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Thursday, 11 April 2013

ROT AT 30: THE LONELY EDIT OF MOFF JERJERROD!

Moff Jerjerrod (Michael Pennington) receives new orders from The Emperor, in a deleted scene from RETURN OF THE JEDI.


Another classic deleted scene of the Original STAR WARS TRILOGY, from RETURN OF THE JEDI, finally made it to Blu-ray reality in 2011, involving the Imperial character of Moff Jerjerrod, as played by British actor Michael Pennington. Here's a classic AFICIONADO feature from 2007/2008 then speculating on the original footage and what it was like...


From a hero, or heroes, racing to save people form a ticking bomb, to a desperate flight to rescue a damsel in distress trapped on a railway line by a fiendish rogue sporting a dodgy twirly moustache, that one element of adrenaline rush excitement- the race against time- has become a staple part of our movie going collective consciousness as far as back as the dawn of cinema. No other film series since the days of the thirties and forties episodic serials, normally from REPUBLIC PICTURES, has used that mantra to thrill audiences of all ages as well as STAR WARS and, a short time later, within the INDIANA JONES adventures.

For the final film of the Original STAR WARS Trilogy, RETURN OF THE JEDI, we would be sadly deprived of one of these race against time moments, during a sequence already jam-packed with exciting thrill-a-minute incident: that battle on and above the forest planet Endor as Rebel troops, led by Han Solo and Princess Leia, try to re-enter the Imperial Bunker and de-activate the shield generator protecting the in orbit killer space station that is the Death Star, whilst their fleet, led by the dashing Lando Calrissian, bears against overwhelming odds to break free from an aerial trap against hundreds of Imperial Cruisers and fighters, await their friends completion of their perilous ground mission. Added to all this, is of course the more intimate drama of father and son Skywalker's facing each other in a climactic lightsaber duel in front of a gloating Emperor Palpatine-a Sith Lord who knows that whatever the outcome of this duel, he will surely still remain the victor. On top of all that however, adding extra icing to the excitement cake, and just prior to Luke’s fateful re-match with Darth Vader, the race against time element concocted for the film would see the Emperor order the beleaguered Imperial officer Moff Jerjerrod to target the Death Star's supreme weapon on Endor and destroy it should the Rebels, however unlikely given their current predicament, succeed in taking out the shield generator.

Jerjerrod and an Imperial Officer (Glyn Baker) watch as the countdown to the destruction of Endor begins...

With the Rebels improvised success, and with a little help from the Ewoks, Moff Jerjerrod, a slimy and ambitious Imperial character, played by Michael Pennington (whose several notable scenes with Darth Vader had already been deleted from the film), would find his key part in instigating and building the race against time momentum of the story lost to the further oblivion of the cut scenes universe, as would the later moments where the Rebel fleet notice the new movement of the Death Star and its firing position on Endor. Aware of the dangers whilst traversing a dangerous series of reactor tunnels within the space station’s interior, Lando Calrissian knows that he has to succeed at all costs in taking out its reactor core before his friends are pulverised. Additionally, the Rebel cruisers efforts against the killing jar trap that the Imperial fleet and Death Star have ensnared them in intensifies as they break a hole in the Star Destroyer armada and begin to surround the space station, now attacking on two fronts.

In the quagmire of Post-Production and film-editing during late 1982/early 1983, it was soon decided by George Lucas, who was fighting to create the best finale possible from the saga-having filmed lots of second unit shots at ELSTREE and even going as far as creating new effects at the last minute, to cut the race against time out of the picture, determining it to be un-necessary-one plot too many as the film neared it’s finale, with the dying Vader talking to Luke taking precedence over the final part of the action, and an avoidance of what the film-maker felt was repetitive of STAR WARS earlier finale, in which the young Jedi travels down the fateful trench of the first Death Star, using the Force to launch his torpedoes in destroying it just as it’s super laser is about to fire on the Rebels at Yavin.

My feelings about this….well, yes, the sequence is JEDI is repetitive but, just by having a second Death Star in the movie the repetition factor is already built in!  With this scene omission we lose some intriguing character moments and further tension building, which Lucas and his editors do so well, that might ultimately have been rewarding had it been included- with the superlaser about to fire on Endor, both Lando Calrissian and his wingman, Red Squadron Leader Wedge Antilles, would have come across as even more heroic-and there is the even stronger possibility that, unlike STAR WARS, neither may have gotten out of the Death Star with the ticking clock (the audience already un-nerved-at the time as this was supposed to be the final film of the middle trilogy, and both writer Lawrence Kasdan and director Richard Marquand having previously felt that at least one character should have died in the film anyway and this was the closest we were going to get to seeing that almost happening). It’s omission also sees the loss of scenes for both heroes Admiral Ackbar and General Madine (played by Dermot Crowley, who lost all of his bridge moments in the battle anyway-of which the only current visual representations of him in the conflict are numerous stills of him in that sliding chair thingy), the pair bravely co-ordinating the battle and their move to surround the Death Star whilst still attacking the Imperial Star Destroyers. On the planet killer, as previously mentioned, the beleaguered Moff Jerjerrod also has more character development-though not in the same league as STAR WARS’s Governor Tarkin, with Pennington’s playing of the character in the lost scenes showing firstly that, despite his service to the Empire, he is unwilling to see good men and soldiers be killed needlessly, and then later, when the battle tide turns to their enemies, Jerjerrod, sensing that defeat may be imminent and the Death Star now under attack itself (and that he has to save his own skin), soon initiating the Emperor’s orders to even the playing field (this is according to the book adaptation by James Khan (though we have no idea it was filmed, we think the odds that it was seems likely, as pretty much all the cut scenes filmed, that we are aware of, have matched what was in the film novelisation)). Fortunately for us, and our heroes on Endor, Lando and Wedge succeed in their mission as the Death Star’s destruction adds further debris to the starfield around the planet for a long time to come.

So...another lost scene. Another lost opportunity for heightened drama and character moments in JEDI. But still, another hope that it will at least appear one day on DVD!

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