Hello Everybody, A long time ago, forty years to the day, in a galaxy far, far away called the United States of America….a star filled screen was the backdrop for a crawling passage of text, followed by a space battle between two ships, and the start of a phenomenon. Yes that phenomenon is Star Wars which debuted in cinemas this very day forty years ago. Little did we know what an impact it would have on us and popular culture since. It was a “Space Opera” with good guys and bad, Princesses, evil villains, mystic hobbits, droids, smugglers and a reluctant hero! Phew! that’s a long list. The film also had cool gadgets and props, including a planet killing space station, starfighter spaceships with lasers, handheld laser pistols and rifles…..oh and probably the greatest weapon ever conceived….the Lightsaber! A glowing energy beam sword that was able to cut through almost anything that extended and retracted when switched on or off. Then there was the sound of the saber courtesy of the genius of Ben Burtt. How many of us, as kids didn’t imitate the humming “Vrrrwwwm….Vrrrwwwm” noises waving various sticks and tubes about! Well as tribute I have a gallery of pictures of the first Lightsaber we ever saw on screen (or at least a custom saber manufacturer’s simile of one!)…here is Graflex Noir 77…
This was the prop in the film that got us all excited. The “Graflex” Lightsaber which Obi-Wan Kenobi passed onto Luke Skywalker, the saber belonging to Luke’s father originally. The saber wasn’t called a Graflex in the film, that refers to the item which was modified to build the prop in real life. The handle was originally a handle from an old 1930/40’s camera flash gun made by Graflex, the sort seen in movies used by newspaper reporters. The flash gun was a silver, tubular handle with a large metal dish attached at the top. The prop builders discovered a collection of these at the back of the studios and realised if they removed that dish which held the flash bulb, they had something that looked like the handle of a futuristic sword!
The blades of these props weren’t as good as they are today on replica hilts and props, instead they were lengths of three sided dowel rod. The rods didn’t glow but a clever camera technician wrapped the dowels in a metallic cloth used for cinema screens (called ScotchLite) and connected it to a small motor so it would rotate. He used a trick which shone light through the lens of the camera. This light would hit the cloth covered dowel and reflect back into the camera causing a flickering glow. Unfortunately if the movement of the camera and the blade weren’t co-ordinated the blade would move out of range and the glow would disappear.
If you look closely at Luke’s sleeve you can see the wire that connected the motor in the hilt to it’s battery pack! And one final little fun fact, the actors weren’t allowed to actually clash the sabers together as they were very delicate but if you watch the battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan on the Death Star, both warriors swing their sabers and they “clash”…look very closely and you will see a small cloud of dust appear on impact. That dust is some of the metallic particles from the cloth!
None of this mattered to us fans however, a Lightsaber was a cool laser sword that all wannabe heroes wanted. I had one, a flashlight with a 1.5 volt light bulb powered by a couple of batteries, with a big plastic tube on the end. I didn’t get my first until the third film of the saga, so that’s another story. To finish today I will take a risk and post a coule of movie stills to celebrate the film’s anniversary, and if anyone from Disney or LucasFilm want me to remove them let me know, I always give credits etc to all material used here. So here are a few stills some old school black and white for nostalgia and some in colour for the younger newer generation of fans…enjoy and thanks for looking in today. Till next time.
Star Wars, Lightsaber, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and all names, images, logos and related material are Trademark/©Copyright of Disney/LucasFilm ltd 1977-2017.