Friday, March 03, 2006

1977 Part II - The Summer of Sam

It was May 25, 1977... the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend of... The Summer of Sam. Memorial Day always kicked off the summer... The Jerry Lewis Telethon, then on Channel 5 marked the end of summer… and it was on September 8, 1977 just days after Jerry sang “You Will Never Walk Alone” that Interpol met and discussed the dangers of audio and video piracy. (Don’t you also watch the disclaimer at the beginning of movies??) On that fateful May day, all the other kids were gearing up to see this new Star Wars movie featuring r2d2, c3p0, Chewbacca and Princess Leia and Darth Vader. Me?? What did I know? I was home that Friday afternoon watching Match Game '77 with a panel of Dick Smothers, Meg Bennett, Fannie Flagg, along with Brett, Chuck and Richard. Any fact checkers want to doubt that was the panel that Friday?? I'll leave the details of that day’s episode of The Price is Right to my blog pal Louis in Tampa, but I think they gave away 2 cars, someone hit a dollar on the wheel and one of the contestants overbid in the showcase showdown that featured Johnny Olsen cavorting with Janice Pennington and Dian Parkinson in their cleavage filled bikinis.

The Summer of 77 was also known as the Summer of Sam.... Spike Lee made a pretty good movie about that fateful summer as chics were scared to make out with their boyfriends in their Dodge Darts because of...."the Son of Sam". Michael Badalucco who used to be in "The Practice" did a great job playing Son of Sam.. especially in the scene where he engages in a conversation with a talking dog! There also was an amusing scene where John Leguizamo shows how his character is not too into his girlfriends needs in the bedroom. The movie also featured Jim Jensen playing himself.. and it was great to see the Channel 2 legend once again! He died a short time after the movie was released.

Now, close to 30 years later, I have finally seen the original Star Wars. And you know what? I actually liked it. However had I not seen the other 3 movies first, I don’t think I would have liked it as much. For you peeps who saw the 1977 movie when it came out... you didn’t have the backstory of the first three flicks. That’s why I could sit patiently while Sir Alec Guiness explained to Luke Skywalker how the force works.

By the way, remember back in the early 80s, Channel 5 used to run movies on Sat. nights at 11pm under the guise of “The Channel 5 Movie Club”. It was a perfect opening act for “Fright Night” which aired afterwards on Channel 9. The Channel 5 Movie Club would show “uncut” movies which means yours truly actually could see an occasional breast slipped past the censors when they showed films like “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice” and “Straw Dogs”. Viewers could even send in for a pin… and who you might ask would actually join The Channel 5 Movie Club?? Well folks, here is that pin! Maybe we will use it as a symbol for movie columns on this blog,

Star Wars picks up approximately 25 or so years after SW III left off. Twins Luke and Leia who were adopted at the end of the third movie have yet to meet. At the end of SW III, Obie wan Kenobie arranged for them to be raised by two different families. However, their lives are quite different. Leia is a glamorous, sophisticated Princess, while Luke works on his Uncle’s farm, never really goes anywhere, and spends a lot of time obsessing about his real father.

Leia however is a real swashbuckler. Darth Vader and his gang have created the Death Star…. A facility powerful enough to destroy a planet. But the Death Star has a vulnerability which can cause it to be destroyed.. And that little sneak Leia manages to steal the plans to do so. Ol’ Darth finds out about it and Leia downloads the info into R2D2.… which means he is basically an Ipod… and you don’t need a subscription to Itunes to listen to it! R2 is sent out to find Obie… so that once again the Force can save the world!

By now I of course have learned that these stretches of the imagination can be attributed to ... The power of the force! It would have been nice to know about this when I saw the first movie and sat there stunned that the little pisher Annakin Skywalker could save the world. How ironic that this movie has a similar ending with his son Luke using the force. It’s also interesting to note that Luke sees his family get murdered and decides instantly to join The Force… while Annakin’s mother’s murder inspired him to go off on a murderous rampage where he killed innocent women and children. And I always thought the force worked when there is a runner on the base behind you! I saw this movie “Blast from the Past” recently where this kid is born and raised in an underground bomb shelter after his weird parents erroneously thought a nuclear bomb had gone off. The father teaches his son about baseball.. But the kid doesn’t understand what a force means until he leaves his bunker to buy groceries and ends up going to a baseball game.. At which point he bellows out… “Oh the force… now I get it!!” .

Luke purchases R2D2 and C3P0 literally off the back of a truck….and while cleaning 'em and preparing to clean out the hard drive….he finds the embedded info. Pretty sophisticated for 1977. Luke’s day starts out very Jack Bauer-esque…. One minute he’s working on a farm wondering who his real father is.. The next moment he is called in to save the world. .. And with plenty of references to real time.. it starts to once again look like another episode of 24. Speaking of which, wasn't Mondays episode of 24 just fantastic? It was a lot better than the 8pm hour when Deal or No Deal jumped the shark at the very moment that Donald Trump walked onto the stage. And how about Sean Astin's character's meltdown? I remember when he was a kid, his parents John Astin and Patti Duke Astin hosted the local version of the Jerry Lewis telethon... And their kids would be playing around on stage during the later hours of the telethon.. Patti Duke would actually start yelling at them on live TV when they acted up! And next week on 24... a 2 hour episode with Tony and Kim making appearances. I'm psyched!!

