Thursday, November 21, 2013

In the Special Edition, Lumpy Shoots First

Recently, Rifftrax released a VOD edition of the 'Star Wars Holiday Special', complete with their signature commentary. A lot of people have been wondering exactly how they can do this, given that the intellectual property rights to the Special are currently owned by a company who have, on numerous occasions, issued Cease and Desist orders on public domain works solely on the basis of, "By the time you prove it, your legal bills will have bankrupted you anyway. Why not give up now?"

I don't really have any answers to this, but it has gotten me thinking about the Special. Namely, it's got me wondering if it will ever see daylight in an official sense. (I suppose this may be the basis Rifftrax was using to release it; their lawyers might go to court with a defense of, "People have been bootlegging this for decades and Lucas has never said anything apart from disavowing the damned thing, so they've lost their chance." I don't think that's a defense that'll work, but more power to them if it does.)

Because the key thing is, Lucas has disavowed it. He notoriously hates the thing, wishes it had never been made or at the very least that he'd taken more of an active role in its creation (by all accounts, he simply took the paycheck and let the people who normally produced these kind of variety specials do their thing, only stepping in to design Boba Fett). He hates it to the point where he won't even put out a commercial release of it, even though it's been selling from fans to fans for decades now. But as we all know, George Lucas has just sold the rights to all of the Star Wars properties to Disney for an exorbitant sum of money. And Disney is, by all accounts, going to milk that sucker for everything they can.

So does this mean we're going to see a brand-new Blu-Ray version of the Special, with remastered video footage and special features where the cast discuss their experiences working on it? (Oh, that alone would be worth the cost of the DVD. Harrison Ford squirming uncomfortably, Carrie Fisher explaining just what she'd taken that day to make her pupils dilate like that...) Perhaps we could even get new CGI special effects for the Jefferson Starship box and the miniature aquarium.

If they do release it commercially, I hope they embrace the campiness. Let's face it, the only reason anyone ever watches it is that it's the one thing in the franchise that you can make fun of without sputtering fanboys declaring that you just don't know about the piece of Expanded Universe lore that totally explains that apparent plot hole and you shouldn't be allowed to watch the movies if you're not going to do your research first. (As much as I love geekery, I will admit that the Comic Book Guy comes from a real place.) If they try to sell this as a "lost classic", they're going to run into a major problem when people buy it and realize it's eye-bleedingly terrible. So I say, run with it. Promote it as the "So Bad It's Good 'Comedy' That's Funny...for All the Wrong Reasons!" Include the original Seventies ads (where possible), and add the "Fighting the Frizzies at Eleven" bumpers. Heck, go right ahead and subcontract the Rifftrax guys to include their commentary track. Pretty much everyone involved has already either displayed that they have a sense of humor about it or that they're going to pretend it never happened anyway.

Then again, all this assumes that Lucas did sign the rights away. Maybe the four billion dollar contract includes a clause prohibiting Disney from ever releasing the Special in any way, shape or form. I know it sounds crazy, but keep in mind that when DC bought Wildstorm, they created a separate company for disbursing funds solely to ensure that Alan Moore's paychecks didn't say "DC Comics" on them. Weird and seemingly insignificant clauses are a staple of big contracts. I guess the only way to be sure is to watch for the DVD. Or ask Lucas, but it'll take a braver person than me to bring up the 'Star Wars Holiday Special' around him one more time.

1 comment:

Tony Laplume said...

I finally saw it two Christmases ago. Totally worth it. Mostly.