Monthly Archives: May 2015


My introduction to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films was Army of Darkness, the third entry in the series and the one that’s the least “Evil Dead-ish” of them all. (It’s more “Ray Harryhausen meets The Three Stooges” than “the ultimate experience in grueling terror,” which was the tagline for the original Evil Dead.) It’s also my favorite of the series, which I’m sure would disgust the hard-core fans of the franchise and means I’m probably not the target audience for the upcoming cable-TV continuation, Ash vs. Evil Dead. Nevertheless, the teaser that hit the ‘nets today makes me a little giddy:

I really like the ideas behind this series, i.e., it’s set in current time and takes the age of star Bruce Campbell into account; that Ash (Campbell’s character) has, ahem, problems based on his earlier experiences; that the Deadites (the evil of the title) have been quiet for 20 years (the real-world time since Army of Darkness) but are now roaring back to life; that Ash is some kind of whacked-out Obi-Wan Kenobi figure for a couple of younger sidekicks; and that there’s a mysterious woman (played by Lucy Lawless of Xena fame) hunting Ash, because she blames him for the Evil loose in the world (and she’s right!). Basically it sounds like Raimi and Campbell, along with producer Rob Tapert, have really worked out how to logically continue this franchise decades after the last entry, rather than just rebooting it or recasting a younger actor or pretending no time has passed.

You can read up on the details here, if you’re so inclined; Ash vs. Evil Dead will premiere on the Starz network this fall…


Musings on a Rainy Afternoon

“Do any of us get beyond the boundaries of the selves we start with?” — David Gessner

Raindrops pattered against my leather jacket as I walked through Salt Lake’s Avenues neighborhood the other day. I carried an umbrella in my hand, but the light drizzle wasn’t yet annoying enough to bother unfurling it. In fact, I was rather enjoying the sensation of rain on my face without the bother of getting spots on my glasses. (LASIK is a pretty amazing thing.)

The Avenues aren’t far from the campus of my alma mater, the University of Utah, and I often find myself thinking about my college days when my constitutionals lead me there. On this particular afternoon, the location, combined with the soft, gray light and an evocative podcast playing through my earbuds, guaranteed a wander down Memory Lane.

The podcast was an interview with the writer David Gessner, who has just published a book on the authors Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey. If you’ve never heard of those two, you’re probably not from around here. Although they themselves chafed at the idea of being called “regional writers,” they were profoundly influenced by the landscape and cultures of the American West, and they are enormously significant in the eyes of Western literati. I know Abbey by reputation only — I’ve never gotten around to reading him — but I studied the works of Stegner as a lit major at the U, and while I didn’t exactly idolize him, I found many things about him and his career worth emulating. I came within a whisker of meeting him, too: My professor for that class was acquainted with him and trying to set up a classroom visit just before the unfortunate car accident that took Stegner’s life in 1993.

I remember being utterly enamored at the time with the idea of Western writers. Up to that point, pretty much all the literature-with-a-capital-L I’d encountered had been Southern, or Eastern, or European. I’d studied Shakespeare and the British Victorians and the American Realists. I’d read Nadine Gordimer (South African) and Thomas Keneally (Australian), but somehow I’d never run across a literary novel with its origins in the Western United States. (The Mountain West, I mean; California doesn’t count, Frank Norris.) To discover, right at the tail end of my undergraduate career, that there were writers from my part of the country, who wrote about places I recognized and in dialects I knew, was revelatory for me. And I remember thinking that this revelation might be the key to my own future. I imagined a career for myself studying these writers, and writing my own novels and non-fiction rooted in the surroundings I’d grown up with.

I was so naive. It physically hurts to remember how naive I was then. There are a lot of reasons why I didn’t end up with a career in academia, why I didn’t even go any farther with my education than a bachelor’s degree, but if I’m honest, the biggest one is that I was just too damn ignorant to make it happen. I spent my college years so narrowly focused on the task at hand — making the grades so I could keep my scholarship so I could keep making the grades, rinse and repeat — that I never bothered to figure out what I was going to do after I graduated. When that day came, I didn’t understand how to research or apply for grad schools, or even where I could turn for help. It was as if I’d been sleeping off a hangover while a really important orientation session was held, or something. Needless to say, my last-minute, half-hearted, half-assed efforts to get into some kind of graduate program didn’t take me very far.

