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Friday, 21 September 2018

The Star Wars Official Poster Monthly #2


The US version of the Star Wars Official Poster Monthly #2


In another look at the Star Wars Official Poster Monthly, I'm going to examine how this 1977 publication lifted the curtain on the film's visual effects  and told us about life on Tatooine.


Looking back through the pages of the Star Wars poster magazine, I'm reminded of a time when all this information about the film was new and tremendously exciting.

It was produced by a small editorial team in London, with remarkably little information to go on. (See Craig Stevens' book The Star Wars Phenomenon in Britain for more on that.) But on page after page, they gave the young fan information that we hadn't received before.




Star Wars Official Poster Monthly issue 2


The poster from the UK version of
Star Wars Official Poster Monthly #2

Issue two of the poster monthly came out in the US in December 1977, whereas the UK didn't get it until February 1978.
The UK cover of Star Wars
Official Poster Monthly
#2

The front cover was different on each side of the Atlantic. The US version put pictures of Luke and Darth Vader side by side, whereas the UK saw an X-wing above the surface of the Death Star. The poster was different too: Darth Vader on the Rebel blockade runner for America; Han, Luke, Chewie and Obi-Wan in the Millennium Falcon's cockpit for the UK. (You'll notice that my copy is rather dog-eared. Before it adorned my own bedroom wall, it was pinned up at my local newsagent before being put back on the shelves for sale.)

The articles were the same in both countries, and the highlight was the article we discussed last week 
 'Darth Vader Lives! But WIll He Return'  which filled us in on the life story of the Dark Lord of the Sith. But there were two other fascinating articles.




Star Wars Official Poster Monthly #2: 'The History of Tatooine: Life on the Desert Planet'


The poster in the US version of the
Star Wars Official Poster Monthly #2


We knew Tatooine was a hostile, dangerous yet, at the same time, boring place to live. But an article by Mike Marten gave us a fully-fledged account of life on the desert planet.

Looking at it today, we can see that the author artfully picked information out of the film and its novelization, added a little bit of educated speculation, and crafted it into a compelling look at life on an imaginary planet.
The Star Wars Official
Poster Monthly 
on the
history of Tatooine

Tatooine's twin suns were called Tatoo I and Tatoo II, the article told us, and the planet was moving very slowly towards them. It repeated a settlers' saying, quoted in the novel, that it was more dangerous to look at the reflected glare on the Tatooine sand than to stare at the suns themselves. 

Tatooine was "a frontier world where many life forms have adapted to the harsh environment and maintain a precarious, often desperate existence".

It added: "Centred on townships like Anchorhead and Bestine, the settlers provide the basis of the planetary economy. Using vapourisers, irrigation units and androids programmed for agricultural work, they work giant 'moisture farms' whose sheer size makes up for their lack of fertility."

I suspect that most of us had given very little thought to what Uncle Owen was actually doing on that moisture farm, but the article explained it. Food plants were harvested on Tatooine's moisture farms and sent off-planet from Mos Eisley, fetching high prices in over-populated worlds.

The article drew heavily on the Alan Dean Foster novelization of the screenplay, and when dialogue was quoted, it was from the book rather than the film. Perhaps the author preferred the more expansive versions of the dialogue in the book, or maybe he had no access to a movie script.

For example, the piece quoted Threepio as telling Owen Lars, during the Jawas' droid sale: "Vapourisers! We are both in luck. My first post-primary assignment was in programming binary load lifers. Very similar in construction and memory-function to your vapourisers..."

The article looked at the Jawas and the Tusken Raiders, too, trying to tell us a bit more without destroying the air of mystery that made both these species so fascinating and exotic.

"Anthropologists hypothesize that the Jawas were once human themselves, but they have long since evolved into a distinctive form," the article said. I think the author was probably speculating here, since Lucasfilm had so little official information to release.

"Dressed in monk-like habits of thick brown cloth with hoods that reveal only their glowing red-yellow eyes, they have never been seen naked but are reputed to be extraordinarily ugly. Certainly they smell, causing Threepio, with his human-like ability to sense odours, to stifle an expression of disgust. Their faces are surrounded by small clouds of insects with which they apparently live in some weird symbiosis."

As for the Tusken Raiders, they were in "permanent guerrilla warfare against the farmers, raiding and plundering wherever defences are weak".

"Xenologists," the piece said, making few concessions to a young reader's vocabulary, "believe they are part organic, part mechanical. But no one is sure: no one has ever got that close to a Tusken, or seen what lies beneath their swathings of bandages and loose bits of cloth."

