Star Wars Changed My Life – VI – Return of the Jedi Sucks!! Puberty and Ewoks

Maybe not that much.

Episode VI was just around the corner. I had bought as many action figures as I could up to that point and new figures were on the way.

Prior to the release of the film we knew that there had to be that final sequel. Lando and Chewy were off to find a carbonized Han, Luke is probably practising with his new hand and we need to know who “There is another” referred to.

Early promotional material appeared in newspapers and magazines pointing to the first “Revenge of the Jedi” title for the film. It was changed prior to release when George Lucas stated that Jedi do not enact revenge.

Due to the worldwide interest in the production of Return of the Jedi, the film had another title during production “Blue Harvest : Horror Beyond Imagination”.

When people spotted C3PO, Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker whilst whizzing around in Dune Buggys on the Imperial Sand Dunes in California where the Sarlacc Pit was filmed it kind of gave the surprise away.

The name has since been used as the title of an extended Family Guy episode spoofing “A New Hope” with a great spoof of one of the main Star Wars posters.

In the US, “Return of the Jedi” was released on 25th May 1983, in the UK we had to wait a couple of months until 2nd June in the same year.

The first proper promotional poster for the film I do remember was the raised blue lightsaber with the Return logo at the top.

No inkling of any of the characters looks from the new movie and no idea how it would end.

In 1983 I was now fifteen. I was also in another situation where I would soon be moving up to the north east in November of that same year. I lived in Dukinfield and was schooled in a Boys school in Stalybridge.

Between 1980 and 83 I’d attended a couple of Star Wars and Empire double bills at the original Odeon in Ashton Under Lyne, which was now an Independent cinema and renamed the Metro as of 1981. It now had an amusement arcade at a side entrance which would eventually be it’s future when the main foyer was taken over and it became Slotworld in 2003. Eventually it would close completely in 2011, and it still stands empty today.

My first memory of clips from Jedi was the attack on the second Death Star, my thoughts and comments at the time were that somehow the Death Star from the first film had survived. I didn’t even think that they’d be dumb enough to build a second one.

My very first action figure from the new film was a major character. He looked cool in his grey and blue duds, beard and his pointy stick. He must be the next Landonis Balthazar Calrissian, yes, that’s his full name.

General Crix Nadine was a blink and you’ll miss him character from the Death Star briefing, played by Dermot Crowley. Dermot went on to be is loads of British TV series such as The Bill, Mrs Brown’s Boys The Movie and probably more recognised as Luthor’s stressed out boss in Luthor.

I remember my grandmother buying this figure in Boots before seeing Jedi. This was the only figure I managed to pick up before seeing the film, so I was looking forward to seeing what Crix would be up to.

Attribution: Mike Cattell

It was a summer of 1983 and a time I was very much into my computers. In December 1982 I was asked if I wanted a ZX81 or an Atari VCS.

Prior to 1981 I started to get interested in the computer (singular) they had at school when I was down in the North West and I started to buy computer magazines. My favourite at the time was Your Computer.

Near to the back of the magazine in included a bunch of listings in BASIC and at the very back it had pages containing a list of the computers that were out at the time. This included the likes of The Commodore PET, The Acorn Atom, The ZX80, the Apple II and just arriving was the IBM PC. I dreamed of owning an Apple or a PC.

I remember the two page advert for the ZX81 distinctly in that magazine, promising an amazing home computer for a resonable price at only £69.99. You could also buy the kit form for only £49.99. I didn’t have a degree in electronics so we went for the built one.

The Atari VCS was just for playing games. With this I could write my own.

I took the choice of a Sinclair ZX81 and spent a lot of my time learning and programming in BASIC (Beginners All Purpose Instruction Code). Thankfully my parents gave me the instruction booklet before getting the computer for Christmas. I did get the 16K RAM pack for my birthday and attended my first Computer Fair at Manchester University and saw 3D Maze and 3D Defender running on the ZX81.

Wow. 3D. It’s like garlic bread. The future.

Distractions again. Back to Star Wars. We will probably go into my life with computers in another blog. All I can say was that computers were starting to take over my life.

For some reason, the first cinema I saw Return of the Jedi in has become a bit of a blur. The regular cinema in Blyth was the Wallaw in which I do remember seeing the rerelease of the trilogy.

The cinema I probably saw it at was the Cannon in Monkseaton, Whitley Bay. Another film I saw there was in 1981. James Bond’s For Your Eyes Only which was running on a continuous cycle. They just played the same film straight after the previous run. So to get the full film we had to watch the full end titles and cycle around to the same scene so we could understand what was going on. We went in during a scene where Q was showing Bond the experimental ‘3D Visual Identigraph’ whilst loading up a huge removable storage device into what looked like a washing machine in todays standards. ‘Sharon’ brought in two cups of tea into the same room as the prototype device. Sheesh!