Looking back, it was probably for the best. From my adult, middle-aged perspective, I don’t think I’m very well-suited for the politics and the insular, ivory-tower irrelevance that I now see as the hallmarks of career academia. My idea of what it was like to be a professor came mostly from Dead Poets Society, and I now understand that my ideas of how one should study literature were somewhat… outdated. Superficial, even. Oh, don’t get me wrong… I don’t have a guilty conscience about whether I really deserve my BA. I read the texts, I wrote the papers, I passed the tests. I even learned some things along the way. But I could never make the cognitive leaps that my classmates did when they were analyzing something. In the words of a professor who tried to help me grasp what a Master’s in literature would require, I never dug deeply enough. It was like a blind spot for me; I just couldn’t figure out how to get beyond the high-school-level concern with themes and imagery. Moreover, I didn’t really want to. All of the esoteric critical approaches that were in vogue then — semiotics, deconstruction, a whole raft of political isms — struck me as vaguely interesting, but of little actual value. I still feel that way. Does a jargon-heavy thought exercise help ordinary, non-English-major people appreciate, understand, or enjoy literature any more? Or is it just about people within a exclusive little domain trying to impress each other? An intellectual circle jerk, if you’ll forgive the vulgarity? Further, it seemed like the point of these “critical theories” was often to tear a text down and show what was wrong with it, rather than admiring what was good and valuable and true in it, and that simply rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, yes, we all know Hemingway was a horrible sexist with a whole raft of psychological issues, but we’re still reading him, right? Why is that, if he and everything he stood for was so terrible? That’s the question the “theorists” never seemed to have an answer for. I didn’t want to destroy the traditional literary canon, I wanted to know why it was canon in the first place… to find the beauty in it. And to share that with others.

I’m pretty sure Wallace Stegner probably felt the same way.

Maybe this is all a rationalization built upon 20 years of hindsight. Certainly I remember being hurt when I started getting the polite “no, thank you” form letters from the handful of programs I applied to. And I was utterly freaked out to be without any clear direction for the first time in my life. But there was also a part of me that was relieved. And that speaks volumes about what I really wanted, or at least didn’t want, doesn’t it? Maybe. Maybe I just didn’t want to put in the effort.

I wonder sometimes if I gave up too easily. If I got lazy or scared or simply discouraged. Maybe I should’ve acted when the professor who taught my Stegner class offered to pull some strings on my behalf with a guy he knew at Louisiana State. If nothing else, taking that path might’ve helped me avoid a decade of floundering until I finally staggered into something that could be called a career. Or maybe not. Maybe I would’ve ended up a decade down a road I really didn’t want to be on, and then I really would have been in a pickle…

Just some of the things I think about when I’m walking in the rain and see a little balcony with French doors, and for just a moment it seems like I can feel the gravitational pull of other lives unlived, tugging at the membrane that forever holds them out of reach.



John Williams on Guitar

This is nifty… a guy named John Huldt has arranged several of John Williams’ best-known movie themes for acoustic guitar and recorded a medley of them. I’ve heard music from the Star Wars movies performed in a number of idioms — I even own a CD of Star Wars “lounge” music — but this minimalist approach yields some pretty interesting results, in particular the Superman theme, which takes on a subtly Mexican sound, and the theme from Jurassic Park, which I’ve always thought was one of Williams’ greatest pieces, a simple little melody that at various points in the movie conveys grandeur, wonder, adventure, and deep melancholy. In Huldt’s hands, it’s simply lovely… I wouldn’t mind an entire album of this stuff!


Friday Evening Videos: “Pac-Man Fever”

Here’s something that will blow your mind, assuming you’re of the same general age as myself: Today is Pac-Man’s 35th birthday. Yes, Pac-Man, that minimalist yellow avatar of insatiable hunger, made his debut in Japan on May 22, 1980. (He wouldn’t arrive in the U.S. until October.)

Younger readers won’t see the significance, I’m sure, but to those of us who were there, Pac-Man was a very big deal indeed. Video games were still in their infancy in 1980, but were fast becoming a generation-defining fad, thanks to the popularity (and near-ubiquity, it seemed then) of Space Invaders and Asteroids. But then came Pac-Man, the first video game that was predicated on an activity other than shooting things (eating things, in this case) as well as the first game (as far as I know) that centered on a relatable, appealing character, unlike the so-called “space shooters” where you controlled a starship of some sort with no personality. Because of that cute little protagonist (and let’s be honest, Pac-Man’s enemies, the ghosts, were pretty cute too), the game actually appealed to girls, expanding a market that had been pretty much limited to the male of the species up until that time. Add the doubled audience to its fiendishly addictive gameplay, and it’s little wonder Pac-Man became the most popular arcade game of all time. The game’s manufacturer, Namco, sold nearly half a million units of the original version (not counting the sequel, Ms. Pac-Man), and continues to produce variations of it for every gaming platform now in existence. It’s still not unusual to run across a vintage Pac-Man cabinet these days, and it remains as fun and compelling as it ever was, unlike its contemporaries (when was the last time you saw, let alone dropped a quarter into a Space Invaders game?).

