Thursday, May 30, 2013

30 Years of RETURN OF THE JEDI - Part 30

Since the first Star Wars movie came out, I'm guessing just about everyone wondered what Darth Vader looked like beneath that helmet. I'm not talking about actor, David Prowse (above) but what sort of disfiguring, rasping creature "more machine than man" as Ben Kenobi informed us he was. The first hint I recall was, I believe in an issue of MAD magazine illustrated by Don Martin, that showed Vader's costume hanging on a hook, and the silhouette of a skinny, bearded old man taking a shower. This was obviously done for humorous effect and was not meant as serious speculation.

When The Empire Strikes Back came out, we received our first true hint to the nature of Vader's bare noggin through a very short clip of his helmet being lowered into place over the exposed back of his burn scarred head.

 This put to mind the face of the masked prince in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, or as Famous Monsters would suggest, Vincent Price in House of Wax

With Return of the Jedi, we'd finally get out look beneath the helmet. Before that moment, we'd get a few more hints at the cyborg anatomy of Darth Vader. First Luke chops of Vader's hand with his lightsaber revealing a writs full of severed, smoldering wires. Later as the Emperor's force energy courses over Vader, it illuminates him like an x-ray, revealing not just his skull, but bits of machinery in his neck and arm, suggesting he still had some serious injuries to come after those that would be revealed in Revenge of the Sith

Then the moment finally arrives when Darth Vader asks Luke to remove his mask, and the whole audience stopped breathing in anticipation. My guess is that this was not what they were expecting to see. I sure wasn't. Except for a couple of, admittedly serious looking, scars and a lack of exposure to sunlight, he was just an old man. I get that this was Darth Vader finally re-obtaining his diminished humanity and that that would probably be undermined if his face was a mass of melted flesh, but my young self was a bit let down. 

For some reason, when Return of the Jedi was rereleased in 1997, part of CG tinkering that george Lucas instituted was the erasure of Vaders prominent eyebrows. This made him look a bit more worm-like. 

The final indignity to be bestowed on Vader would come at the end of the movie when his ghost, or rather the ghost of Anakin Skywalker manifests beside the ghosts of Yoda and Ben Kenobi. The return of the jedi. Vader has been redeemed, and this scene as originally shot is fine and well, and even a bit touching. 

When Return of the Jedi was released on DVD as the prequel movies were finished, we had to suffer with poor Sebastian Shaw as Anakin's ghost being replaced by much younger Hayden Christensen as Anakin's ghost. Why don't Yoda and Ob-Wan get to appear in their youthful forms. For that matter, where are the ghosts of all the other jedis? At least the scenes with Luke and his helmetless father weren't reshot with Hayden Christensen -- so far. 

Anakin was also released as an action figure during the waning days of the Kenner toy line. 

Senior Anakin Skywalker was also released in the modern line of action figures in both his corporeal and spectral forms, before the prequels arrived and confused everything. 


Todd Franklin said...

I too was a bit disappointed in Vader's face when it was finally revealed. It was kind of like the revealing of the Wizard in Wizard of Oz.

Robert Pope said...

Sadly, it was a bit too much like finally seeing the Little Red Haired Girl in the 70's special "It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown" (which Schulz regretted, apparently) as the imagination simply cannot be topped. Same reason that never seeing Dr. Doom's face is a good idea.

Old Fashion Halloween said...

I just wanted to say thank you for this wonderful series. As a fan it was real treat to see rare images for the first time. Great memories.