|Home Videos: Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Tuesday, 27 September 2011 06:40|
With the recent release of the trilogies on Blu-ray, it was inevitable that in between the Cambridge Film Festival and Raindance Film Festival, I would find the time to crawl back into my nostalgia hole and watch me some Star Wars. Not the DVD or the Blu-ray release, of course, but the lovely battered VHS I've had since I were a wee geek (or week, for short).
For reasons which I'm still not entirely sure about, Return of the Jedi used to be my favourite of the original trilogy. So I stuck in that for some quality Sunday afternoon viewage.
The end result? Proper childhood happiness.
Lots of people think that Return of the Jed is the weaker of the three original Star Wars films, but if it is, it's not by much. From the still-rather-stunning Princess Leia in a bikini to the epic lightsaber battle at the end, it's a great, over-the-top climax for George Lucas' franchise.
Now I don't want this to turn into a rant about Mr. Lucas and his obsessive changing of everything in the films every two years, partly because it's dull and boring, and partly because it's his film and he's entitled to change stuff if he really feels the need (however erroneous) to do so. But the nice thing about my Star Wars VHS collection is that they are pre-1997. They're "Digitally Mastered for SUPERIOR SOUND AND PICTURE QUALITY", but we're a long way from the CG-fied Special Editions that wowed my brains out on the big screen.
Even the opening credits seem different:
Once the film starts, the low-tech (read: high-tech) brilliance continues. There are no extra tentacles on the Almighty Sarlacc when Han and Luke are sentenced to death by prolonged digestion, and there are no added computerised creatures like Dug to Jabba the Hutt's palace - which, in its original form, is arguably the greatest showcase of puppet wizardry outside of Jim Henson's workshop. Especially that bat creature thing who sits on the wall and laughs like a winged hyena (I still can't remember its name).
So while I enjoy having the picture quality of my DVD box set, the VHS means that I can still enjoy things like this in all its old-school glory:
No CGI on him. (Or her?)
And I can continue to be incredibly freaked out by Sy Snootles' absurdly pink lipstick, and the fact that she's basically got a mouth on a stick:
But best of all, I can continue my secret wish to be Max Rebo - the world's coolest giant blue piano-playing non-elephant:
At least 80% responsible for me learning to play the piano as a child.
The rest of Return of the Jedi proceeds in solid fantastical fashion. Alec Guinness pops up alongside Yoda to offer some much-needed pathos, Darth Vader's redemption is actually quite moving (mainly because of the blue force lightning you see running through Mark Hamill's teeth) and it's impossible not to get swept along in the glorious dogfight at the end:
Add all that together with Ian McDiarmid's wonderfully cackling performance and you've got a family adventure that really does rival Spielberg's Jurassic Park when it comes to pure matinee-style entertainment. And that's regardless of whether James Earl Jones is shouting "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO" or not.
As for the Ewoks? I flipping love them. And I always have. Perhaps even more so in their original form, because without modern technology, they never blink. NEVER. Instead, they stand there looking cute, saying "Yub nub", and STARE INTO YOUR SOUL. That's scarier than a Wookie any day.
The Star Wars VHS box set is available from all good charity shops for 50p. Unless George Lucas has since hunted them down and burned them all. Either way, it remains a true cinema classic.