But it wasn’t just a popular game. Pac-Man the character became a genuine cultural phenomenon as he was licensed to all sorts of ancillary products and media. Pac-Man turned up on t-shirts and school folders, there were (still are!) toys of every description, there was a Saturday-morning cartoon series on television, and you could even eat Pac-Man cereal… if you were brave enough.

And on the radio there was the novelty song “Pac-Man Fever” by a duo called Buckner & Garcia.

Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia had had some success with novelty songs before, and even co-wrote the lyrics for the extended version of the WKRP in Cincinnati theme song, which was released as a single in 1979. But it was a silly little ditty about a hot new fad that really gave them their 15 minutes. The song hit number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in March 1982. Here’s a clip of them performing it on the television series Solid Gold, which if you don’t recall — and if you don’t, I’m really sorry, because the Solid Gold Dancers were something, man! — was a syndicated television countdown of the top-ten pop hits of the week, featuring live (or more often lip-synched) performances by the stars themselves. I never missed it back in the day.

Ladies and gentlemen, Buckner & Garcia in a perfect time capsule from a better era:



Sunday Morning Playlist: Ben E. King

On Friday, we lost the master bluesman B.B. King. On a Friday two weeks ago, I learned that we’d lost the great R&B singer Ben E. King. Apparently I need to stop reading the news on Fridays.

Ben E. King is best known for recording the sublime “Stand by Me,” which he coauthored with the legendary songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller; it’s one of the greatest ballads of the early rock era, as well as one of my personal all-time favorites. But Ben’s smooth, expressive voice was also the key to a string of other classic hits, both with The Drifters and in a later solo career. I grew up on this stuff, listening to my mom’s scratchy old 45s and, later, to the oldies station that was about the only thing the tired old AM radio in my beloved ’63 Galaxie could actually pick up. Hearing it always makes me feel mellow and happy, so I figure it’s the perfect background music for this crystal-clear Sunday morning following all the rain yesterday. I’m off to pour another cup of joe and fix me some eggs; enjoy!

Bonus: This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Ben E. King and “Stand By Me.” Check out my earlier entry on the subject…


Review: Mad Max Fury Road


I am baffled by the level of hype surrounding director George Miller’s return to the Max Max mythos. As of this morning, Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator website, is showing Fury Road has a 98% positive rating, out of 211 reviews counted. That’s highly unusual; I’d wager most films don’t crack 75% on that thing. Meanwhile, the fanboy gushing on social media has become frankly kind of embarrassing. One of my Facebook friends actually compared seeing this film to losing one’s virginity; he said something to the effect of, “You know going in that’s going to be good, but it turns out to be so much more than you imagined.” Um, yeah… okay. I saw Fury Road last night and, well… it wasn’t like that.

It’s an okay movie. It’s well-crafted and entertaining enough, and the visuals are frequently quite beautiful, if stark. It has some interesting ideas underlying the mayhem. But overall I just don’t see what everybody is losing their damn minds about. The only thing I can figure is that it’s been so long since anyone saw a movie with real stuntmen facing real danger on real machines, in service of action scenes that are actually intelligible, that people are getting kind of drunk on the idea. Or something.

I should probably stipulate that I am a big fan of the original Max trilogy that starred Mel Gibson, especially The Road Warrior, or Mad Max 2 as it’s known in much of the rest of the world. But this isn’t another case of me stamping my feet and getting in a snit over one of my personal touchstones getting remade by the insatiable Hollywood branding machine. Honest. I really tried to keep an open mind with this one, and in any event, it’s never quite clear if Fury Road is meant to be an out-and-out reboot anyhow. There’s nothing in the film that suggests this Max is the same character that Gibson played, but there also isn’t anything to suggest that he isn’t. There are some nice callbacks to the earlier films — I especially liked a subtle one that I’m willing to bet most viewers missed, involving a little hand-cranked music box, which was one of my favorite bits in The Road Warrior — but these are more echoes than specific references to any events from Gibson’s trilogy. And while Fury Road doesn’t fit anyplace in the timeline of the originals, I never got the sense that this one was intended to displace the earlier films either. Rather, it’s just… another Max Max story. Perhaps it’s best to think of it as an alternative Max story, maybe a glimpse of the Max from a parallel universe or something.

