Editor’s note: After getting over our initial surprise that a monthly magazine ran movie reviews in print in 1977, we decided now would be an appropriate time to share D’s piece on the original Star Wars. The largely positive review was written by the late David Dillon, longtime architecture critic for the Dallas Morning News. We’ve reproduced the piece below with a few formatting tweaks for clarity. The exact photos used below did not run with the original article, but the photo captions — which were too good to not include — did.
A Film Worth Waiting in Line For
On my first attempt to see Star Wars, I couldn’t get within 100 Trekkies of the door. I was doing much better the second time, only about 25 to go, when the frantic manager came bounding down the line to announce that because of a miscount the theater was already over-sold, but of course we were all welcome to stay in line for the 7:30 show. Now, I’d camped out in Covent Garden to see Nureyev and Fonteyn and at the Boston Garden to watch the Bruins battle the Canadiens, but I’d be damned if I was going to do it for a sci-fi film at NorthPark.
By the following morning, Sunday, I’d cooled down enough to take a chance on the 12:30 matinee. Everyone would still be in church, right? Surprise! When I arrived the line was already a neat double helix around Cinema I and the sun so hot that my Earth Shoes started melting into the sidewalk. And then there was more good news from the manager — today’s bargain matinee had been cancelled. I began to wonder if the assignment was part of a sinister editorial plot, a penance for all those weak leads. When I finally got a seat, surrounded by shrieking eight-year-olds with silver Mylar discs pinned to their shirts, there were still several versions of the “Theme Song from Exodus” to sit through plus about 20 minutes of trailers, including one for bargain matinees that got a prolonged Bronx cheer. By this time I didn’t care if the film was good, so long as it was lively and reasonably entertaining.
Star Wars is that and much more. Call it a galactic fairy tale or a futuristic fantasy, it’s two hours of rousing and remarkably innocent fun. There is no moral except to “trust the force” — which could be anything from intuition to a new vitamin supplement — and no despairing commentary on the human condition of the kind that grounded 2001. This is undisguised escapist fare, good for at least three boxes of Milk Duds or Junior Mints. There’s a captive princess, a black and villainous lord of the Empire named Darth Vader, his King-Arthurish foe, Obi-Wan Kenobi, played with appropriate visionary elan by Alec Guinness, not to mention an engaging supporting cast of humanoids and robots, including one who speaks with an Oxford accent and lives in constant terror of being melted down.
We know from the first frame whose side we’re on and how the whole business is going to turn out, not that there isn’t plenty of excitement and suspense along the way. And the special effects are extraordinary. In most sci-fi films special effects are a sop to the audience for the absence of characterization and ideas, but in Star Wars they are a witty complement to the narrative. Some are parodies of classic scenes from old westerns and adventure films, others, such as the climactic battle sequence in which the seemingly invincible space station, Death Star, is destroyed, mark a quantum leap in cinematic wizardry.
Impressive as all of this is, what holds the film together and makes it so consistently ingratiating are those elusive ingredients known as tone and style. Director George Lucas (American Graffiti) obviously had a bang-up time reliving the Saturday matinees of his childhood, yet he shares his enthusiasms without a trace of condescension or self-mockery. His fantasies are there for all of us to enjoy and translate rather than to scrutinize with a detached and ironical eye. The whole film has such integrity that even its appeals to the somewhat tarnished ideals of heroism and self-sacrifice seem not only apt but convincing.