THE VERY BEST MOVIE

15 April 2021

 Even 44 years after its debut, the original “Star Wars” is a “pretty good” movie, even on a medium-sized television screen, accompanied by many, many interrupting commercials. The story is good, the characters are good, and the actors do a good job with their portrayals. Still, in today’s field of hundreds of similar films, it doesn’t stand out as special in any way. That was not the case in 1977.

   “Star Wars” opened across the country on 25 May 1977, to rave reviews everywhere. On 27 May, Bruce McCabe, of the Boston Globe, called it “simply, one of the best family entertainment buys you can make this summer. It’s a gorgeous, fantastic toy, a marvelous science fiction film that anyone can enjoy… (guaranteed) to keep you entertained and enchanted for almost every minute of its two hours.” But, he finished up,  “I’m running out of adjectives. ‘Star Wars’ is not a film to be written about, it’s an experience.”

   The Public agreed. On 30 May, George McKinnon, of the Globe, reported: “Over the holiday week ‘Star Wars’ took off like a rocket and sold out every screening including three midnight showings. The whole Cambridge street area was awash with movie fans and parking at times was impossible.” Similar reports were coming in from all across America. It was the “Must See” film of 1977.

*  *  *

   When “Star Wars” first hit the Big Screen, we were at home in Southern California, and the kids were still in school. I’m sure we heard about all the excitement – son Shawn was avid about Space and “science fiction” – but none of us seem to remember if we had any particular plans to see it. School ended for the summer on 16 June, and that same night we took a “red eye” flight from Los Angeles to Boston. Sally grew up in the Boston area, and we came to New England almost every year for visits and vacations, but Sara, Shawn and I had never spent any time in Boston, itself. We planned to spend the day “seeing the sights,” before catching an evening bus to Berlin, New Hampshire, where Sally’s mom would meet us to take us to our North Country “Camp.”

   We had a great time that day. We visited the Boston Commons, and rode the Swan Boats; we went to Faneuil Hall, and relived some of our Revolutionary history; and we saw “Star Wars.” I gave them all equal billing in that sentence - and we really did enjoy everything - but there’s no question about which was the highlight of the day: “Star Wars!”

   We saw it at an afternoon matinee at the Sack Charles, one of the old-time monster theaters, with a giant screen, ornate woodwork and trimmings, and plush seats. Both Sally and I had been in theaters like it growing up, but it was a new experience for the kids. It was an ideal venue. We had loge seats, so could look down on much of the audience, as well as getting a full view of the screen.

   What a two hours! What an experience! From the opening scrolling introduction, “Star Wars” had our full attention. The filming was beautiful, the special effects were smart and new, the timing was brilliant. Every few minutes, something unexpected happened – not gratuitously, but well planned to surprise and enthrall. It was such nonstop fun that every few minutes the audience would spontaneously stand, clap, or cheer. Everybody was obviously having a good time!

   “Star Wars” isn’t “science fiction.” It’s about rocket ships and Space, but it isn’t a rocket ship movie, either. It’s a fairy tale set in a galaxy far, far away – a quest by a reluctant hero and his comrades to rescue a kidnapped princess, and possibly save the galaxy (wherever the galaxy is) in the process. It works not only because it is so carefully, lovingly done, but because it was really the first of its kind to blend all the elements together. Hundreds of “similar” movies have followed – including a raft of “Star Wars” sequels and prequels; none has come close to what we saw that day.

   We – and I think everybody else who was there – left happy that day.


A Day in Boston 1977

The Swan Boats

Faneuil Hall

Star Wars!!!



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