Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Buried Treasures: Star Wars - From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker

Karen: I didn't realize it had been just over a year -last November -since we last ran a Buried Treasure post. But categories never stay dead forever here, and with the new Star Wars film coming out in a few weeks, this seemed more than appropriate. I had rediscovered my copy of the Star Wars novelization last year but had just put it on the shelf until now. A little detective work tells me this is the second printing, which came out in May 1977 -and I do recall getting it not long before I saw the film, but as I have mentioned in the past around these parts, our town didn't actually get Star Wars until July 1977! So here I had this absolutely amazing book, chock full of photos and the entire story of the film, and it tortured me. Oh, how it tortured me. I did look at all of the pictures and read the captions -heck, I had been reading articles about "The Star Wars" in Starlog for a year or so, so I knew some of the details already. But somehow, I pulled together every ounce of willpower I had and did not read the novel until after I saw the film. And then I had questions. Like -how come we didn't see Luke go to Mos Eisley and meet Biggs in the film? We never saw Jabba in the movie. And so on. Of course, all those scenes that were cut have now been shown in out takes or, sadly in some cases (Jabba), reworked and put back in the films. But you get the idea. I have read that the novel was ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster from George Lucas' script and notes. Re-reading some scenes, it's interesting how they differ from the film - certainly, the dialog seems even worse in the book than the film, and that's saying something. Look, I love Star Wars, but dialog was never Lucas' strong suit.

Karen: If you have never seen this early movie tie-in, it's a beauty. I wish I could show you all of the color photo mid-section (16 pages of photos, as the cover says), but my poor copy is falling apart. I could barely hold it open to take a few pics. But it still looks great. It has photos of all the major characters along with brief bios. I like how Darth Vader is described as using his "extrasensory powers" to keep the Emperor in power -it's the Force, not ESP! Also, R2 and C3PO are called robots, not droids. I can just imagine some low-level copywriter going through all the notes from the studio  and trying to make it sound less weird. No one back then knew what the heck the Force or a Jedi was. Also interesting is that in the pages describing the production of the film, American Graffiti is referenced no less than four times. I know it was popular, but still! Then again, what else did Lucas have going for him at that point? Well, certainly he has a few other things on his resume now.


Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, that's a cool book to have. You should maybe think about getting it restored - it can probably done at a pretty reasonable price, I would think.
I used to have the standard, pocketbook adaptation novel; it had the same cover, but no photos inside (it was a hand-me-down from my older sister - I only read around the time Empire came out, together with the Empire adaptation novel). However, not long after Star Wars came out, I had some kind of children's adaptation picture book, which had those same photographs (and with some similar captions, although they weren't as long and detailed as these). And yes, like you, I looked over those pictures again and again - even after seeing the movie. Back in those days before the possibility of video rentals, much less YouTube, it was pretty much the only way to sort of re-live the experience...

Humanbelly said...

I know I've read the same adaptation that edo's referring to-- but for the life of me I can't recall any of it making its own distinct impression. I think, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, that first story's "natural" incarnation was indeed as a film, and anything else either a) highlights some of the story's weaker aspects (dialog), or b) can't hope to convey the full thrill and impact that is inherently part of a moving picture. The novelization of ALIEN is a bit of a different story-- still works darned well as a space/horror novel.

Man, that uninvested copy writer must be cringing in embarrassment at this point. "Unfamiliar" terms that he pointedly avoided are now completely assimilated words in our common vocabulary!


david_b said...

I don't think about it often, but I still marvel at all the initial movie offerings and magazines. I'm certain I have next to ALL the posterbooks, magazines, toys and books from 1977-1978 as anyone else here (of age..) ever bought.

While many tons of cool SW stuff came out after 'Empire Strikes Back' it became more of a FRANCHISE to me and the coolness factor quickly faded. Personally, if I buy any SW stuff, it's only the Fan Club or other merchandise before 1983. Granted I know 'the franchise' wheels were already in motion, most of it still has that 'grassroots' homegrown feel to it. As for this book, I still remember reading it a few times all the way through, then Alan Dean Foster's 'Splinter of the Minds Eye'. Just a very exciting time.

Also, the original Hildebrandt poster my Dad bought for me back on May 22, 1977 still remains pristine and unframed. It's gorgeous.

