"You can't win, Darth. If my blade should find its mark, you will cease to exist. But I warn you, if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine..."
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Orange denotes filmed but cut dialogue)
After weeks of prior rehearsal/choreography, the period of May 27th to June 1st, 1976 sees the filming at Elstree of the iconic first lightsaber duel seen in a STAR WARS movie - the conflict between Obi-Wan Kenobi and his former pupil, Darth Vader.
|Posed publicity image with the light reflective blades.|
The hilt-rotating, light reflecting tape lightsaber blades used by Sir Alec Guinness and David Prowse were incredibly fragile- bits can literally be seen breaking off them if you look carefully at the film, and many replacement blades had to used after continued snapping. Wooden swords were also used for studio rehearsals and posed publicity imagery, with the lit blade energy airbrushed on to selected shots a year later. As Dave Prowse, in the hard to see and bulky to wear Vader costume, fought Obi-Wan, the sequence where the two are close-in and Vader pushes Obi-Wan away saw the muscleman/actor unintentionally send Sir Alec flying across the corridor floor. Thankfully, he was was winded rather than sustaining any injuries.
Despite his filmic demise, Guinness was aware that he would come back later to do the Force "ghost" voice of Kenobi aiding Luke in the Death Star space battle, and the fact that, even then (and before the film was even completed), that there was the vague potential for a sequel and the character's return in some capacity.
|Filming the start of the duel.|
|Jamie Harcourt holds the clapperboard as the latter portion of the scene is filmed again.|
In the film's later post production editing some parts of the sequence are noticeably flipped.
Star Wars Empire of Dreams Part 3 The Stunts of Star Wars - YouTube
|The start of the duel shot from the alternate angle.|
Forty years on, many modern day STAR WARS fans have dismissed this original duel as slow and lacking excitement in comparison to the more sophisticated lightsaber clashes of the later films, but I say they don't know what they're talking about. Back in 1977, this sequence was good enough to capture the hearts and minds of millions of spellbound fans, launching their collective imaginations about the past history between Obi-Wan and Darth, and generating lots of imitative action from kids in playgrounds clashing with invisible laser swords and making Ben Burtt's unique humming sound...
Star Wars Featurette: The Birth of the Lightsaber - YouTube
Ben Burtt Interview: The Sound of Lightsabers - YouTube
|Classic autograph quotes from Dave Prowse and Sir Alec Guinness.|
One notable re-edit of this sequence can be found in fan film-maker Adywan's STAR WARS REVISITED, where he literally expands/revises the opening part of the duel in a very impressive way, scene flipping footage to further and impressive effect.
Star Wars Obiwan vs Vader Fan Edit - YouTube