The weapons the sandpeople carried were here called gaderffii sticks, not gaffi sticks as in the film.

In the Darth Vader and Tatooine articles, the authors had attempted to say quite a lot about the Star Wars universe with the limited sources they had at hand. But the article also contained a substantial look at how the most exciting space action on film had been shot.



Star Wars Official Poster Monthly #2: 'Anatomy of a Dogfight: The Special Effects Explained'


The Star Wars Official Poster
Monthly
explains visual effects

It was an article about the film's visual effects, but it still began with an extract from the novel, in which Luke was a part of blue squadron attacking the Death Star.

Nonetheless, this piece in the poster monthly, by John Trux, was to give us the most detailed explanation most of us had seen of how to film a space battle.

It started out by relating how World War II footage was used to plan the movements of the fighters in the attack on the Death Star. Most accounts have focused on how the effects drew on footage from movies such as The Dam Busters and The Bridges at Toko-Ri, but this article told of John Dykstra and his team watching real-life fighter footage.

"These film clips, taken by cameras slung beneath the guns of the attacking fighter, establish the planes' size, speed and position as they engage," it said.

The article then explained in some detail how Dykstra's camera, and the models it was filming, were programmed to make exactly the right moves multiple times. The X-wing and TIE fighter were filmed separately. "Through the combination of model/camera motion, we in the 'third plane' are also weaving our way down towards rocketing fighters 
 and it's all an illusion, just two models, a camera and a dedicated film crew," it said.

Reading this now, I wonder whether the 11-year-old me was really following all the detail, but I suspect I soldiered on.

The piece went on: 
We're now ready for the final print. All the separate model takes are combined with the Death Star surface, the star backdrop and the laser bursts: up to 28 pieces of film for any one effects sequence. These must be lined up so that they're in syncrhonization, then put into an order so that each segment prints the relevant information. If, for instance, the Death Star surface was to shine through the X-wing it would be a total disaster.
It concluded: 
We've now completed just one small part of the dogfight sequence. This is an easy take  there are no explosions, and only two ships are involved  but it shows how much effort and precision went into the making of Star Wars.




Star Wars Official Poster Monthly #2: The merchandise


The back cover of the US Star Wars
Official Poster Monthly
#2
(Source: Star Wars 77-80  Collector's Blog)

In the US, the back cover of the second Star Wars Official Poster Monthly offered a chance to subscribe, or to buy "Authentic Star Wars Collector's Items" such as a 1978 Star Wars calendar ($5.95), a Star Wars Flight Crew Cap ($5), a Darth Vader Key Chain ($2) or an Authentic Darth Vader Communicator, which sounds suspiciously like a mirror with a picture of Darth Vader on the back ($2). 
The back of the UK Star Wars
Official Poster Monthly
#2


In the UK, the only items on offer were a lapel badge and sew-on patch, sold together for £1.

As we closed the magazine 
 or, more likely, unfolded it to put on our wall  I think the first generation fans had quite a lot to digest. 

The authors may have been working from scant information, but they had worked up some memorable stories – and left our minds full of trivia which we would pass on to friends for a long time afterwards.



















translated into storyboards.

Having set up the X-wing for shooting, based on the storyboard drawings, Dykstra now knows exactly hwo the fighter is to manouevre for the chase sequence. Dummy runs confirm that camera and model are making the right moves, and the camera rolls, making several repeat passes of the same take. A searate pass, for instance, optically boosts the colour adn flare of the X-wing's exhaust which would otherwise be lost."

TIE ship

Through the combination of model/camera motion, we in the "third plane" are also weaving our way down towards rocketing fighters -- and it's all an illusion, just wo models, a camera and a dedicate film crew.




four scales of Death STa rminiature, from full globe to detailed section of surface.

lasers added by artists




"WE're now ready for the final print. All the separae model takes are comibned iwth the Death Star surface, the star backdrop and the laser bursts: up to 28 pieces of film for any one effects sequence. These must be lined up so that they're in syncrhonization, then put into an order so that each segment prints the relevant information. If, for instance, the Death Star surface was to shine through the X-wing it woudl be atotal disaster.

"WE've now completed just one small part of the dogfight sequence. This i an easy take -- there are no explosions, and only two ships are involved -- but it shows how much effort and precision went into the making of Star Wars."




invitation to send £1 for a lapel badge and sew-on patch

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