New to DVD this week: ELSTREE 1976
Jon Spira’s look at the making of STAR WARS from the margins made its bow at BFI London last year. It has also screened at Sitges and at a handful of smaller events before a limited theatrical and VOD release last month.
Named after the studio where and year when George Lucas’ unexpected blockbuster was made, Spira’s film assembles a series of interviews with nearly a dozen individuals who were there. But, with one notable exception, these don’t include the likes of stars like Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, or Carrie Fischer. Instead, Spira’s protagonists settled for bit parts – some named, others part of a sea of extras, including bar patrons, X-Wing pilots, or Stormtroopers – giving them a very brief brush with fame that nevertheless has left a lasting impact. The odd man out here is David Prowse, who enacted the role of Darth Vader, but was essentially made to play second fiddle to the character’s ominous voice, as performed by James Earl Jones. Subjects offer a too-brief reminiscence of their experiences auditioning or on set before moving on to reflect on their largely average lives which followed, and on their later intersections with the enduring fandom of the STAR WARS franchise. While the balance here is decidedly off – more behind-the-scenes details about their experiences with the film would be welcome rather than the overlong consideration of their uneventful careers – the film does offer a curious window into the notion of celebrity and its limits. On a technical level, Spira depends too much on largely static talking heads, but intermittently livens up the proceedings with evocative action figure close-ups and quirky tableaux reimagining the participants’ offtime at Elstree.