The feature-length documentary A Disturbance In The Force delves into the bizarre history of 1978’s ill-advised Star Wars Holiday Special. It’s out next month.
Bea Arthur out of The Golden Girls tending the Cantina bar in Mos Eisley. Stormtroopers disco dancing. Kris Kristofferson dressed up as Han Solo for some reason. Yes, 1978’s Star Wars Holiday Special offers up such an array of bizarre, fever dream imagery that it has long since passed into legend.
Initially conceived as a stop-gap to tide fans over during the long wait between 1977’s Star Wars and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, a mixture of somewhat relaxed quality control and 1970s US television conventions saw the special emerge as a glittery variety show rather than fantastical space opera. The results were so jarring that George Lucas has since attempted to scrub its existence from history (though you’ll still find rough bootleg videos of it on YouTube if you’re so inclined).
Forty-five years later, a new documentary, A Disturbance In The Force, attempts to dig into exactly what happened. Directed by Jeremy Coons and Steve Kozak, it manages to track down a few of those involved in the special, including Donny Osmond, who was among the top celebrities who actually appeared in it (he dressed up as Luke Skywalker). Inevitably, there are a bunch of people who clearly declined to talk about the whole experience, not least Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Lucas himself.
Still, it sounds like a fascinating dive into a thoroughly out-there early chapter in Star Wars history, and judging by Variety’s review, Coons and Kozak approach the subject with fondness as well as snark – the special does, after all, have its fans dotted around the globe. And lest we forget, we have the Star Wars Holiday Special to thank for the first appearance of Boba Fett.
If it sounds like your kind of thing, there’s good news: A Disturbance In The Force will make its debut on Blu-ray and digital services on 5th December – the fabled Life Day celebrated by the Wookies, at least according to Holiday Special lore.
You can pre-order the disc or digital version from the documentary’s website. In the meantime, here’s the trailer: