Elstree 1976 [Blu-ray]
(Derek Lyons, Garrick Hagon, Anthony Forrest, Jeremy Bulloch, Angus Macinnes, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2015) 2021 / FilmRise)
Overview: In this fascinating documentary, we go behind the scenes of one of the most iconic film series of all time: Star Wars.
The actors and extras who played aliens, stormtroopers, rebels and even Darth Vader in George Lucasí Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope reminisce about their time on set and how making the Sci-Fi classic affected their lives and careers, for better or for worse.
Blu-ray Verdict: Maybe slightly too long (yeah, even at 100 minutes), but thereís a lot of wonderful anecdotes from all of these walk-on players and actors and people-behind-masks, and itís not completely about the making of Star Wars either.
I think that was what pleasantly surprised me the most; not only that, the people talk about where they came from and their personal lives to an extent - all of them, from what I could tell, came from working class backgrounds, had sometimes sick/dead family members, and it was not necessarily always a Iím going to be this kind of actor let alone any kind of recognizable entity - and, after Star Wars, how their lives fared.
Some kept on working in movies (thereís one guy who went on to be in a number of films as the sort of Oh, hey, background guy in films like Living Daylights and Last Crusade), some didnít (the one actress, who barely considers herself that, found that she was more keen on getting her walk-on roles and not really seeking anything more), and some went on to being other iconic figures (Dave Prowse as a cross-walk guy - UK TV advert!)
Thereís also a good deal of time spent talking about fans and conventions, and the reactions to how these cons go isnít anything too out of this world (as one of them says, 95% of the people are terrific, the rest are just weird), but it adds another level on to the proceedings.
Most interesting is the bit about how there is a sort of tier system as far as people going to these conventions, with one man being interviewed (I forget his name but heís the guy that gets blown up in the X-Wing after shouting Loosen up! and recalls remembering his lines out of order!) saying that at one con a guy came trying to make himself into a thing when he wasnít even credited!
And then this same guy, one presumes - or someone like him - is interviewed, and I mean, hey, that briefing scene on the Death Star on Yavin had a LOT of guys, you know.
And meanwhile a guy like Prowse says with only a bit of bitterness that he isnít asked to conventions anymore, certainly not the official SW ones, but it doesnít seem as anything sad, like he knows heís made some bad blood along the way (the context, in case anyoneís curious, Prowse used to be really terrible when it came to leaking info about the sequels when they were in production, to the point where he wasnít given the pivotal line in Empire due to his loose lips, so that may be a reason he neglects to mention, but I digress!).
The key thing with Elstree 1976 is that you donít have to be a major Star Wars fan to see it. Iím sure it helps, and having listened recently to the I Was There Too podcast with Anthony Forrest (the Mind-Trick Stormtrooper, and another character cut from the final version), thereís some extra things to find out about these people that make them interesting all within this context.
Stylistically itís talking heads and a sprinkling of film clips, stills, mostly from SW, and sometimes, to emphasize a character as the one neat trick, the film does a kind of back and forth loop like one might see on, of all places, Instagram, but it works as a Hereís this so-and-so person).
What it comes down to is that these people would be great fun to talk to in sum, and thatís the important thing. While the fandom is nice for these people, itís not everything (not even for Prowse or Jeremy Bulloch, the one actor interviewed here that wasnít there in 1976), so in a way this is more like a series of human interest stories that happens to have as the connecting thread of Oh yeah, that sci-fi movie that the quiet bearded guy was directing. Thus, it works perfectly well for both sets of interested parties, trust me [QA] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.