I suppose that’s my issue with the movie, now that I think about it. It never feels like it’s happening in our world. Everything is too outlandish, too over-the-top. The original trilogy — well, the first two, anyhow — had a fairly modest scope, in part because of their limited budgets, but also because of the stories they were telling. They were human-scale stories, and that was a big part of what I’ve always liked about them. I’ve always been able to imagine the people in those stories were once backyard hot-rod enthusiasts like my dad, forced into doing whatever they could to survive as the world fell apart around them. It felt real, in some way, or at least plausible, and that was what made it all so powerful… and so frightening. Fury Road, by contrast, is consciously designed to be epic; George Miller cranked the knob up to 11… and then broke it off. The vehicles, the costumes, the bad guys’ lair, the landscape… none of it looked recognizably devolved from our modern-day civilization so much as the phantasmagorical fantasy of a half-insane gearhead tripping on ‘shrooms while listening to an Iron Maiden album. I’ll be honest, the production design in Fury Road reminded me less of the classic Mad Max trilogy than Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zonewhich, as I recall, was widely panned back in 1983 for being derivative of, yes, The Road Warrior.

And then there’s Tom Hardy, the actor who’s replaced Gibson in the title role. A number of my friends are just ga-ga for this guy, but again I’m the odd man out in that I just don’t see the appeal. Perhaps it’s not fair to judge him based on this movie, as Max is pretty underwritten in Fury Road — I think he has a dozen lines of dialog, maybe? — but I can’t detect much in the way of charisma or magnetism coming from him. As Max, he’s a far more anonymous presence than Gibson was. It’s not that I can’t abide another actor assuming the role; it’s that Hardy brought nothing to the role, in my opinion. He was just… there.

I’m not saying Mad Max Fury Road was a bad movie. It’s not. But I never once felt the adrenaline surge I still experience while watching The Road Warrior. And I doubt I’m going to want to see it again, or remember much about it a year from now. So when I read all the breathlessly enthusiastic comments out there in the InterWebs, when I hear people saying it’s the best movie of the year so far and they just can’t get over its awesomeness, I wonder if I saw the same movie everybody else did.

I suppose this is just one more example of how out of touch with popular culture I’m becoming. I’ve been out of sync with my peers a lot over the past couple of years, liking things other folks say are mediocre, not liking the stuff everybody else is wetting themselves over. I don’t understand what’s happened, where and when I disconnected, and it troubles me. I don’t like being the cranky dissenter all the time. I don’t like feeling like everybody else is in on something that I’m incapable of perceiving. But I guess there isn’t much I can do about it. You like what you like, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch a real Max Max movie…


Friday Evening Videos: “Better Not Look Down”

When I read this morning that the legendary master of the blues guitar, Mr. B.B. King, had passed away overnight at the age of 89, I found myself trying to recall when and where I first became acquainted with his work. Not surprisingly, for me anyhow, it was in a movie.

Now, I had some familiarity with blues music by my early twenties. Like a lot of people — maybe even most people — of my general age, I was introduced to the form by John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, first with their Blues Brothers sketches on Saturday Night Live, and then through the feature film spun off from those. And I’d had an epiphany at some point that much of the rock music I enjoyed was heavily rooted in the blues. (Led Zeppelin took on a whole new dimension for me once I understood that a huge chunk of the oeuvre was simply blues cranked up to 11.) But somehow I remained only vaguely aware of actual blues music.

And then in 1991, I bought the soundtrack for Thelma & Louise, the Susan Sarandon/Geena Davis buddy-adventure movie that had turned out to be an unexpected hit… and unexpectedly controversial. (I never did fully get the gender-based controversy surrounding that film, personally; in spite of what a lot of people were saying, I didn’t think it was hostile to men. On the contrary, I loved it… it remains one of my favorites from that era.) Whatever else you might think of that movie, though, it had a great soundtrack… and one of my favorite tracks on it was “Better Not Look Down” by the King of the Blues himself, B.B. King. I liked it so well, I started exploring the rest of B.B. King’s oeuvre, as well as the rest of the blues genre. And while rock will always be my first love, I soon learned the dividing line between the two is very thin, and there’s a lot of listening pleasure to be found in the blues as well.

