A Disturbance in the
Directors: Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak
The Star Wars Holiday Special is many things to many Star Wars fans, but pretty much all can agree…it’s weird and just a bit rubbish. Though those are just two reasons why it has gained such a fervent reputation in the years since its one-time airing on CBS on November 17th, 1978, plus the fact that George Lucas and the stars of the franchise have disowned it regularly since all having a hand in its unholy creation. I can only imagine that copies of the special rank amongst the most bootlegged productions in history as fans and masochists seek to get their hands and eyes on the infamous special.
"The personal stories are always enjoyable to hear and there’s a jovial tone throughout, the filmmakers wisely knew to have fun with what they were doing here."
But, amongst the derision lies genuine curiosity about the strangest release to ever leave the walls of Lucasfilm, and, now, filmmakers Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak have created a documentary detailing the behind-the-scenes and making of the Holiday Special with A Disturbance in the Force. The nearly ninety-minute feature contains new and archival interviews with Steve Binder - the eventual director of the special - Kevin Smith (of course), Weird Al Yankovic, Steve Binder, Seth Green, Donnie Osmond, Bruce Vilanch, and a host of the crew who worked on the show with the aim to provide the definitive story for fans old and new.
Now, the documentary is, thankfully, made from a place of genuine love and passion for the special. Yes, there are digs and gags made at its expense throughout, but this isn’t a feature aimed at exuding negativity or spite (see: The People vs. George Lucas). Instead, Coon and Kozak, alongside producer Kyle Newman, present a narrative of events from inception (the idea being Star Wars may be forgotten by that Autumn), to Lucas’ initial involvement before heading off to start pre-production on The Empire Strikes Back, Ken and Mitzie Welch’s botched handling of producing, and everything in-between leading to its eventual release.
The key issue I had with A Disturbance in the Force is that it felt mostly surface-level when it came to really exploring the production itself, it didn’t particularly dive into the nitty gritty, instead discussing facts that are (for the most part) pretty widely known. I will concede that, as a Star Wars fan, that may be more of a me issue, but who else is the target audience for this? Finding out more about the 1970s variety scene was interesting though, as was seeing this strangely bizarre era of Star Wars, but finding out about the filmmaker's backgrounds and the total lack of control or direction throughout was more of the content I would have preferred rather than small segments regaling the specials ‘major’ moments (i.e. Chewbacca’s pervert uncle).
The production levels are high and the documentary has a sheen of quality over it, though some of the editing choices left a bit to be desired. It would have been great to hear new soundbites from Lucas, Ford, or Hamill, but we all knew that was never going to happen. Instead, the assembled throng of guests that come and go provide anecdotes covering varying degrees of proximity to the production - from directing, writing, or shooting it, to excitedly watching it as a kid. The personal stories are always enjoyable to hear and there’s a jovial tone throughout, the filmmakers wisely knew to have fun with what they were doing here - the feature even goes as far as to pose the question as to whether fans and creators now recognize its hidden greatness...
A Disturbance in the Force is made by fans for the fans, which works both in its favour and against. The majority of fans will know most of the details being explained, but the joy that it is presented with is nothing if not pleasing. Whilst Lucasfilm still hold the special at arm's length (despite recent nods in The Mandalorian and at Galaxy’s Edge), the legacy of the Star Wars Holiday Special will never die, and surely we can celebrate that a little bit - hell, we wouldn’t have Boba Fett without it. Star Wars fans (and sci-fi/70s variety enthusiasts) will absolutely appreciate this, but whilst it is well made and seasoned with real passion, it can’t escape the fact it is merely a surface-level look at one of the most bonkers of pop culture phenomenons.
What a great poster though.
July 29th 2023