If it wasn’t the Wallaw in Blyth I would occasionally go to the Cannon with it’s two screens. This cinema closed in 1999 and was sadly demolished in 2000. Nowadays the only cinema in Whitley Bay is the small and perfectly formed independent Jar Jar cinema. If you want the chains, you’d have to trek to the Silverlink Odeon.

Let’s break it down. I didn’t need to break down Empire as it’s a perfect film…. in my opinion. Well, look.

Some of you out there are saying the original trilogy are perfect. Well. I’m not soooo sure. A lot of younger fans didn’t have to wait three years from watching an amazing film to watching Return of the Jedi. Let me explain. I’m not dissing this film, I’m just saying it wasn’t as good, but it had some great bits. Just like Episode I.

A cool imperial shuttle touches down on the new Death Star. Vader gets out and let’s the imperial officer know that he’s going to have to speed up construction coz the boss is on his way. Having a second Death Star felt like a cop out. They were obviously going to blow this one up in the end. I did end up buying one of these model kits and it was one of the very first that I spent time weathering instead of just painting with a brush. I sprayed this model and still managed to get the wings to rotate without sticking.

We return to Tatooine R2 and 3PO are off to see the mighty Jabba surrounded by a plethora of merchandise… I mean creatures. C3PO made his way into Jabba’s palace to be greeted by Bib Fortuna. Was I jaded as a teenager? Possibly. But I still giggled at “Di’ Wanna Wanga!”. Did he really say that?

Nice fact was that Michael Carter was also the guy that gets killed on the London subway escalator in “An American Werewolf in London”.

Luke ends up having to rescue everyone even though Lando is already there. It was a surprise to see Leia but I kind of guessed that it was Leia as Boushh due to her slight frame and she had to be the one to rescue Han.

Now one thing that stood out, was Princess Leia. The Princess we had grown up with in 6 years was now wearing a gold bikini… and I was 15, I had matured. I’m sure I ended up with a poster on my wall. I wasn’t much of a fan of the Princess when A New Hope was released, but now she had my fun attention. I wonder why. Respect to the late great Carrie Fisher and her stories of that outfit. At least she still managed to kill the bad guy even whilst she was hardly wearing any clothes.

Luke fights a cool Rancor after he bites the head of a guard and we all still got upset when he dies. The poor Rancor keeper ended up crying, probably as he’s now out of a job.

Everyone gets captured. Boba Fett goes out way too early. I was really shocked that one of my favourite characters and the one I’d been waiting to in the new movie ended up in the belly of the Sarlacc because Han accidentally sets off his backpack. That’s not fair. I waited three years and you kill off Boba? What the hell.

Thank goodness Dark Horse’s canon (at that time) comics got Boba out of the pit.

Also mentioned in book form in Tales from Jabba’s Palace and Tales of the Bounty Hunters.

This has since been removed by Disney as everything except the films are now considered canon. The old books and comics are now part of the “Legends” brand. This has been used as sources to bring back certain fan favourite elements into the new Disney canon like Grand Admiral Thrawn. So, as I type here’s hoping that Fett makes some sort of appearance or nod in the new Mandalorian seasons to come.

Boom! Leia kills Jabba, Luke blows stuff up.

The Emperor with a fresher face and a different voice than Empire waltzes onto the scene.

Luke visits Yoda, just for him to die. What?! Another death. But another amusing way out. “There is another Sky- wah-aw-aw-k-er…”

Oh and Luke finds out Leia is his sister. What?! But they kissed in Empire and he liked it! Ergh!

Cool fly bike chase. I also bought this model kit and spent time building and weathering the model. This kit actually lasted longer than most of my other kits. But a lot of the time it kept falling off shelves, getting crushed under boxes and stuff and generally needing regular repairs. Strangely I still have one piece of the model kit left and you can see the spray marks from my early weathering attempts.

Sadly every other part of the model is gone and I don’t want to throw this one small piece away. Scout troopers are cool but dumb. I do have the action figure version but it wasn’t as accurate as the model kit. You can’t bend the troopers legs, but it does have two clever features. It stands on two feet and press the button disguised as the bag and it falls apart.

More explosions. And Ewoks.

I did do some artwork in school at that time.

Totally made a mistake with the location of the blaster on the Speeder Bike

Okay, Ewoks. I kind of like Ewoks, but I didn’t think they’d be able to bring down the might of the Empire. At least at the end of the Rise of Skywalker they brought all the rebels together to kick some ass.

Ewoks swinging through trees doing the Tarzan cry threw me out of the film. Why? Why would they do that?! It’s a galaxy far far away!! Not Edgar Rice Burroughs!

I did feel sorry for the Ewoks in that one scene where one of them dies and a pal checks to see if he’s okay.

It was down to Chewy to save the day on the ground and it’s been clearly identified that the Empire gives their soldiers rubbish helmets – even a rock will knock them off their feet. I’ve worn motor cycle helmets better than that.

Admiral Ackbar is another iconic character with an iconic catchphrase. “It’s a trap!”