This song isn’t what you probably imagine when you think of “the blues.” It’s upbeat and relentlessly optimistic in outlook, without any mention of cheatin’ women or hard times… but I soon learned that there’s a lot more to the blues than just those cliched cries of pain. It is possible to play “happy blues,” for lack of a better word. B.B. King could play both kinds — any kind — with equal grace and mastery.

This version of the song isn’t the exact one that appeared in the film, which I assume was an album track. Instead, this is a live performance from 1983, and while it doesn’t feature much in the way of guitar pyrotechnics, it does show how effortless B.B. made it look, and what a warm, gentlemanly presence he had on stage:

Anne and I had the privilege of seeing him perform live twice, both incredible concerts. Not the raucous, arena-rock spectacles I’m usually drawn to, more like old-fashioned road shows from an earlier time. We had a third opportunity to see him as well, but for reasons I no longer remember, we didn’t make it happen. It seems like there was something else around the same time competing for our attention or our dollars, and I said something brilliant like “We’ve seen him before, we can catch him another time…”


I’d Watch an Entire Series of This!

Any Star Wars fan worth his or her salt knows that George Lucas was heavily inspired by the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s. I also fell in love with those serials as a boy, when they aired on television as part of a locally produced children’s show called Lighthouse 20 (it was on channel 20, get it?). They were pretty primitive looking by the standards of the late 1970s (never mind how they look today!), but I was enchanted by their earnestness and sense of exotic adventure, as well as the compulsively addicting cliffhanger endings of each episode. (It didn’t hurt that the serials were one of the very few bits of sci-fi I could share with my father, who didn’t understand my nerdy obsessions at all but had happy memories of watching these on TV himself as a kid in the 1950s.)

Flash is one of those great characters, like Sherlock Holmes or Superman, who seems to get reinvented every few decades for a new generation, and who can adapt to just about any medium. He started off in a newspaper comic strip written and drawn by the great artist Alex Raymond, and has since appeared in the film serials starring Buster Crabbe; in radio serials; in a 1950s TV show starring Steve Holland; in a variety of animated TV versions; in a plethora of comic books and novels; and of course, in the infamous 1980 feature film that’s likely remembered more for its bombastic soundtrack music by the rock group Queen than anything (although weirdly enough, it’s actually pretty faithful, visually speaking, to Raymond’s original strips!) The most recent effort to revive the character, a live-action series produced for the Sci-Fi Channel in 2007, was a misfire, but I’ve no doubt some big Flash project will be coming along again before too long.

In the meantime, we Gordon fans can content ourselves with a little treasure I’ve just discovered called Flash Gordon Classic, a fan film produced by a professional animator named Robb Pratt, who has worked on a number of features and TV series for Walt Disney Animation Studios. Pratt has blended elements from the ’30s serials (the opening crawl, the music, the giant lizard) and the 1980 feature (Flash’s origin as a football player and Ming’s magical ring), and spiced it up with a bit of Heavy Metal-style pulchritude (you’ll see what I mean), and the end result is, well, charming. Doctor Zarkov sounds a bit too much like Groo from the Despicable Me movies, but that’s a middling complaint. The truth is, I’m in love all over again…

I wish there was more of this… I’d not only watch an entire series of this Flash Gordon, I’d watch the hell out of it!

Hat tip to Christopher Mills, proprietor of the Space: 1970 blog, as well as many other interesting things, including his own Flash-inspired planetary romance comic, Perils on Planet X.


Friday Evening Videos: “South of I-10”

The early ’90s was a frustrating time for me, musically speaking. (Also on a number of other fronts, but hey, we’re talking about music now.)

The debut of those depressing mopes Nirvana and the other Seattle bands — a.k.a. grunge music — had alienated me from what was going on in rock circles; hip-hop had never appealed to me in any way, so its increasing ascendancy and far-reaching influence annoyed me; and between the boy bands and the rise of a certain kind of male balladeer I can only describe as “whiny,” pop music had gone completely to hell. But I wasn’t yet ready to lock my tastes in amber and content myself with listening exclusively to the oldies, so I found myself casting about for… somethinganything I could call “my music.” I even dabbled a bit with country, if you can believe it. I found I enjoyed a lot of older stuff from that genre, notably the 1970s “outlaw” acts like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. But Garth Brooks and other contemporary country stars — in particular, Brooks and Dunn and their damn “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” one of the most irritating (and thus, naturally, catchy) songs I’ve ever been subjected to — were dragging that genre toward a sort of phony sound that was absolutely intolerable to me, so I quickly dropped my explorations there.

