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Movies Star Wars Prequels

The Lost Film That Accompanied Empire Strikes Back 195

Posted by timothy
from the first-reel dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'Alien' and 'Star Wars' art director Roger Christian was given £25,000 by George Lucas in 1979 to make a 25-minute medieval B-feature called 'Black Angel.' This spiritual tale of a knight on a strange quest was inspired by Christian's near-fatal fever when he fell ill in Mexico making 'Lucky Lady.' 'Black Angel' made a huge impression, not least because it shared the dark tone of 'Empire Strikes Back.' John Boorman showed it to the crew of 'Excalibur' as a template for how he wanted his film to look, and 'Black Angel' went on to influence films such as 'Dragonslayer' and 'Legend' throughout the 1980s and beyond. But it has not been seen by anyone since 'Empire' finished its theatrical run. Two weeks ago Roger Christian unearthed a print of a film that was thought lost forever, and in this interview he talks about 'Black Angel,' and provides the only picture from the film that has ever hit the Internet."
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The Lost Film That Accompanied Empire Strikes Back

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:01PM (#31430872) Journal

    This spiritual tale of a knight on a strange quest was inspired by Christian's near-fatal fever when he fell ill in Mexico ...

    That is oddly similar to the car crash that Lucas experienced shortly before graduating high school in his Autobianchi Bianchina on June 12, 1962. It was a bad wreck that I guess was highly improbable for him to survive. He was going to be a mechanic and race cars until that accident. He is also said to have conceived the idea for "the Force" as it would grow (by assimilation of aspects of some Eastern spiritual philosophies) into the "hokey religions and ancient weapons" of Star Wars. Proof that near death experiences have a very profound effect on people.

    I'd provide a citation but I remember reading that off the back of a Topps Galaxy Star Wars card when I was a kid.

    • and ... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "While James Cameron was on a trip to Italy he became very ill with high fever. One night he had a terrible nightmare about a huge robot with red-glowing eyes that was trying to kill him."

      • Re:and ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:13PM (#31431048)

        I once had a fever dream that I would be up-ranked to +5 Insightful after making a meaningless self-referential post as an AC on Slashdot.

        • You know that feeling when your leaning back in a chair and almost fall but catch yourself at the last instant? I feel like that all the time.
        • by dcollins (135727)

          Your Jedi mind-tricks don't work on us!

          Oh, uh... oh, geez.

          The Force is strong with this one.

        • Too bad you ended up getting the points as an AC. Bummer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by wideBlueSkies (618979) *

        And the Cylons were born. It was the Cylons, right?

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Man, these guys have wild dreams and become billionaire filmmakers.

        In my dreams, I have to take an exam that I didn't study for, and I'm naked, and then I fall from a high place. That's it.

        No wonder I ain't never did shit.

      • Re:and ... (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:56PM (#31431614)

        Don't forget that George McFly had no dreams of becoming a successful writer until he had a near-death experience with Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Zordak (123132)

        "While James Cameron was on a trip to Italy he became very ill with high fever. One night he had a terrible nightmare about a huge robot with red-glowing eyes that was trying to kill him."

        Weird that he skipped the red-glowing eyes. But I guess that would've made it too blatantly obvious from the very beginning that Kate Winslet was the evil robot.

    • I'd provide a citation but I remember reading that off the back of a Topps Galaxy Star Wars card when I was a kid.

      This is Slashdot. That is a citation!
      • Let me put it on Wikipeda, using this as a citation!

        The Alternate Reality Alliance
        — “Changing reality, one edit at a time!”

    • by wjousts (1529427)

      Proof that near death experiences have a very profound effect on people.

      Rubbish. That's confirmation bias. I bet there are lots of people who had near death experiences that just shrugged it off and didn't change a thing.

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        Pretty much. Rolled my '72 Nova down I-90, about 50 miles east of Cle Elum. People that stopped said it rolled sideways several times and then flipped end for end. I just remember it suddenly pulling left in to the median and then there was a crowd of people around the car as the firemen pried open the drivers door. Other than a bump on the head and a scratch on one finger, I was perfectly fine. The roof of the car was crushed down to where the was just a few inches of opening where the windows were, except

    • by Gilmoure (18428)

      I have a bunch of those cards from back then. I should dig them out of storage. I also have some Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Space 1999 and a lot of baseball and football cards from the 70's. Would be cool to show to my daughter.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "Proof that near death experiences have a very profound effect on people. "
      no, it's not. thanks for trying to play.

