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writer...performer...sometime pop-up cinema host.

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Friday, 3 February 2017

Leslie Halliwell and Star Wars

Does anyone out there  remember Halliwell’s Film Guide? It was a mine of information about movies, including awards garnered, a list of the production crew and cast and a small review giving you Leslie Halliwell’s thoughts on whether or not the movie had any merit. Notable actors and technical crew were in italics, giving you an idea of who shone when the movie was released. The book was a source of information for any movie buff and a must have at Christmas. Leslie Halliwell died in 1989, having created a mammoth list of movies and reviews; he was respected throughout the movie world and also worked for ITV as a buyer, bringing in the James Bond franchise which still holds strong with ITV today, as well as hit tv shows and the network premiere of Star Wars, which was a big deal when it was first shown.

What has led me to this thought of Leslie Halliwell? Well, in his tradition I have started to catalogue all of the films I have seen using his four star rating system. It is quite a task, but an interesting one when you take each film, new releases or ones that have to be viewed again, one at a time and give it a fair, review based on your own perceptions and not influenced by anything like awards or critical response.  I think what made Halliwell so special was that he used his own voice, and I am bringing that to my own catalogue of movies.

According to Wikipedia, who must have a good source of information, Halliwell’s favourite film was Citizen Kane, which seems to be high on many a critical list. The classic movie from Orson Welles, which famously introduced ceilings to the set, was released in 1941 and flopped at the box office. It has gone on to be named as one of the greatest movies ever to be made.

I still have a couple of his film guides, and they still hold strong even when you take into account the amount of movies that have been made since his death. I wonder what he would have thought of the state of cinema when you include all of the remakes, sequels and superhero movies. Would he have looked favourably on all the Marvel movies that are being made, or of the new Star Wars franchise? It would have been interesting to have seen his take on the industry now.

I remember watching Star Wars for the first time on television. It was during a time when we did not have a VCR, or video recorder, which was a tape that you put into the machine which was plugged in to the television and allowed you to record films and shows to watch later. Before households had technology like that you either had to stay in and watch the show or had to miss it, simple as that.

Anyway, Star Wars was being released onto terrestrial television to much hype and the only way I could record any of it would be to place a cassette recorder up to the speaker of the tv and record it as you would a radio show, to play it back without pictures at my leisure. Of course, I was Star Wars mad, so it would have been foolish not to have done this, and being crazy I could also memorize the pictures so I could imagine the movie playing out in front of me just by listening to the sound effects and dialogue.

Years later they released Star Wars onto VHS in widescreen and then eventually it has come onto DVD and BluRay, but back then 1982, when we had just three channels and an upstart fourth, times were a little simpler for us movie buffs and we had to rely on sound recordings and (what!) book to get us through the three years between episodes.
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