Monday, 6 May 2013



By Stephen J. Sansweet and Peter Vilmur


Reviewed by SCOTT WELLER

Christmas has come early for me more than a few times this year, firstly with the MAKING OF STAR WARS by J.W. Rinzler, Lorne Peterson’s lovely SCULPTING A GALAXY epic, the amazingly beautiful ART OF RALPH MCQUARRIE hardcover (if you can beg, steal or borrow this from somebody, do so- I recommend it-though not the stealing part, obviously!!) and the gorgeous continuing series sets of black and white photography from the first three films released by OFFICIAL PIX. Now, to round off things with a nice warm glow is the STAR WARS VAULT, a densely packed, beautifully produced book of thirty years of STAR WARS goodies and nostalgia compiled by the unstoppable, unceasing Imperial Walker-like veteran of STAR WARS collecting that is Mister Stephen Sansweet (with the additional help of his Poster Book collaborator, and also equally dedicated purveyor of all memorabilia-Peter Vilmur)

Trying to encapsulate so many memorable events in STAR WARS history, as well as pieces of one off memorabilia too, into a finely compiled product can’t have been easy task (hey, y’know, somebody had to do it!!), but Sansweet and Vilmur have created a book that easily matches, and surpasses, Sansweet’s own similar 1990’s foray into the past:  THE STAR WARS SCRAPBOOK.

And upon opening this hefty work, not quite as muscle creating as THE MAKING OF STAR WARS was to hold and read, but potent nonetheless, my eyes were soon agog at the vast selection of rare and previously unseen items that it’s well sized pages display. Amongst some of the lovely key photographic material are a plethora of ground breaking moments, including a shot of a so very young and enthusiastic Mark Hamill, Producer Gary Kurtz and publicity guru extra-ordinare, Charles Lippincott, at one of the early US science fiction conventions plugging STAR WARS to an at first bewildered, though soon rapidly interest peaked, fan community in 1976 (and the World Con info and photos, also from that year-how incredible is that photo of the first exhibition of STAR WARS props and costumes-if I had been at that event and seen those actual filming costumes of Threepio, Darth Vader and Artoo, and all that Ralph McQuarrie art, at the age of six or seven, I can tell you I would have been blown away-hooked immediately into seeing the film (in the UK, my first taster of the film, my introduction to a love affair that has lasted thirty years so far, was some black and white pics in PHOTOPLAY magazine!!), Lucas and his friend Caroll Ballard on pick up location photography insert filming at Death Valley in January 1977, and Hamill in his best Rebel winter fatigues, outside the avalanched in ski-ing hotel in Finse, Norway in 1979. Other photographic gems include reproductions of very rare items like the 1976 black and white souvenir photo book, including on-set stills taken by Gary Kurtz and John Jay, given to selected cast and crewmembers on the ELSTREE sets as a thank you present by Kurtz and George Lucas in 1976 (beautifully reprinted, THE VAULT sadly only reproduces a small selection of the booklet-perhaps we’ll see the others in a later edition?). And what about the mysterious STAR WARS SPECTACULAR that only played in Japan-well, we finally get some more photos and information on the event (oh my, I’d love to see some footage-it’s probably stark raving mad, presumably on a par, or beyond it possibly, with the HOLIDAY SPECIAL. But doesn’t it look wonderful!! And isn’t it strange how, of all the mediums STAR WARS has appeared in over the years: TV, film, radio, etc-it hasn’t yet found it’s voice in the world of the theatre-either as a musical (which almost did happen at one point), or as a straight forward adaptation/original family audience type drama-if PLANET OF THE APES could have a stage show adventure in London during the early 1970’s, then STAR WARS can too in my book!!))

On the artwork side, other pieces to salivate over include TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX’s various early publicity/marketing attempts and mock ups created in order to try and sell STAR WARS to an audience they didn’t think would be interested in seeing science fiction and space fantasy (one superbly illustrated piece, we believe by Tom Jung, even has a caption that sets the movie in the year 3000!! Presumably a time statement put in by a desperate film-company in order to give STAR WARS some kind of connection to filmgoers), as well as some great info on the marketing of the film-the unused tag lines and visual concepts for the posters-I particularly liked the image of Luke Skywalker with the large Stormtrooper face dominating the background- a nice change from the routine use of Darth Vader as the primary protagonist of the film, 
the earliest piece of pre-production art done for the movie by the esteemed Ralph McQuarrie, the actual picture of the box which has “reel 2 dialogue 2” displayed on it from AMERICAN GRAFFITI, which inspired Lucas to come up with the Astro Droid’s naming, and several pages of Lucas's handwritten, excellent original storyline for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, from November 1977 (which also includes lots of the abandoned plotline of the Wampa attack on both Luke and, later on, the Rebel Base). The nine year period, so far, of the Prequels are also covered within the books thick pages, though obviously not in as much detail as the huge amount of material, spanning thirty years, devoted to the originals (and also don’t forget, this book has been compiled, we understand, from only the first batch of boxes in Stephen Sansweet’s personal archive- there’s still more to be opened up and explored!! YIPPEE!!)

