Holiday Review: ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’

As I have mentioned before in a number of Retro Reviews, I am a frequent customer of the Black Lodge. As an institution here in Memphis, Black Lodge has a number of hallowed traditions, and the one relevant to this article is the yearly screenings of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. For much of my life I only knew of this film through reputation, but last year I finally bit the bullet and sat down to endure this horror for myself. Following the incredible success of Star Wars in 1977, TV executives looking to cash-in on the craze approached George Lucas and the cast about making a Star Wars-based variety special for the holiday season. Despite reservations from Lucas and team, things moved forward and Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker (who is insultingly credited with “R2-D2 as Himself”) were probably forced at gunpoint in 1978 to celebrate Life Day in a galaxy far, far away.

On Chewbacca’s homeworld his family who have never been mentioned in the films; grandpa Itchy, wife Malla, and idiot child Lumpy, hope for the return of their patriarch to celebrate Life Day. However, the Empire has locked things down as they know there is a hub of Rebel activity in the area. Along the way the furry clan watch various programs and make us suffer along with them. Occasionally we get cameos from the movie characters as they celebrate the most terrible time of the year.

I ask you now in all seriousness this question: do you speak Wookie? If you do not, well you are out of luck as over 50% of this special is based around Chewie’s family grunting and growling at each other without even the decency of subtitles. This alone creates a feeling of awkwardness as you watch the Star Wars Holiday Special, and the powers that be only work to exahorbate the feeling over what feels like 4+ hours of runtime. As mentioned before this was intended as a variety show, and unfortunately it is an abysmal variety show. We are treated to terrible musical numbers (most notably Itchy getting off to Diahann Carroll) and unfunny sketches. The only thing halfway decent is an animated short serving as the first appearance of Boba Fett. This is especially horrid as you see the talent they brought in both in front of the camera and behind it to make this thing. Watching the special as well as the credits following it you will see: Art Carney (just four years removed from his Oscar win), Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman, Jefferson Starship, Stan Winston, and Mick Garris. This is in addition to the Star Wars cast including a Mark Hamill slathered in make-up to cover scars from a recent accident and a clearly coked-up Carrie Fisher who graces us with a dreadful Life Day carol.

I try to remain positive in my movie reviews, but I believe that those responsible for producing the Star Wars Holiday Special should be charged with war crimes. There is nothing good or redeemable about this particular special and I can clearly understand why George Lucas wishes that every copy of it could be purged from this earth. To his credit, Lucas has done his best but the bootleg copies of the special are too many at this point to stop. More than merely being bad it is incredibly dull and lifeless. I suppose if one is on their deathbed they may want to pop this in because time slows to a crawl. Unless you plan on joining me next year at the Black Lodge for the annual raucous Rocky Horror-esque viewings of the Star Wars Holiday Special avoid it like the plague.