The story behind the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special is the focus of the documentary A Disturbance in the Force, which — following its premiere at Sundance earlier this year — will head to streaming and DVD this December.
The ill-fated special, which aired Thanksgiving weekend in 1978, is now legend: Fresh off the success of Star Wars, George Lucas was talked into capitalizing on the craze in the form of a holiday-themed TV special, but what resulted was a “Life Day” celebration that hued closer to a Seventies variety show than The Mandalorian. The special aired just once before it was banished to a lifetime of bootlegging.
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“What could possibly go wrong? ANSWER: Everything…,” September Club and Giant Pictures said of the special. “CBS aired the two-hour Star Wars Holiday Special during the week of Thanksgiving, and it was watched by 13 million people. It never re-aired. While some fans of the franchise are aware of this dark secret, this bizarre two hours of television still remains relatively unknown among the general public. Simply put, the documentary will answer how and why the Holiday Special got made.”
On Friday, A Disturbance in the Force revealed it would arrive digitally on December 5. In addition to interviews with those involved in the special (like Bruce Vilanch and Donny Osmond), the documentary also corralled Seth Green, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Paul Scheer, Taran Killam, Patton Oswalt, and the late Gilbert Gottfried to create an almost “one of those old VH-1 I Heart the ’80s shows,” as Rolling Stone wrote after watching the doc at Sundance.
“What Disturbance arguably does best isn’t how it traces the way this special went from The Thing That Must Not Be Named and, thanks to bootlegs, an object of affection. It’s the way it maps a transitional moment between old showbiz razzle-dazzle and New Hollywood blockbuster entertainment,” our review read.
“For one gloriously WTF hour, we got to see these two things crash into each other and cause a pop-culture disaster. A Disturbance in the Force doesn’t come to bury this famous misstep, and it doesn’t quite praise it either.”
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