    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      I'd provide a citation but I remember reading that off the back of a Topps Galaxy Star Wars card when I was a kid.

      I read the basic outline of this story in Pollock's Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas [amazon.com]. The accident clearly had an effect on his life -- he was in the hospital for months with a collapsed lung -- and at the time he was a D student, he was about to fail out of senior year and not get a diploma. He was passed out of high school mainly because his teachers took pity on him after th

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:04PM (#31430896) Journal

    But do your other plans for the Black Angel story make you think twice about releasing it?

    Do you know something? I'm wrestling with this. I was talking about it yesterday. I still get letters, still get emails, there are threads on the IMDB going on and on about it - people guessing the story and how much it affected their mindsbut I just wonder if I brought it out now, thirty years later

    I haven't seen it in thirty years myself, but I wonder if its imitators have devalued it a little, the way seven years of The X-Files made Silence Of The Lambs look dated

    Exactly.

    It might look like a copy of the films and TV that it inspired, which have been in circulation ever since.

    I assure you that I am quite capable of appreciating Kurosawa's Yojimbo and Sanjuro despite the fact that I had already seen Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy which massively borrows from them. I'm certain you were able to appreciate The Hidden Fortress after making the Star Wars Trilogy as well. So why do you doubt my ability to appreciate Black Angel?

    I mean, if you choose not to release it then you have no intent to capitalize off of it and you should release it online via Veoh or YouTube or some video hosting site. Wouldn't the popularity and enjoyment from the film reward you in some way -- with it being your first film that you labored over?

    I mean, even if it's just film snobs to appreciate it ... even if it's just a reason for people to brag that they've seen one of the original fantasy films ... even if it's just a chance for me to one up another person in conversation and promote my anti-social tendencies ... why wouldn't you release it in someway for the general public to digest in their homes?

    • I absolutely agree. This is not something for popular culture as much as for those few enthusiasts who would appreciate it for what it is. A NetFlix exclusive perhaps?
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:48PM (#31431476) Homepage

      Personally I'm wondering how Silence of the Lambs looks dated because of X-Files. Or at all for that matter.

    • by mpapet (761907)

      why wouldn't you release it in someway for the general public to digest in their homes?

      1. The currency of hollywood is revenue. Art has nothing to do with it. I know, I know, tons will differ. But the artists are employed because of the revenue created, not the other way around. Showing things for free is a universally bad thing if he wants to stay in the industry.
      2. Getting distribution is not simple or cheap. It would be a great deal of money to get started. Probably his own.
      3. The executive side o

    • by Z34107 (925136)

      He might not want to release it because if everything since borrows so much from it, it would look cliche. What if they discovered the first "Boy meets girl" drama from 467 BC and re-released it? The plot certainly wouldn't be as novel to a modern audience. And they would probably call it "Twilight."

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Star Wars and the Hidden fortress really have nothing in common.

      Plus I did see the film in the theater, and if it is released, suddenly thousand or people will be claiming to have seen it in a theater~

      That said, yes please release it.

  • Digital Dark Age (Score:4, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:15PM (#31431080)
    In those days history was lost because of issues with physically duplicating things. Nowadays, it is being lost because we don't own the keys to the digital locks. Perhaps in twenty years we'll come to our senses and retroactively permit the breaking of today's encryption then - for what survived.
    • Exactly, in the end I think we will have more information from the past century then we will of the present century. Everything has been so locked down in incompatible file formats. Yes, piracy will preserve and archive some popular works, but for everything else it will simply be lost. We look so regretfully on historical documents we have lost, yet we are blinded to see that 50 years or less from now we might not even have working copies of software, movies, music and e-books that have shaped our generati
  • I mean, if his _Battlefield Earth_ is anything to go by..

    Also, did he hold the camera straight?

    • by iluvcapra (782887)
      Indeed, Roger Christian is most .. um... noted nowadays for having directed Battlefield Earth , a job he got, one suspects, on the basis of his credit as second unit director on TPM. You can see him in a lot of the behind-the-scenes footage, he's the one with the English accent and the long gray hair.
  • I saw TESB the first week it was in theaters (I think it was like day 5). I distinctly remember the theater, the standing in line wrapping around the building in downtown DC for like an hour, and I think I can even picture the interior of the theater, but I do not remember this film. Perhaps it was just too weird for me, but somehow I'd think that it would've been talked about amongst my friends and such.