They managed to blow up the shield generator, Luke beat up his dad. His dad threw his boss down a shaft and we managed to see the frail old man behind the helmet. It was good to see evil returning to the good side as I imagine it would be difficult to watch another cause pain on your own child.

It’s fine that you wanted to kill him in the last film and ended up chopping his hand off, but in this one your heart grew three sizes. I’m also impressed you managed to lift the Emperor above your head with one hand and a stump.

Having seen the prequels, neither Obi-wan or Anakin aged well in the short time between films. It was only 23 years between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi, according to the old pre-Disney timeline. I think Disney’s new official timeline leaves the time between events out of the equation.

It makes it easier to slot new stuff in and means there is a lot of “space” to fill between the Mando and Awakens.

Leave that to Disney +.

The space battle and ultimate destruction of the second Death Star was spectacular and created, a huge fan of VFX, the greatest celluloid composite in the history of film.

SB19 – 19th shot in the space battle
There are more boxes under that top one

This shot contains 63 elements in this shot. An element being a spaceship, the Death Star, a starfield, the planet etc. As this was prior to the age of CGI but was getting closer, the majority of these elements required three separate pieces of film. It totalled about 170 separate rolls of film all of which needed to be combined with an optical printer. Imagine if you had to place each of these elements onto a film and you only had one chance to get it right. Mess up on element 125 and you’d have to start again.

Check out this clip from an old BBC2 programme “Horizon : How to Film the Impossible”

They did happen to get one TIE fighter on the wrong layer and instead of disappearing behind the Falcon it flew in front as it disappeared off into the distance. With the Special Edition released in 1997 they did actually fix this all due to the magic of CGI (computer generated imaging). Actually it’s a bit of Photoshop trickery which ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) the people behind the VFX (Visual Effects) created. Look for the names Thomas and John Knoll pop up in the Adobe credits.

Flying into the Death Star was a stroke of genius and knocking the satellite dish off the Falcon and it’s escape from the fireball was thrilling and reenforced the fact that stuff could hit the fan an not everyone may make it out alive. It’s the last film, anything can happen. Lando and Nien Numb did great. I did want to scream “Yahoo!” alongside Lando.

Eventually, they danced around the fires on the Moon of Endor and a celebrated the defeat of the Empire. Old Anakin, Ben and Yoda appeared out of nowhere and they got on with a happy life until more stories were needed to keep the public happy.

Once exiting the cinema, still daylight, the trilogy was finished. That’s it. The story of Star Wars was over. No more. What do I do now? My initial feelings of Jedi were that it wasn’t as good or as gritty as Empire, but I still really enjoyed it. Empire will always be my favourite as it stayed in my head for three years until the story was complete.

For me, at that time, it was finished. Well, the film at least. Now I had to finish off my collection.

This is the card back I remember from my final few Star Wars figures. The two hidden figures were the Ewoks.

It did get rather confusing as to the total number of figures out at this time. The original C3PO came with fixed arms but by Empire Strikes back he had removable arms and a backpack so Chewbacca could carry him. There were various versions of R2D2 which and original clicker in the first film to an extending scope in Empire. So multiple versions of the same figure existed.

I won’t go into the different head sculpts that changed over time. I do remember having the smaller head rather than the larger and more angry larger version.

I still own a handful of my original Palitoy collection including my Boba Fett and a Squid Head. I’ve also got the final 17 Anakin Skywalker figure from the end of Jedi. Somewhere.

Sadly, our British Palitoy company stopped making Star Wars toys in 1983, with Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight Outfit), Squid Head (Palitoy ROTJ) being some of the final figures in their fourth wave. They actually finished by working on a Tri logo card including English, French and Spanish Jedi logos with other European manuafacturers before closing production on Star Wars. Palitoy ceased trading in 1985.

The final figures produced for Europe on the Tri logo cards allowed General Mills, to reduce costs and spread them across the different countries and licenced manufacturers. If you want to read more about this check out Trilogo.info

In the US, Kenner finished producing Star Wars figures in 1985, with the final 17 being the hardest to find (excluding the Droids and Ewok lines). This final figures included the infamous Yak Face, Amanaman and others. These came on the final 92 card back.

I had most of the figures at the time from the original 65 Palitoy range, whether I still had all their weapons was another thing. We will go into what ultimately happened to them in a future blog. I loved my figures, until I didn’t.

Music, yes, the wonderful vinyl tunes and storybooks. To be honest I must have got bored with the music of Jedi because the only original LP I have in my collection is “The Story of Star Wars Return of the Jedi.

In the usual way the single 33rpm vinyl LP was featured in a gatefold album.

In the centre is a colour brochure featuring the story of Jedi in pictures and finished with a nice posed shot on the Endor set.

It is a great album but the march of the VHS and TV showings meant we didn’t need to imagine any more. It’s time for the future of home entertainment and some cool 80’s films.

Sit down and have a biscuit and I’ll see you next time.