austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I saw the little runt sitting there on a log

It seems like somewhere around about this week is the 30th anniversary of the debut of Star Wars, which is notable for being the first movie I ever saw on cable (visiting the house of a friend who, besides being generally a fine guy, also had several hundred thousand wooden blocks, perfect for building replica cities, in enough quantity to build a model Singapore larger than the actual Singapore). I don't intend to say anything bad about it, despite Lucas's inability to stop tampering with a perfectly good project, and I'm sure there's something amusing to be studied in science fiction fans who angrily insist the movies are not science fiction but are rather ``science fantasy'' or ``fantasy with science fiction trappings'', just because it's fascinating watching fans of a genre trying to distance themselves from examples of the genre that actually prove popular.

What occurs to me that this month is also the 30th anniversary of a Leslie Nielsen vehicle called Day of the Animals, which I only know about because I came across listings for it while looking up the original movie reviews for Star Wars. I was interested in the urban legend that critics trashed it on the original appearance and only started praising it after it proved wildly popular. Not true, as it happens; Vincent Canby of The New York Times particularly had high praise for the effects, the plot, the pacing, the exciting serial-adventure thrill, and the droids, although he thought most of the dialogue was silly, which nearly anyone would agree with even today. Roger Ebert's original review was substantially similar but, admittedly, not as positive as his Great Movies reviews would be. The catchy advertising line for Day of the Animals: For Centuries They Were Hunted For Bounty, Fun And Food ... Now It's Their Turn!

It probably would not have been the box-office smash of 1977 even if Star Wars were never made -- near as I can figure out it's a ripoff of the Jaws animals-eat-humans genre of movies a few copies removed, and this was also the year of Close Encounters of the Third Kind -- but I have to expect a fair number of the people who worked on it took reasonable pride in it and hoped people would enjoy the movie. In my melancholy moods, which come about every eighty minutes, I wonder what they thought as this monstrously popular movie came in and obliterated the memory of so many other movies of 1977.

Trivia: By the end of 1865 the Central Pacific Railroad had had US$3,363,300 in stock subscribed, although it was not all paid for. Source: Nothing Like It In The World, Stephen E Ambrose.

Currently Reading: Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild, David Stenn.


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