As massive as George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise has become, it’s easy to forget that there was a time, not even that long ago, historically speaking, when nobody but Lucas himself had any clue what the hell a Wookiee was, and most people would probably have assumed that a Lando Calrissian was some new model of car. For those of us who have never known a society where the Star Wars films weren’t already a thing, it’s hard to imagine what it was like for the moviegoers who bought a ticket having no idea what to expect. But there is no more definitive — or funnier — snapshot of the pre-Star Wars world than the following newspaper clipping, which labels Vader a “metallic … Star Creature.”
The clipping is part of a batch of photographs unearthed by SF Gate as their retrospective look at the opening of Star Wars in the Coronet Theater, one of the only 37 theaters nationwide in which Lucas’ space opera was first released on May 25, 1977. While the clipping is pretty damn hilarious in retrospect, I have to feel some sympathy with the poor reporter who was tasked with trying to write up a movie he or she obviously hadn’t seen and which they probably expected to be little more than a forgettable B movie. Hindsight’s a bitch, ain’t it?
In some ways, reading about the way the first Star Wars film built word of mouth and became a mega hit is a bittersweet experience for me, simply because I was a few years too late to be a part of that initial Star Wars fandom. Sure, I loved the movies growing up during the ‘80s, but my friends I never got to have a similar movie experience that we “discovered,” and by the time I was in my teens the burgeoning internet had pretty much rendered that sort of experience moot. There are plenty of advantages to getting to follow every interesting film project step-by-step through the production process…but I still don’t think it’s the same as lining up with a bunch of excited, like-minded people to see a movie that most of the population has never heard of, and which is about to change the movie landscape forever.