Peter Cushing in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (dir. George Lucas, 1977).
In the summer of 1977 I was fourteen and I waited in a line that wrapped around the corner of the Briggsmore Theater strip mall in Modesto, California for the first showing of Star Wars. I went back to see it twelve more times during its several-month engagement. I saw it once more upon its twentieth-anniversary re-release with added footage and visual effects "enhancements." That was ten years ago. I'm still a little upset about the pasted-in CGI that makes the Mos Eisley scene look so digitally botched, and that is now apparently a permanent part of the film: the only version most people will ever see from now on. But it's hard to be too upset about the contamination of muppet costumes with computer imaging. What does remain moving are the space scenes, the expansive tableaus of cascading x wings, tie fighters, escape pods, asteroids, and Imperial starcruisers--and the unscientific screeches and whooshes they make. John Williams' big, brassy score accentuates the fantastical technology more aptly than it does any human emotions deducible from the acting of the almost uniformly wretched human cast. The main exception in this regard is Alec Guinness, who may be the only person who could have repeated the phrase "trust your feelings" so may times and retained his dignity. James Earl Jones' Darth Vader voice is of course a classic of menacing intonation, but it is more a sound effect than a performance. And then there is Peter Cushing, whose screen time is sadly minimal, but whose eyebrows alone radiate a now lost brand of cinematic terror.
Labels: George Lucas