Director: Jon Spira
Writer: Jon Spira
Stars: Paul Blake, Jeremy Bulloch, John Chapman, Anthony Forrest, Laurie Goode, Garrick Hagon, Derek Lyons, Angus MacInnes and David Prowse
I found this documentary a little hard to come by but finally tracked down a copy and after enjoying the David Prowse documentary “I am your Father” last year I have to admit that I was looking forward to this one just as much. I thought the trailer was interesting and the movie’s poster was pretty cool. Sadly “Elstree 1976” becomes a dull and uninteresting documentary about lesser known actors and extras reminiscing about their time on the set of Star Wars (1977) and how making the film affected their lives.
The focus on these extras at times was uninteresting but there was some anecdotes that worked and particularly from Jeremy Bulloch, Garrick Hagon and David Prowse. I knew Angus MacInnes was part of the Rebellion’s attack on the Death Star but the rest of these extras rambled on a bit about playing squash with Kiera Knightly’s father and another explaining taking too much Valium for a backache. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a documentary about ordinary people with an extraordinary story to tell and I thought this would work here but unfortunately the focus is on more mundane details. The Stormtrooper who hit his head on the bay doors said he couldn’t see out of the helmet and claims there are other “actors” out there claiming they played that particular Stormtrooper. Talk about fighting over the crumbs.
Although a welcome relief to see Jeremy Bulloch I was little confused on why he was appearing in a film called Elstree 1976 when in fact he didn’t enter the fray until a few years later whilst filming The Empire Strikes Back in the late 1970’s. But nevertheless perhaps the film maker needed another “big” name in there along with David Prowse who we get to see in that infamous clip from A Clockwork Orange and his experience with Stanley Kubrick, which I found a little amusing.
The part of the documentary that really sunk this was asking the question on “What are you doing now?” which was painful to watch at times as most of them didn’t have really anything interesting to say. I felt these people either didn’t want to admit that 1976 was the highlight of their showbiz career and the others who went into full flow were slightly deluded. Don’t get me wrong I am not having a go at these extras, but a little perspective is missing here. If the truth be told, after the tales of Star Wars, you just lose interest in their stories as it becomes desperate in one of the extras saying they had bit parts in Indiana Jones and Superman films and became depressed because it never led to bigger roles and a female extra who apparently appeared in the Cantina scene dated Superman himself Christopher Reeve whilst filming Superman. Wow.
Overall Elstree 1976, didn’t deliver and part of me takes responsibility for that as I expected more. I thought this film would use stock footage quite a bit during this period and there would be some reveals about some of the more known actors. Sadly the interviews became self indulgent and quite bluntly sad. I have enjoyed some rather great documentaries about Star Wars in the past from “The People vs. George Lucas (2010)”, Empire of Dreams: The Story of the ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy (2004) and I Am Your Father (2015). This film doesn’t come close to these and sadly I cannot recommend watch this.