A 'Tribute' to Canadian Cinema Magazines
As mentioned in Episode 3 of the podcast, Canadian cinema patrons seeking supplemental Star Wars sustenance during the Trilogy's original releases were able to consume movie-related content in print via entertainment industry magazines distributed exclusively by local theater chains.
When Star Wars was originally released, Famous Players was still offering Showbill magazine in their theaters and short articles about the film written by Jeremy Ferguson were included in the April/May and October/November 1977 issues. The initial piece is peppered with inaccuracies and other oddities common among early publications about the film, suggesting how little attention was paid to it at times. For instance, the hero is dubbed "Luke Hamill" (which by now seems somehow appropriate given the inseparability between the actor and character), while Carrie Fisher's first name is misspelled as "Cary." The second article features profiles on the instant-star trio of protagonists, which was most likely timed with Hamill, Ford, and Fisher's visit to Toronto for a press junket that year.
After a run with Showbill, David Haslam founded its eventual successor Marquee in 1976, which was also available in Famous Players theaters. By the time The Empire Strikes Back was making its way into Canadian cinemas, Darth Vader had enough of a commanding presence to grace movie magazine covers with the likes of "The Greatest" and Valentino. Such was the case with two issues of Marquee.
The May/June 1980 issue contains an article by American film critic Charles Champlin entitled "Brave New Rebellion" which focuses primarily on the markedly massive scale of production in the newly constructed sound stage at Elstree. Simultaneously impressed and slightly salty, Champlin presents some amusing descriptions of the proceedings and the involved Star Wars terminology. In reference to the sequence where Rebel pilots are manning their craft on Hoth, he refers to Snowspeeders as "small fighter craft called Armoredspeeders in the 'SW' lexicon...resembling snowmobile gunships." He then notes that "Hamill as Luke Skywalker is the only star in the shot and, in all his gear, he looks like an electronic toy."
Champlin goes on to discuss the film's other major set pieces, observing that the carbon freezing chamber feverishly under construction by the crew is "complete with a monstrous lifting claw and sufficient pipes and gizmos and sources of steam and smoke and lurid light to either solve the energy crisis or complicate it beyond any hope."
A second Marquee issue was published in May, 1983 to coincide with the release of Return of the Jedi and follows suit by once again displaying Vader's visage from the film's teaser poster on the cover.
Film scholar Audie Bock's story entitled "The Gospel According to Lucas - Star Wars: a myth for the eighties" is brief compared to the issue's 16 page special feature on Psycho II, but offers some memorable commentary nonetheless. The first of which pertains to Endor, a "lush undeveloped planet used as a dump by the evil polluting Empire." I guess it's safe to assume the Emperor had an utter disregard for the environment. Bock further explains that the green moon "harbours a race of wondrous creatures who figure prominently in the drama of revenge that will take shape in the third part of the trilogy." It's debatable whether Ewoks could be defined as "wondrous," and the characterization of the plot being a "drama of revenge" seems to be the result of the originally announced Revenge of the Jedi title lingering in the media's consciousness.
The article provides perceptions of the franchise as it was ostensibly coming to an end. Lucas's outlook is illustrated as one of exasperation and near misery, which is both humorous and sad in hindsight:
"...the slight, bearded Lucas, whose incipient grey hairs have increased during the course of Star Wars, admits that the process of bringing his visions of mythical galaxies, worlds and cultures to the screen exhausts him. 'I'm not having fun. I smile a lot because if I don't everyone gets depressed. But I'd rather be home in bed watching television. I'm only doing this because I started it and now I have to finish it. The next trilogy will be all someone else's vision."
The fact that it took 35 years and a Prequel Trilogy with George's completely unrestrained vision for that last statement to become a reality is something to ponder.
As with many publications that led up to Empire, Bock's piece introduces some entertaining speculation about the futures of our heroes in the final chapter:
"Can Luke's cynical ally Han Solo be revived after lying frozen in a block of carbon? Could he possibly be the other potential Jedi knight Yoda has hinted exists? If so, will he and Leia settle down to a quiet life of ruling a restored Jedi empire, and what will become of lonely Luke?"
Though "Han Solo, Jedi Knight" settling down with Leia to rule a "restored Jedi empire" couldn't be further from the truth, the question of the fate of "lonely Luke" was indeed quite relevant and will perhaps finally be answered in December's The Last Jedi. He certainly became quite lonely.
Finally, Jedi director Richard Marquand is quoted as declaring Star Wars "the myth of the seventies and eighties, just as the Beatles were the myth of the sixties and early seventies." He was absolutely right, though its myth status has arguably transcended the boundary of those decades, if not been reborn entirely.
To get back to all things Canadian... Famous Players' primary theater chain competitor Odeon began publishing its own magazine –Tribute – beginning in 1981. The earliest issue of significance to Star Wars fans came in the Fall of 1982 amidst re-releases of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and the buildup to the then-titled Revenge of the Jedi. Whereas Marquee would cover the Trilogy in smaller articles among other current and upcoming releases, Tribute had two issues dedicated almost entirely to Star Wars. The Fall 1982 issue pictured above provides a digest of content about the first two films, piecing together and repurposing publicity information gleaned from various previously published material. It also gives a sneak preview of Revenge of the Jedi, offering behind-the-scenes tidbits, concept art, and a handful of still photos.
Tribute's Spring 1983 issue is reserved entirely for Return of the Jedi, with color photos, a synopsis, actor profiles, and blurbs on the making of the film presented similarly to the Trilogy's Official Collectors Editions (which are discussed at length in this feature article), The key difference – which is a trait of all the magazines highlighted thus far – is the interspersion of ads for other upcoming films such as Superman III, Psycho II, and Porky's II: The Next Day (1983 was quite the year for sequels) and Canadian libations like Labatt's Blue beer and Adams Private Stock rye whiskey. Like any magazine ads, they place the movies within the cultural context of the time and place they were released.
Below are a sample of the product ads a Canuck might find while perusing an issue to pass time in the cinema foyer before a matinee of Return of the Jedi.
Maxell doesn't only give away free T-shirts, they're the high-class tape that gives high-class, Canadian made, tailored V-neck T-shirts. "The Maxell name is subtle. The fit is flattering." All true, but even more so with those black frames and that slick hairdo.
Certain ads tie in to sponsored features in a magazine, such as Molson's "Looking Back" section in the Fall 1982 Star Wars-centric issue. Join the Movement to Molsons Light! Everyone's on board.
Others are directly targeted at franchise enthusiasts, such as this one for the "Star Wars Bath Collection."
The wording and formatting of the soap ad are just downright odd, as are so many vintage ads for Star Wars products. Theoretically, a little space ace from Ottawa could have picked up this issue of Tribute on the way out of a screening of The Empire Strikes Back and felt compelled to "get clean on earth" when they got home. A message to obliging parents: It's fun for your kids.
Especially if you're throwing back a few Labatt's Blues.
Special thanks to Scott Bradley for his contributions to this post.