At this point you have to keep a chart about who knows what. I know that Darth Vader was Annakin Skwalker and fathered both Luke and Leia. But, the '77 viewer doesn’t know this, nor do Luke and Leia which is kind of kooky since they kind of have a little spark going after they meet. Darth Vader apparently doesn’t know that Leia is his daughter... yet Obie won kenobie who is now an older man seems to have the whole family tree down pat.

Lucas is quiet consistent with the SW mythology since stuff that is referred to in this movie,… are consistent with the facts laid out in movies he made more than 20 years later. One exception is when Obie gives Annakin’s light saber to Luke and says his dad wanted him to have it… That’s not quite true since in the end of SW III, Obie beats the living hell out of Annakin and then confiscated his light saber. However, both droids at one point are on the same ship as Darth yet they never see each other. If they did see each other, then Darth would recognize them from his youth... yet if Darth still has the psychic powers of the Force... wouldn’t he sense his two buddies were on the ship? Or was this a ploy to save Princess Leia since he really knows she’s his daughter? And does he really kill Obie wan Kenobie? Guiness is back for the next movie... I checked the cast on IMDB but carefully avoided any unless he appears in flashback. I’m not too sure about this one... and please don’t post comments that would give it away.

I like how the characters allude to past events that from the first 3 films.. but the '77 viewers who were seeing it just assumed this was part of the Great Star Wars mythology. The story picks up with Luke being recruited by Obie Wan to use the powers of the Force to fight evil and help save the Princess. They decide to hire a renegade pilot Han Solo played by a very young Harrison Ford. Of course as is the case with every movie.. the “troubled hero” is found in a seedy location… this time at a very sleazy bar in a neighborhood referred to as “a hive of scum and villiany“ When they meet Han Solo at the bar, the rough and tough bartender evokes memories (and maybe exact lines) of the bartender in "Its a Wonderful Life" played by Sheldon Leonard... who just so happens to be related to my wife. He was back in the news this week with the death of Don Knotts.. Since it was Sheldon Leonard’s idea to add Knotts to the cast of “The Andy Griffith Show”

Once Solo is ready to take off.... the adventures begin… Accompanied by Chewbacca, (the only actor to appear in SW III and the ’77 movie), r2, c3 and a rejuvenated Obie.. Its time to save the world… a task that can only ultimately be accomplished by destroying the Death Star with a precise air attack. Along the way, our pals get into all kinds of tight binds.. And ultimately… Obie “reunites” with Darth in a thrilling light saber duel, Darth makes note of the fact that the two are meeting again.. But what the 77 viewers don’t know is that Obie once gave Darth a can of whoop-ass in SW III which severely deformed him and forced him to walk around with what turned out to be the best selling costume for Halloween 1977. Darth seems to finish Obie off… he just kind of dies and melts there on the ground.. Or maybe it was some kind of force thing going on and he really doesn’t die! Hmmmm…

The story is well presented and the special effects are excellent and don’t pale in comparison with the 3 movies that Lucas would make more than 20 years later. It appears that he had the concepts for the first 3 movies in his mind before he wrote Star Wars because the consistency is remarkable. The only disappointment.. And it really doesn’t affect the quality of the movie was…. There’s no Yoda!! I even wore my Yoda watch when I watched the movie that I mentioned in the review of SW III.

The dvd that I saw apparently is not the exact version that was in the ‘77 movie since Lucas tweaked it and fixed it up a bit. However, I really don’t want to track down the original vhs since the quality is nowhere as sharp as the dvd.. And I probably wouldn’t even notice the subtle changes.

So therefore I am just gonna assume that the final bladder grade would be the same if I had seen the original flick that you folks saw….

On a scale of 1 to 4 bladders meaning how less likely you would be to leave in the middle to go to the bathroom… the original Star Wars….. It’s a 4 bladder movie!!

Here are my Oscar Picks for the big awards…

Actor - Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Actress - Felicity Huffman
Supporting Actor - Paul Giamatti
Supporting Actress - Michelle Williams
Director - Brokeback Mountain
Best Picture - Crash


Pumstra D. said...

Fabulous review! And you finally figured out that R2-D2 is an ipod, so it will be no surprise that you'll hear that white boy play some funky hip-hop music in the upcoming movies, and Princess Leia will get served with an inter-galactic grand jury subpoena for illegally downloading those copyrighted Death Star blueprints.

And by the way, when you really begin to comprehend the Force (especially in this film and the next one), you'll find that it's a mysterious, mystical, almost Kabbalistic realm of existence that can be tapped into through deep faith, meditation and spirituality, but when taken to extremes, it can cause fanatics to go off the deep end. Which in part explains freaks like Madonna, and ultra-orthodox chussids... but then again, I don't think the chussids are using the dark side of the Talmud to rule the universe, so never mind, I'm going back to work now....

Nate said...

I wonder if they would have been sued if they would have used the old Napster to share those aforementioned files! The world may have been in grave danger!

As for kabbalah.. that whole thing became "hip" when that Melanie Griffith movie "A Stranger Among Us" came out. Melanie the detective infiltrates the Hasidic community to solve a murder and asks a chusid what he is reading about when he told her he was reading the Kaballah. "Sexually satisfying a woman", he replied... and it was at that very moment in the movie theater that I Nate-stradamus predicted that Kaballah would become popular!