Elstree 1976 is definitely a nostalgia trip but not just for the moment these actors took big and small parts in the original Star Wars, it’s also about their individual lives. This is a documentary for fans of the original film because of the obvious connection and content but we spend more time around the normal everyday folk, what the film did for them in ‘77 and beyond.
Directed by Jon Spira, the film focuses around a small group of people who were part of the sci-fi phenomena including the likes of Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett, and David Prowse who is Darth Vader to us all, regardless of the iconic James Earl Jones overdub. The other side of the story is that of the extras who were involved and may not have had speaking parts but were immortalised forever in the grand corridors of pop culture. It also delves into their lives and explores the effects of brief, unexpected, fame.
The other truth beneath it all is how people didn’t really expect Star Wars to be such a big success, and didn’t know anything about it beforehand. People were turning up at casting calls, not given that much information, meeting George Lucas (and not knowing who he was at this point) and then having their faces hidden beneath helmets and behind masks. In truth, who would have thought, for example, that Boba Fett would become such an iconic character? All those seemingly basic background extras would unexpectedly fall into non-speaking roles but nearly 40 years later, their lives were still changed by 1976.
There are stories from the actors involved regarding the filming processes and their relationships with other actors, including how they could barely see as Stormtroopers and the panic of forgetting lines, but this documentary is really about what it meant for them to be involved, rather than an insight into the actual filming of Star Wars and so, in that respect, it’s a celebration of Elstree itself because of what it created.
Elstree 1976 is a warm, contemplative documentary that’s occasionally overlong and despite interesting stories, the latter third drops a little in quality. Saying that, these are genuine people but you don’t really have a connection to their lives if you haven’t been involved in acting. On the flipside we do learn they’ve been trying to do positive things in their lives and, to be fair, that’s all that counts. Overall, it leaves you with the conclusion that Star Wars made an impact beyond the fan and film love, even if it doesn’t reveal quite as much from the actual film-making process as you might like it to.
3/5 – Elstree 1976 is available on own on DVD from Monday 14th November from Soda Pictures, order your copy here.