Edo Bosnar said...

Ah, Splinter of the Mind's Eye. I read that not long after the SW and Empire novels - when I was devouring all of the Star Wars prose (like the first three Han Solo novels, and the first Lando novel that came out not long after Empire). Anyway, you can tell it was written well before any of the story elements of Empire were released to the broader public, because I recall it really, strongly implied that Luke and Leia were on the way to becoming a couple.

JJ said...

What a welcome sight this post was. I actually laughed a bit. I had this book back in 77 and I flipped through that photo insert so many times the pages fell out. I treasured that book, so much so that two years ago in a fit of nostalgia I ordered a copy online just to have it in my paperback collection again (I nabbed a copy of Splinter of the Mind's Eye too). The Star Wars novelization was one of the beacons of my childhood, if you will, and just looking at it makes me happy.

I'm a bit of a Star Wars fuddy duddy. I never read anything Star Wars-related beyond those two books and I don't have any particular fondness for the comics or the video games or the later trilogy of films. I have a meager interest in the new movie and it saddens me a bit that I find I'm just not that excited about it. I'll go see it of course, but for me the magic lies in the first three films. That was such a magical time and I'm so happy I was just the right age to experience the phenomenon as it actually occurred. My tastes have changed over the years, but for that reason Star Wars remains my favorite movie to this day.

Anonymous said...

I never had this as a kid, but I had the Empire Strikes Back novelization; I recently bought a new edition containing all three novelizations of the original trilogy, so I finally got to read Star Wars.

There being no movie theatres near me, I'll probably read the novel of The Force Awakens long before I see the movie.

Mike Wilson

pfgavigan said...


I picked up the first run edition, the one with a Ralph McQuarrie painting on the cover.

Quite frankly, it's replacement was an improvement.

It was a nice adaptation all things considered. Alan Dean Foster was given a lot of free reign in terms as how he wrote. One line still stands clear in my mind even after all this time.

"Whoever was at the controls of the supple freighter was neither unconscious nor insane -- well, perhaps slightly touched, but fully in command nonetheless."

The most accurate description of Han Solo ever.



Martinex1 said...

I think it is interesting that there were such elaborate color photos in a paperback adaptation. Was that common? Also, just a question on the frequency of novelizations; was it common for smaller films to have adaptations like this planned and implemented? Star Wars started out as a B film, didn’t it? It wasn’t until it was released that the blockbuster aspect took shape, so it surprises me a little that such adaptations were planned and budgeted for. Does anybody know if that was just standard practice? Or do I have some interpretation wrong?

pfgavigan said...


Hey Martinex1

I don't know if Star Wars was ever intended as a 'B' picture. Lucas had hit the big time earlier with American Graffiti and was definitely considered an up and comer. It certainly didn't lack for publicity.

Hollywood, at the time, was in the midst of a 'Take Me Seriously' moment where a lot of directors were looking abroad to Europe for inspiration, or someone to rip off. The best picture of the year was Annie Hall, right before Allen leapt head first into his 'I'm an artist, dammit' stage.



Karen said...

I think the idea that Star Wars was a B picture has been sort of propagated after the fact to make the myth even bigger. In reading about the production it seems like it received pretty substantial support from 20th Century Fox. Alan Ladd was famously a huge champion for the film. There were a lot of problems during filming and concerns about if it would work, but there was a lot riding on it too. Science fiction -fantasy was not a strong genre at the time, and nobody had done anything like what Lucas and crew were doing.

It really is fun to see these early pieces of Star Wars memorabilia, before everything got so formulaic. It's kind of charming in a goofy way to read something about Darth Vader that is oblivious to his role in pop culture. At this early stage, he was just the bad guy.

B Smith said...

"...propagated after the fact to make the myth even bigger"

Quite so! One thing I recall being reiterated in all the publicity when it came out was the fact that its budget was a whopping $10.5 million. In 1977, this was a very high budget for any film, and a certain indicator that it was getting the A-film treatment.

But as Karen pointed out, the myth often the one where George Lucas was so savvy to get the merchandising rights - overlooking the fact that everyone, including Lucas, thought they were pretty well worthless given that the film was widely expected to be a poor performer at the box office.

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