Can you remember when you heard for the very first time about a little something called Star Wars?
For me, it was seeing the artwork below. It graced an article in the Daily Express back in 1977 about how the film - not then released in the UK - had been decimating box-office records in America all summer long. It was a phenomenon that caused a revolution in the movie industry that we still see the effects of today. Merchandising a film became a lucrative priority overnight. Every studio began to develop their own big-budget SF epic - Star Trek The Motion Picture, The Black Hole, Moonraker...yes, even 007 was propelled into space to capitalise on the genre du jour.
The picture above is one of conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie's renderings for the climactic X-wing assault down the Death Star trench. McQuarrie's illustrations shaped the look of the original trilogy, his designs for robots, spaceships and alien worlds bringing to life George Lucas' script. The kinetic energy of the artwork burst out of the black-and-white newsprint. Even in monochrome, it was an arresting image. Wow, my 12 year old self thought, a scene like this is going to be in a film? Cool! My ticket was mentally bought then and there.
Star Wars opened on May 25th 1977 in the US but didn't reach the UK until much later. I finally saw it in early 1978 on the magnificent Gaumont 2 screen in Bournemouth - now regrettably diced up into a multiplex. By that time, I had already read the novelisation, the comic books, the making-of...I knew the story backwards and the characters were like old friends. No plot surprises then but what hit me for six was the film's scope. It was huge - literally like nothing I had ever seen before. Spaceships fought dogfights across the silver screen, planets exploded in Dolby stereo, the hero fought with a cool weapon called a lightsaber... it was pulp science fiction brought lovingly to widescreen life.
Then came the sequels - the (arguably) even better Empire Strikes Back and the spectacular but somehow less impressive Return Of The Jedi. And then sixteen years later, along came the prequels....
Let's not go there. Instead, we will be returning to that galaxy far, far away later this year, with the arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The early signs - the choice of JJ Abrams to direct, Empire alumnus Lawrence Kasdan co-writing the screenplay, the cast - were promising. Then there was the first sight of actual footage in the shape of a teaser trailer. A trailer that - for some youngster out there - will have been their own very first introduction to the Star Wars universe...
Thanks to the excellent Episode Nothing blog for providing the Evening Echo ad. Do click on the link to read Darren Slade's own recollections of seeing Star Wars in Bournemouth back in '78.