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Ewok Propaganda

Author: Chip_douglas from Rijswijk, ZH, Netherlands
28 May 2004

Of the two documentaries promoting Return of the Jedi, this is the one without the deleted footage of the original Jabba (Declan Mulholland). Although it starts and ends with space battles, a husky voice over by Carrie Fisher explains that Star Wars is no longer just about hardware, but about rubber creatures and monsters too. Therefore this show focuses on the creation of the Ewoks and Jabba the Hutt's menagerie of monsters while offering a nice retrospective of movie monsters of yesteryear from 'King Kong' to 'Dragonslayer' in between.

Looking slimmer than ever before (or after), Carrie is wearing a mismatched jacket and T-shirt in what is supposed to look like her dressing room. Meanwhile Billy Dee Williams does some schtick with Salacious Crumb (Tim Rose) surrounded by maquettes. Both the stars are bothered by Gammorean Guards and other creatures and later there is more clowning around with people in costumes going to the airport. Remember, this was in an earlier age when 'The A-team' and 'The Dukes of Hazzard' were considered prime time entertainment. Like them, Star Wars has always been aimed at ages 10 and up, something a lot of fans seem to have forgotten when they grew up and the prequels didn't.

Classic Creatures reminds us of the days when we could do without all that newfangled CGI. In 1983 a blue screen and a set were two separate things and all the creatures were right there in front of you. It is revealed that Jabba was born in a bakery and we meet all the men who operate him (including medicine Ewok Mike Edmonds in the Hutt's tail). The incredible Sail barge/Sarlac Pitt is still a sight to behold (before they went and stuck Audrey II in it's mouth). Meanwhile this documentary goes out of its way to mention all the men beneath the rubber by name, while Han and Luke are passed over. Even though none of the supporting cast is interviewed on camera, at least they don't insist Threepio and Artoo are completely mechanical any more.

Toy collectors will be thrilled to get a good look at many of the more obscure aliens like Cane Adiss, Wol Cabasshite and the Spider droid (later dubbed B'Omarr Monk). Likewise regular convention goers will recognize many familiar faces. We even see Amanaman (Alisa Berk) unmasked for a split second (and a Jawa too). The 1985 documentary "From Star Wars to Jedi: The making of a saga" featured most of the same material (plus some added footage) and George Lucas' observation that a good SF film does not need to dwell on the environment for too long. Shame he didn't remember that when adding all those establishing shots to the Special Editions and the Phantom Menace DVD.

What was not repeated in the latter documentary was the sight of little people having to endure Carbon freeze plaster casts and being otherwise tortured in order to create Ewoks magic (blink and you'll miss superstar in the making Warwick Davis). We also learn there were 153 sketches rejected before they finally decided on the rather unoriginal teddy bear look. No special about movie creatures would be complete without mentioning Jim Henson, and footage from the Dark Crystal's own making off feature is neatly edited into this one. E.T. is also mentioned, but in 1983 it was still strictly forbidden to show any moving images of him outside the cinema, so we have to make do with the Halloween sequence and little kids wearing E.T-shirts.

Many fans are hoping to see these shows released on DVD (Not to watch of course, just to keep them wrapped up in mint condition). But since this one features some stuff that according to the Special Editions simply does not exist anymore, namely disco number Lapti Nek (Huttese for "Working out"), the odds are against it. They may reuse bits and pieces in new retrospectives (Lucas always includes at least one unique segment in every release), but the CBS/Fox "All Time Greats" video releases of these specials will probably remain the only available copies. If only their slogan 'Yours to keep forever' was a bit more accurate. Shot on and transfered from video, the special already began to deteriorate by the time it hit the market (and that includes the music tracks).

8 out of 10

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