A one hour documentary on the making of The Empire Strikes Back resurfaces, thought lost for nearly 40 years!
Back in the early 1980s, just after the release of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back to theatres, a special documentary aired on television. Entitled SP FX: Special Effects – The Empire Strikes Back, this one-hour special was narrated by Luke Skywalker himself, actor Mark Hamill.
In this television special, Mark explains how some of the amazing action sequences, creatures and special effects was created with the use of behind the scenes footage. This documentary is easily available to view on YouTube and has been included in special edition Star Wars trilogy box sets on VHS, Laserdisc and the Bluray edition of the saga.
Here’s where the story gets interesting. Listed in the credits of the show as a camera operator is Michel Parbot, a French filmmaker and journalist.
Parbot was given full access to the Empire Strikes Back production and created a one-hour documentary simply titled, The Making of The Empire Strikes Back. This documentary has only been broadcast once on French television and has never been commercially available.
In fact, some of the footage from the Parbot documentary is used in SP FX: Special Effects – The Empire Strikes Back. It makes me wonder if Parbot’s documentary was cannibalised in order to create the other, but that’s purely speculation on my part.
Those who have had access to the Parbot documentary have guarded it fiercely The only footage to surface was a few ten-minute clips from a Dutch program that featured the documentary. The quality was poor but it felt like this was the only footage we would ever see.
A Star Wars fan who goes by the name of Adywan surprised the Star Wars community when he uploaded the entire documentary onto his YouTube account in October. Apparently, he had made contact with a Frenchman who had won a copy of the documentary film reels in an auction. These were subsequently transferred to DVD and then passed onto Adywan with permission to share them.
Now we can finally see this long-lost documentary in all its glory. It’s amazing to think that just when you think you’be seen all the behind the scenes footage possible, this appears.
The documentary is very interview based featuring appearances from Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford (who clearly looks like someone who doesn’t really like interviews), producer Gary Kurtz (“The budget for Empire is approximately $18 million.”) and director Irvin Kirshner (“This isn’t a science fiction film, it’s a fairy tale”). surprisingly, there is very little George Lucas in this film.
It really is a look at a different time of filmmaking, including the effort that went into creating an 11ft Wampa creature that thankfully didn’t make the final cut.
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back can be viewed below.