    So was this included with all prints, or just selected theaters in selected cities?

    • UK / Canada only (Score:4, Informative)

      by dschuetz (10924) <slash@david.dasne[ ]rg ['t.o' in gap]> on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:24PM (#31431174) Homepage

      Okay, checking on IMDB it seems like this was only released in the UK and Canada. So my memory of, Christ, 30-year-old movie experiences, is not yet faulty.

    • I saw TESB first night (at midnight, thank you) in Southern Maine, and I don't recall anything about this 'short'.

      And I was checking the room, and had to stay to the first reel.

      So where indeed was 'Black Angel' shown? Not out in the woods, I can tell ya.

  • The movie to see was the one that (more or less) accompanied the original Star Wars in 1976 -- namely "Alice in Wonderland: An X-rated Musical Fantasy". By far the better movie, a great piece of art that should have been the one that bore 5 sequels.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:23PM (#31431168)
    Joss Whedon's new urban spin-off of Angel [wikipedia.org] with Samuel L. Jackson as the vampire cursed with a soul... "Welcome to the Hellmouth," mother-fucker.
    • You're onto something. I would watch the hell out of that.
      • No you wouldn't.

        It would be on Fox, and they'd show them in a random order, and then pull the show and put up repeats of American Idol.

        Whedon's Angel would then get shoved into the Sunday midnight slot, then cancelled after 5 episodes. Three years later, you'll buy the series for $25 at Walmart.

        • by H0p313ss (811249)

          ... would then get shoved into the Sunday midnight slot, then cancelled after 5 episodes. Three years later, you'll buy the series for $25 at Walmart.

          Not that we're bitter...

          I'm kind of torn on the whole Firefly fiasco, on one hand the best SciFi TV show of all time died in childbirth, on the other hand we have an absolutely amazing work of art: one seasons worth of episodes that are unsullied by the eventual shark-jumping that would have eventually happened.

          Though I would LOVE to know where Whedon intended to go with Shepard Book.

          • Yeah, one of the more disappointing aspects of them canning the series was the fact that some story lines didn't get completely evolved, and Book was a great character.

            I really don't know why shows like this do get canceled, when there is such utter derivative crap on TV - actually come to think of it almost everything I see on TV these days is utter derivative low-budget crap...

            When they added all those other channels, the amount of money available for TV show production remained a constant I guess, so now

            • It's ROI.

              Shows like Survivor, American Idol, and other "reality" shows garner huge ratings, big advert revenue, and supplementary streams with the $1-per-vote call-ins. They cost less than shows with CG and writing and make more. You can't sell against that.

              Book's past wouldn't have ever been revealed. He gave up his past life and forgave himself. The guy he used to be was dead and there was no need to speak of him.

          • I'm kind of torn on the whole Firefly fiasco, on one hand the best SciFi TV show of all time died in childbirth, on the other hand we have an absolutely amazing work of art: one seasons worth of episodes that are unsullied by the eventual shark-jumping that would have eventually happened.

            I feel the same way about that and Defying Gravity [wikipedia.org] - $35 for complete series (1 season) - sigh.

    • Hellooo HBO!
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Oh thank god. I was worried it was going to be a movie starring Martin Lawrence as a wise-cracking [blank] who dies but gets sent back to earth so that he can [blank] while continuing to crack wise.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Internalist (928097)

      I think you meant...

      Joss Whedon's new urban spin-off of Angel with Samuel L. Jackson as the vampire cursed with soul...

      :D

    • by geekoid (135745)

      That would be a hell of a lot better then his Jedi character.

  • A spiritual work set in the middle ages with amazing cinematography and music, Black Angel took the gritty medieval realism of Monty Python And The Holy Grail and returned it to its roots in Mallory, Tennyson and Kurosawa.

    I don't know - here's the Holy Grail returned to another root....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luVjkTEIoJc [youtube.com]

    Space epic.... coincidence? I think not!

  • I don't believe it! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hitman_Frost (798840)

    Finally, I find this by chance and find the name of the short film I've been trying to find out about for the last 30 years...

    And it's not available to buy... *sigh*

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