Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Before exhaustive DVD/Blu-ray bonus features and entire television channels devoted to peeling back the behind-the-scenes process of filmmaking, the only glimpses fans had into the real-world of movie special effects was through occasional Starlog features and other magazine articles, and the rare prime-time network television special - such as this 1980 TV event designed to promote the first Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Hosted by Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, we were given a full hour of lovingly photographed miniature spaceships, stop-motion Tauntauns (and Imperial Walkers), and so much more.

A genre fan himself, Hamill brought a lot of natural enthusiasm to his hosting duty on this documentary special.

I'm pretty sure (though not 100% certain - I couldn't find a scan of the tape box) that this special got an 80's VHS videotape release along with the Star Wars and Return Of The Jedi TV promotional specials.


  1. I saw all of those originally and I still have them on VHS somewhere.

  2. Still a lot of Star Wars fans around. I hope the new Disney movies prove to be worthwhile. I haven't read anything about them, however, it would be cool to see them in 3-D, I assume they'll appear in that format.

  3. Wow! I'm always amazed at the tv advertising that you were able to cut out and collect as you grew up. I happen to have the making of the first two movies on a VHS tape I bought from a video rental store that went out of business about 10 years ago. Unfortunately it was only in a hard plastic clear case for renting so the original box is not with it. I did not have the pleasure of seeing it premiere on tv but certainly have almost worn the tape out from watching it so many times. Thanks for the memories.

  4. YES!!! This was one of my very favorite TV specials. I was just watching this two days ago from the VHS tape, transferred to disc, that has the first two on it. It was a CBS/Fox 1987 release.
    This special was awesome, besides the great behind the scenes stuff it also focused on classic scifi flicks and amateur filmmakers and their work. It showed Grog from a film called Imagine that I had read about in Don Dohler's Cinemagic magazine(later bought by Starlog). There where also kids making films including a 5th grade Seattle class. I remember being very envious of them but glad to see film making gaining popularity. Who can forget Ben Burtt recording laser blast sound fx from electrical tower guide wires. How many kids grabbed a hammer and headed outside?
    I even noticed back then that they where written be Richard Schickel who wrote the big TIME magazine spreads and even dubbed the first film as "The Year's Best Movie" right on the cover. I had first heard of SW from that May '77 TIME as I got home on the last day of 6th grade and my dad said there was a magazine in the living room with an article about a movie I may be interested in.

    I remember watching the SW special in "77 and then the next day I was having dinner with my folks at Luby's Cafeteria and overhearing a kid at the next table say he didn't want to watch it because he didn't want to ruin the magic. I thought he was nuts. How could he not be curious how it was done?
    I had audio taped SPFX and used to listen to it often especially when lying in bed at night trying to go to sleep. I also caught the Raiders one in '82.
    I couldn't believe I had missed the Jedi one when it aired in '83 although I think I was working my first job at a Woolco Department store and didn't hear about it till the day after.
    I still have the ad for the first one in an old SW clipping scrapbook. Gotta get that Empire one for the Empire scrapbook though. And I guess there's a Jedi one too no doubt.


  5. This special might be what got me fascinated with SFX creation as a kid. I vividly remember watching the stop motion work with the AT-AT models and being amazed at how long it took to position them.

    Oh and I didn't use a hammer on a guide wires after watching this. I used a large screwdriver!

  6. Always loved these specials. Although when SPFX first aired I thought for some reason that it was going to be the actual film, not documentary. I was initially disappointed, but almost immediately started to enjoy it as it contained so many great clips. And the narration from Mark Hamil was great. I rented the Making of Star Wars several times back when my local video stores had it.

    Both The Making of Star Wars and SPFX are available as extras on the blu-ray set. For reasons I won't get into, I hated the blu-ray set due to the quality of the films themselves and the awful changes that were applied. But if you can find it cheap enough, it might be a good way to get these documentaries on the bonus disc, if you're that into it. Of course there have been good fan releases of these available for years anyways. I still have the videotape that contains both documentaries, which I bought at a thrift store years ago.

  7. Love these vintage making of docs. Remember watching each one of them when it was first broadcast, and also renting them on home video numerous times afterwards.

    In the UK, "The Making of SW", "Classic Creatures: Making of ROTJ" and "From SW to Jedi: The Making of a Saga" were all re-released as PAL format standalone retail VHS editions by Fox Home Video back in the early 90s, but for some reason, SPFX was not.
    However, it was included in the limited edition Executor VHS metal box set along with the others.

    For years, dealers at conventions charged ridiculous prices for these VHS editions, all the way up until the Blu ray set included 3 of them as extras.
    (But for whatever reason, "From SW to Jedi" wasn't included in the Blu ray set.)

  8. SPFX and Making of Star Wars both had VHS releases in Australia. Only one that I don't know about is the one that came out when Jedi did. But if I had a dollar for every video store that had a disclaimer on their copy of SPFX, saying that it was not Empire Strikes Back for the lazy stupid people that would grab a video based solely on the cover and then complain when they found out it was a documentary...

  9. All of these are available I believe on the current blu-ray set. THe one from Empire is downloadable from Youtube.

  10. I used to have the makeing of star wars VHS tape, i remember it had the Jaba meets Solo scene on it, it got chewed up in my recorder some years back