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Star Wars (Soundtrack)
20th Century 541
Released: June 1977
Chart Peak: #2
Weeks Charted: 53
Certified Platinum: 8/17/77

The movie Star Wars has met with such universal critical acclaim (and of course got the obligatory pan from the iconoclastic-at-any-cost Village Voice) that it's almost embarrassing to a film snob like me. After all, I put off seeing Rocky for months simply because I was sick and tired of people bugging me about it at parties. But now here I am, following Marvel's comic-book adaptation, clutching the paperback novelization to my bosom, wearing a "May the Force Be with You" button unashamedly, and discussing the film at tedious length with anyone dumb enough to mention it within fifteen feet of me.

But can I help it if it's great? Blame George Lucas, who dreamed it up, for creating a Genuine Epic out of the clichés of forty years of B movies, the shreds and tatters of our collective childhood memories. Just don't be fooled into thinking that Star Wars is merely a sci-fi flick (if it is, then Moby Dick is merely a fish story) or that it is nothing more than an Entertainment, even in the Graham Greene sense; Lucas' achievement is much greater than that. It takes something verging on genius to meld the look, the feel, the grammar of Erroll Flynn swashbucklers, Laurel & Hardy, every western and war movie ever made, The Wizard of Oz, Fritz Lang, cheapo Universal serials like Flash Gordon, and the propaganda films of Leni Riefenstahl into a cohesive, original whole that manages to be totally outrageous and totally straight-faced at the same time. And the oddest thing of all is that the outer-space milieu of Star Wars is just as sharply observed, in its own way, as was the early-Sixties California Lucas evoked for his American Graffiti; that he had to make this one up only heightens my astonishment at the creative performance of his vision.

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Single Review: "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" - Meco

DVD Review: Star
Wars: The Complete Saga

Star Wars Videos

John Williams' score manages the neat trick of keeping up with Lucas almost frame for frame. Williams is no innovator like, say, Bernard Herrmann, but he has a wonderful ear for the endearingly hackneyed tropes of Hollywood film scoring in the grand old Max Steiner/Alfred Newman tradition. Like Lucas, he is capable of manipulating clichés in a way that never once cheapens them; if anything, he makes them sound as glorious as they were originally meant to (and almost never were). The specific reference point here is Franz Waxman's music for Flash Gordon, which you may recall was a mishmash of real classical stuff (mostly Liszt's "Les Préludes") and leftovers from the score for The Bride of Frankenstein. So Williams' heroic-sounding stuff is full of Lisztian bombast (the title theme, some of the battle music, the fanfares that accompany the final throne-room scene), and the lighter things (particularly the music for the Mutt and Jeff robots who practically steal the movie) have the kind of appropriately "modernistic" tinker-toy sound Waxman used to such marvelous parodistic advantage. The music for the scene in which little Artoo-Deetoo (R2-D2), who looks like an intelligent fire hydrant with legs, is accosted by hooded creatures who might as well be malevolent Munchkins is, in fact, almost eerily reminiscent of the fragments Waxman used to portray the Rock People in a similar setting in one of the Flash Gordon pictures.

The soundtrack -- both records of it -- is, in short, enormous fun, improved no doubt by the resequencing and editing Williams did especially for the album, and both the sound and the quality of the orchestral playing (the LSO is not your average Hollywood pick-up outfit) are really quite breathtaking. If, like me, you're waiting impatiently for a chance to catch Star Wars again but can't bear to wait in line for hours, you'll definitely want this aural reminder of the delights of the most brilliant American commercial film since The Godfather Part II. But let me warn you: don't play it at parties, no matter how carried away you get. There are a lot of people out there who have absolutely no sense of humor.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 9/77.

Bonus Reviews!

Why is this one of the greatest soundtracks ever? (1) Because it's only the best-known film music of the last 25 years. (2) Because the orchestral swell when Luke looks out at the twin Tatooine suns gets us every time. (3) Because it uses Wagnerian leitmotifs. Seriously. Look it up. (4) Because we have friends who played the "Throne Room" passage at their weddings. (5) Because Bill Murray once sang it.

- Entertainment Weekly, 2001.

A long time ago in a galaxy [not so] far away, John Williams returned us to a symphonic movie score, and we are grateful. The groundbreaking, heart-pumping soundtrack to George Lucas' opus has been enormously influential, introducing science-fiction cinema to a classical romanticism that conveys the largeness of space and delivering a main title that has become part of the lexicon of our culture -- the force is with it indeed. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

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