Some other things I wasn’t even aware burst out from the book to surprise and delight, like the fact that, in the UK, the CLARK’S shoe company had a range of sneakers for kids in 1978-why the hell didn’t my folks get me these!! (I’m gonna have to have a word with them about this (!!), and to LUCASFILM a message: how about some trendy sneakers for adults to wear in the year 2007!!). The LSO/John Williams concert held at the London Royal Albert Hall in February 1978, co-inciding with the film’s proper release in the UK, was equally just as much an eye-opener- did anyone out there ever go to that event? If so, please get in touch and tell us all about it!!

And then there’s all the other fold out’s and removable fun items, like the UK LETRASET transfers, STAR WARS Production Notes for the press and the first preview screening invite for STAR WARS in 1977. Even Director Richard Marquand’s dance steps for Ewok dancing for the finale celebrations of RETURN OF THE JEDI!! And why can’t film companies do beautiful promotional leaflets nowadays like the ones they did for the STAR WARS and EMPIRE re-release in 1981-absolutely gorgeous!

Of the lovely Prequel items of note, look out for reproductions of the London Six Film STAR WARS screening ticket from May 2005, a beautifully designed art neuveau PHANTOM MENACE advance screening ticket for LUCASFILM employees, and lovely, and equally rare, ATTACK OF THE CLONES and REVENGE OF THE SITH storyboard/conceptual art reproductions

And there’s still more! Including stickers, miniature reproductions of comic art (like the excellent 1979 Russ Manning work for the US syndicated papers), letters from the BANTHA TRACKS/STAR WARS fan club, survey sheets from 1977 (as to whether a preview audience liked STAR WARS) and 1983 (with people asked if they preferred REVENGE OF THE JEDI or RETURN OF THE JEDI as a main title!!), and let’s not forget those two free CD’s accompanying the book, either-now we can listen to Carrie Fisher give it all she’s got as she belts out her awful “life day” song from the HOLIDAY SPECIAL (a television “event” from 1978, which, amazingly, has nice coverage in this book. With the additional photos of the programme used in the recent TOPPS CARDS Anniversary series, and now this, are LUCASFILM starting to grudgingly accept it’s place, for good or bad, in the Saga?), as well as unusual radio commercials and intriguingly nostalgic 1977 interviews with the films main stars both prior and during STAR WARS original release (including Hamill, Harrison Ford, Fisher and Sir Alec Guinness (who, at that time of talking, still doesn’t really sound sure of what to make of it all!)).

Finally, don’t forget that Yoda cooking recipe sheet that comes free with the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK radio adaptation publicity! I bet the final product smells de-li-cious!

The book is so eye catching-very nicely laid out and never over cluttered. As inherent with THE MAKING OF STAR WARS, there are still some reproductions on the page that are too small, but, with a book of the size, you can’t have everything. One other minor niggle is that there isn’t as much European material on the films within the book (wouldn’t it be great to see French, German and Spanish rarities)-let’s hope there’s more of that in Volume Two.

Yes, there has to be another one, surely!! I’m drooling at the thought of all that other stuff to come from those other mysterious boxes of delight (whose history and magic is worthy enough of having a fictional book written about them, by someone like Roald Dahl!!) to be found at the Sansweet collection. Somebody get me a bib over there!!!

To round off, THE STAR WARS VAULT is the perfect companion to THE MAKING OF STAR WARS, a beautifully created and intriguing flipside to the earlier, equally superb, behind the scenes publication. In J. W. Rinzler’s book we got to read all about the exhaustive conflicts and the struggles by George Lucas to get the first STAR WARS made-the film that would go on to launch a series of movies the likes of which no one had ever seen before, or since for that matter. Now, with the work of Sansweet and Vilmur with THE STAR WARS VAULT we can relish in that success and celebrate STAR WARS’ totally varied and always fascinating history as a worldwide entertainment phenomenon, which has always so successfully brightened the lives of children and adults for thirty years and onwards.

THE STAR WARS VAULT is a true nostalgic celebration of some of the greatest moments linked to the factual and fictional universes of the STAR WARS SAGA.

To the child in all of us, it’s well worth your pocket money!

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