In the summer of ’77 I was 12, almost 13, years old. It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade, and my parents decided to mix it up a bit vacation-wise. Usually we drove from our Chicago suburb to Daytona Beach, Florida (or somewhere around there), with a stop in Tennessee to visit my mom’s side of the family. That summer, however, they decided to take me and my brother to St. Louis, Missouri.
My brother (10, almost 11) and I were crazy about pinball machines; arcade video games were still a few years away. We could spend hours in a game room, especially once my brother figured out how to glue a string to a quarter and somehow use that to give him access to hours of pinball machine heaven. (I think that’s what he did; my memory is a little fuzzy. I do know that he was the miscreant, not me!)
My parents, smartly realizing they could get some free babysitting, chose a Holiday Inn that had a huge game room as its main feature. Of course there was also a pool, and they figured we’d go see the Arch; it would be a fun few days with less driving time there and back.
We were having a blast, but after a while my parents decided to get us out of the game room and into the city. It was pouring rain, so walking around outside wasn’t really an option. Then they figured hey, why don’t we go see this movie, Star Wars? It looks pretty popular and all.
Now, back in 1977 I had a hearing loss but I wasn’t deaf. I had probably a moderate loss in my left ear and a severe loss in my right, and I wore a hearing aid in my right ear. That was the extent of my accommodations – captions didn’t exist and my hearing loss was not really a big issue.
So we went to this movie and, I’ll be honest, I was mostly excited because Mark Hamill was in it. Mark Hamill was currently splashed all over the teenybopper magazines, and he had dreamy hair; he kind of reminded me of Shaun Cassidy, my other 1977 obsession.
I watched the screen, waiting eagerly to see Mark, and instead it was robots and, well, I had no idea what the hell was going on. So many of the characters had no lips for me to read, and there were words that weren’t part of the English language which made it hard for me to fill in what I couldn’t hear. (Hearing was often like a puzzle for me – I’d hear maybe three words perfectly in a sentence, and use common sense to fill in the gaps.)
I don’t know how long the movie played while the rain outside turned into a raging thunderstorm; not long, I don’t think. Maybe 15 minutes? In any case, the theater suddenly went dark as the power went out. We sat there for a few minutes, waiting to see if it would come back on. I was frustrated because darn it, I hadn’t seen Mark yet!
Then my mom turned to us and said, “Let’s go. This movie is stupid.”
And that was the extent of my exposure to Star Wars until last week, at age 51.
With all the positive feedback about the new movie, I decided that I wanted to finally watch the whole series. (Dave had seen the first three movies, took Eric to the fourth one and fell asleep in the theater, and then never saw the fifth and sixth movies.) I left it to Dave to decide what order we would watch them in, and he came up with a version of what he called the Machete order: Episode 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6 (with 4 being the 1977 movie that I never finished watching).
Speaking as a complete Star Wars newbie, I highly recommend that order. I liked seeing the original two movies, and then flashing back to fill in the back story, and then finishing with Return of the Jedi. It wasn’t confusing and it was just a fun way to be introduced to the series. And I really, really enjoyed all of the movies, even the one that ends up at the bottom of everyone’s list when they rank the movies (aka, Episode 1). Actually, the actual Machete order skips Episode 1 altogether but I wanted to see all of the movies, no matter how badly people talked about them.
As we got about a quarter of the way through the first movie, I turned to Dave and said, “I could never have understood this without captions.” I think it was meant to be for me to wait until captions existed in order to see that movie! (Of course, I could have watched it in the mid-1990s when captions started showing up on video tapes and, later, DVDs but …)
It was fun to hear iconic lines spoken for the first time (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”). The most famous line, though, was never spoken. I kept waiting to hear “Luke, I am your father,” but Darth Vader never actually says that!
We watched one movie each night for six days straight, and it was a blast. Now we’re debating whether to see the new movie in a theater that has captioning devices (the closest one is in Mishawaka, Indiana) or just wait for it to come out on DVD.
And by the way, I have to confess … after we finished A New Hope (Episode 4), I told Dave, “Well, Mark Hamill was really cute but man, he was a bad actor.” (He did get better in the second and third movies, I noticed, but it was pretty obvious in the first movie.)
His hair looked great, though!