How to Watch Star Wars at Home in 1978

Here’s another guest post, this time from Steve. He hasn’t got a blog or a website, despite the fact that he is well aware that he should have, considering he is a web developer and also hosts this site. And wrote this introduction.

A website for old and rare oddities you say? Well enough about me, here’s my guest post. Back in January 1978 a magazine debuted at my local newsagents, it was called STARBURST, and having recently seen the movie Star Wars (some of you may have heard of it) I persuaded my Dad to buy it for me.

Somehow I have managed to keep it. Sure the pages are yellowed and there are a few tears, but it has a mystical nostalgia to it. There are only a few articles – split between Star Wars and Star Trek (the 60’s TV series only of course) and I can’t say that I’ve ever actually read them in the past 36 years now that I think about it. I mainly looked at the pictures – a trait that’s remained with me I might add – and while the glossy colour shots of Star Wars captured the breathless excitement of the landmark motion picture in my young and impressionable five-year-old mind; it was the fascinating advertisements in the magazine that I pored over. The promise of re-watching Star Wars again in the comfort of my own home was almost irresistible; remember this was barely the dawn of the home video revolution, JVC and SONY had only just released portable VCRs, and terms like VHS and Betamax were Sci-Fi words. Movies were more of an event back then, as you saw them once in the cinema, and if you liked the film and wanted to see it again, you had to wait about five years, and then end up with an edited version on TV interrupted every half hour with commercials. See the film at home - only £165.22 for 20 minutes of footage and £827.36 for the projector - in today's money! But look at this – they actually sold Star Wars on film so you could see it at home. You had to buy a projector too mind, which they claimed were sold at “down to earth prices.” No amount of tantrums persuaded my dad to buy them of course. But look at some of the formats; 200′ spools of “highlights” – black and white – no sound – 8 minutes long – Hang on – This sounds amazing! I want to see these chopped edits of the original more than I want to see Episode VII – but look at the price of them. Historically adjusted inflation makes that £165 YELCO Sound Projector a whopping £827.36. And that special 400′ spool is now £165.22. So to see 20 minutes of Star Wars at home in 1978 would set you back £992.58; which is about £49.63 per minute! Compare that to the actual cinema price in 1978 – average of 93p for a ticket at the time, adjusted to £4.66 now – to watch the whole 121 minute movie. A snip at less then 4p a minute. Well, that actually made waiting until October 24th 1982 to see it on TV seem perfectly sensible. But the other adverts in that first issue of STARBURST also captured my imagination; a shady comics dealer, a fantasy bookstore, and how amazing was this; an incredible melting man! Was it a film or a TV show? There was no googling back then either in 1978.

This very magazine was my gateway drug into many things; aged six I was reading hard SF such as Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, comics like 2000AD, and with a growing appetite for watching really bad horror movies. Just think; if my dad had not bought that 50p magazine – I might have turned out normal.

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4 Responses

  1. Estelle says:

    Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed, the shop, excellent name! http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_They_Were,_and_Golden-Eyed_(bookshop)

  2. Brian says:

    One fireworks night back in 76 or 77, it rained. But not to disappoint the kids gathered at my friend Martin’s house, his dad called us into the living room and showed the scene when Luke witnesses obe one get hacked down by darf on board the Death Star.

    We were amazed, it had no sound but you could see just what a great film we were witnessing. I talked about it for months till I finally got to see the film in full and this time in with sound!

    It is an experience I will always cherish and thanks to the Bergess’s of Woodside Park for that!

    • Steven H says:

      Wow Brian – thanks for this contribution – Do you remember any other scenes from the film reel?

      There was a home-projector scene back in those day (stag movies mainly in the US) and in school I remember being shown Gulliver’s Travels – one scene where a cat jumps onto a window ledge, was looped back and forwards by an enthusiastic teacher showing off with the projector – but it made us all laugh (I must have been about 4 then as it was before my sister was born!)

  3. Marc Jones says:

    Fascinating post! Turns out they did 8mm highlights of the two Dalek films too: http://www.nothing-lane.co.uk/pdfs/Lane2-8mm.pdf

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