It was getting pretty depressing scanning around my radio dial vainly searching for a sound I liked. And then one day I stumbled across a new station called “The Mountain” (I can still remember the call letters: KUMT, 105.7 on the FM dial). According to the scant handful of references I’ve been able to find online, The Mountain’s format was something called “adult album alternative,” a mixture of classic rock from the genre’s earliest days up through the ’80s, with some blues and folk and soul thrown in for good measure. There were deep album cuts from artists I knew for only one or two songs, and stuff by artists I knew but never heard anywhere else on the radio, like the Grateful Dead and Jimmy Buffett. The Mountain was the station that finally identified Marc Cohn as the singer of “Walking in Memphis,” a mystery I’d been trying to solve for at least a year at that point, and it was the station where I first heard Shawn Colvin and Keb’ Mo’ and Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge. The Mountain reminded me very much of the fictional KBHR radio on the television series Northern Exposure, if the comparison means anything to you. It was just plain good music. Naturally it was doomed.

An archival article from 1999 says that “KUMT had never been focused enough in the overloaded Wasatch Front radio market” — that lack of focus being what made it interesting, in my opinion — “and also never attracted a sizable audience.” So overnight, The Mountain switched to 1970s soft rock in the vein of Bread, and thereafter went through a succession of other formats that were progressively less appealing before finally ending up as a right-wing blabfest hosting Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, and others of that ilk. The world moved on.

But every so often… on a night like this one, when the rain is dripping from the eaves outside and the house is growing cool around me… a night when I can’t help remembering the sultry dreams I used to have of living in places a lot more colorful than Salt Lake where I would dance the night away with girls in skintight jeans and sip beer from long-neck bottles beneath the red and blue light of neon signs… I remember The Mountain and the music that expanded my repertoire beyond the hair metal and ’80s pop I still love, but can’t listen to constantly. Music like this song here, by a cat named Sonny Landreth:

That’s not an official video — as far as I can determine, Landreth doesn’t make videos. And I honestly don’t know a lot about him, other than he’s an acknowledged master of slide guitar and has worked with Jimmy Buffett, among others. But I know I love that sound. And I know this is what I used to call good music, back in the day when it didn’t seem like there was a lot of that to be found…


We Forget What It Was Like…

These days, it’s easy to take the original Star Wars film for granted. Nearly 40 years after its release, it seems like it’s just always been there in the background, doesn’t it? We’ve all seen it a hundred (or more) times and we’ve all got it memorized, and there have been five other films and three animated TV spin-offs (so far), not to mention countless books, comics, videogames, toys, posters, and god only knows what else. By my count, three generations of kids have grown up with the saga of a galaxy far, far away as their personal mythology, and it’s very hard now to remember what it was like when it was all new and fresh. Hell, I’ve even heard the Damn Kids™ of today think the first film in the saga — I will not call it A New Hope, sorry — is kind of boring and slow-paced. (Terrible to be so jaded at such a young age!) But that’s not how it used to be.

Here’s a fun little reminder of what it was like when Star Wars was the most exciting, mind-blowing movie-going experience we’d ever had, courtesy of YouTube user William Forsche. It’s an audio recording he made inside a crowded theater on a summer day in 1977. It’s pretty fun to hear the audience grow quieter during Luke’s Death Star trench run… then absolutely silent when “the Death Star has cleared the planet…” and Artoo gets taken out, followed by a spontaneous eruption of joyous applause (and even some tension-relieving laughter) as Han Solo and the Falcon arrive in the nick of time, and again when the DS explodes, and again as the closing credits begin. And check out William’s “pew! pew! pew!” sounds at the very end of the recording, as he and his mom are walking to the car. We all did that, didn’t we? That’s what the experience of the original Star Wars was like. When was the last time you applauded at the end of a big summertime action movie? (I think I did at Godzilla last summer, but you take my point…)

Nice montage of vintage photos, too. As much as I still love the Star Wars franchise and all the imagery associated with it, my very favorite iconography remains the stuff that came out in those very earliest years between Star Wars and Empire, 1977-80…

I found this on Boing Boing, of course.