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Star Wars - Special Edition
Length:125 min
Cast:Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing and Anthony Daniels.
Credits:Directed and written by George Lucas. Cinematography by Gilbert Taylor. Music by John Williams. A Twentieth Century Fox re-release.
Awards:Academy Awards winner: John Barry, Norman Reynold and Leslie Diddley; costume designer John Mollo; sound technicians Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler and Derek Ball; film editors Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas (Mrs. George), and Richard Chew; visual effects wizards John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune, Robert Blalack; sound effects creator Benjamin Burtt Jr and the musical score by John Williams.

Star Wars opens in Saturday afternoon serial fashion with the subtitle "Chapter Four: A New Hope" (it was originally intended as a nine-parter). As laser blasts punctuate the sound track, damsel-in-distress Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hurriedly plants a vital message in the memory banks of faithful robot R2D2 (Kenny Baker). Leia is then captured by the Imperial Forces--overseen by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and general Darth Vader (David Prowse, voice of James Earl Jones)--and held hostage on the Death Star. Barely escaping, robot buddies R2D2 and C3PO (Anthony Daniels) wander the desert of the planet Tatooine, then are rounded up by junk dealers for sale on the used-spaceware market. The action shifts to young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who yearns to experience life beyond his uncle's farm. After helping his uncle purchase R2D2 and C3PO, he inadvertently plays back Leia's message, which leads him to an introductory visit to Obie Wan Kenobe (Alec Guiness), an old friend of Luke's late father. The aging Kenobe tells the wide-eyed Luke about the insidious Empire and the ethereal "Force." When Luke returns home, he finds a pile of charred ruins and the befouled corpses of his uncle and aunt. Now he knows he must continue the fight against the Empire, which he does with the grudging help of mercenary Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca the Wookie (Peter Mayhew). Star Wars was initially intended as a new feature-length version of the old Flash Gordon serial, but Lucas couldn't secure the rights. He rearranged the Flash Gordon characters a bit, changed their names, and added ingredients from a few of his favorite films, among them Yojimbo, The Hidden Fortress, and The Searchers. Though Lucas' American Graffiti had been a surprise success for Universal in 1974, the studio turned Star Wars down flat, arguing that there hadn't been a truly successful science-fiction feature since 2001: A Space Odyssey. Lucas took his project to 20th Century-Fox, which, having done quite well with its Planet of the Apes films, was more receptive to a "space opera." Targeted at an $8.5 million budget and a Christmas 1976 release, the film almost immediately went over budget and over schedule. Shooting commenced in Tunisia, then moved to London's Pinewood Studios; at both locations, the production was plagued by intramural squabbling and unenthusiastic crew members, but at long last principal photography was completed. The film was then turned over to Lucas' fledgling Industrial Light and Magic special-effects division, which under the tutelage of John Dykstra literally performed miracles (and inflated the budget even farther). Bursting onto movie screens in the summer of 1977, Star Wars reaped a 200% profit on its investment-the biggest box-office hit of its time. In addition, nearly $3 billion was accrued on the ancillary merchandising of Star Wars toys, games and dolls, a cash cow that has still not run dry.

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