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Have Cheetah,Will Review #26 – “Elstree 1976”

It’s 7:43 pm

Like so many folks,I am a “Star Wars” fan….while not a fanatic,I have been known to read a Star Wars novel here or there. I thought the first three movies were far superior to the 2nd trilogy. While I think Star Trek is endlessly better,Star Wars does have the much more badass ships,I mean,can you see a Imperial Super Star Destroyer come out of warp to face the Enterprise???

The first Star Wars came out in 1977 and was a huge hit worldwide. It made huge stars of Harrison Ford,Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill as well as cemented George Lucas as a top director. The Star Wars train blasted off and really,has never slowed down….but what about the other actors who starred in the movie? The ones hidden by makeup or in some cases,Stormtrooper uniforms? Or maybe a extra,while having no dialogue,were featured in key and well loved scenes?

This is the premise behind “Elstree 1976”,a documentary that crowd-funded via Kickstarter and directed by Jon Spira. It is a true labor of love and respect and for the most part,Spira does a fine job in capturing the pride,envy and in some cases,regret from the 9 men and 1 woman interviewed here.

The film starts off by introducing each actor by the make-up or costume they each wore.
Each person then shares their role in the film with a small clip showing them in the film.
Some folks are literally on film for a split second while others do have speaking parts that actually are in today’s pop culture.
The most well known name in this documentary is David Prowse,who played Darth Vader but whose voice was famously done by James Earl Jones. What is interesting is watching the filming and hearing Prowse acting out the script,he had no idea that his voice would be replaced after filming was completed.
The actors share what they have been (or have not) been doing in the time since the film was completed,while some went on to a small measure of success,many have led normal lives,they talk about “what might have been”.
Two things that really stand out is how fan conventions have really helped these folks but the politics behind the tables is something else. The infighting between a actor who had a few lines of dialogue versus someone who was just an extra really catches one’s attention. I found it personally sad to see and instead of a group who should have bonded over their shared experiences,are left bitter and jealous of each other.
The other thing is how Prowse has been treated by George Lucas and Disney. He has been banned from all official Star War events and reunions because of a falling out with Lucas.
He said he got in trouble when he signed pictures “David Prowse IS Darth Vader”. Why would he get in trouble over that? The fallout was a costly one as while Prowse played Vader in all three films,Lucas decided to use Sebastian Shaw in “Return of the Jedi” as Anakin Skywalker once Luke removed Vader’s mask and at the end of film as Luke looks at his father and Obi-Wan. Poor Shaw was digitally replaced himself by  Hayden Christensen in later editions of “Jedi”.

This is a very well made film,it really does a good job in capturing what the spirit of some of folks who were forever made famous,even if it was for a split second. Spira treats everyone he chats with with respect and gives each of the 10 actors interviewed time enough to express themselves. “Elstree 1976” runs for 90 minutes but plays much faster.
There are no extras on the DVD release which would have been nice to see but on a tight budget,I can see why that happened.

The cheetah and I both liked this and give it the thumb/paws up!


4 thoughts on “Have Cheetah,Will Review #26 – “Elstree 1976”

  1. This is amazing, to go to all that trouble to find everyone and interview them for a film like this. It is such a lovely idea to see behind the scenes and into the future in this way.

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