've failed your highness. I am a jedi, like my father before me."
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Rennervision, I completely agree with you on the whole "too many creatures in Mos Eisley diminishes the impact of the cantina"
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v167/bgiffen/bigbluerig.jpg
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Now someone needs to start a thread "What it was like to experience The Phantom Menace in 1999."

Midnight showing. Opening Day:

30 seconds into opening crawl - Huh? Trade Federation? Trade disputes? This is Star Wars, right? What about the Clone Wars?
30 minutes later - Ummmmm, is that goofy-looking thing going to be in every scene, because he's kind of annoying.
Jar Jar steps in poo - Theater is completely silent. Cue sound of crickets.
Pod race - OK, this is pretty good. Maybe Lucas can save this movie.
Everything after that - Nope. I was wrong.
Anakin accidentally blows up command ship - Gee, now why didn't we have Luke Skywalker says "Oops." and then accidentally blow up the Death Star? That would have been MUCH better.

Next morning - I wake up and think, was it all a bad dream? Lucas spent 14 years writing THAT?
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lol
its so true!!

i remember going to see that at the midnight showing in my hometown.
i had school the next day but my parents let me go anyway just because i was such a star wars fan.

i remember feeling so empty when leaving the theatre. only two parts of the movie kept my attention. pod race and final battle. but there were so many cringe worthy moments. obi wan falling from like 10 stories and landing on his back only to jump back up to where he fell from?? when could jedi's do that?

i remember that really killing the mystery of jedi's for me.
they lost there mystery and grace. now they looked just like action heros.

i remember telling all the kids at school the next day that the movie was so great though.. of course i was still in hype denial. i remember they all gathered around me at lunch to hear what i thought. and of course i hyped it up even more for them. from that day on i will never let hype get in the way of my true feelings.
"Never. I'll never turn to the darkside. You've failed your highness. I am a jedi, like my father before me."
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JediFlyer06, that was wonderful. I want to read the entire short story of your first Star Wars experience in childhood!



As for my Phantom Menace experience ... well it was a month of fantastic fun ... right up until, oh, 5 minutes after midnight on opening night.


I would never have imagined, though, that three years later my disappointment with Episode I would pale in comparison to my loathing of Revenge of the Sith.




Ok, the prequels themselves have been a big disappointment, but I have to say that I've had more Star Wars fun with them on the whole, simply because the line-ups went on for weeks.


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