Posts Tagged ‘cinema behind star wars’



The Cinema Behind Star Wars: The Guns of Navarone

Bryan Young | February 18, 2014

Han Solo at the shield bunker in Return of the Jedi, a scene similar to The Guns of Navarone

The Guns of Navarone came out in 1961 and, to my mind, is one of the greatest World War II films to ever come out of the 1960s and it seems to me that it must have been influencing Star Wars since the beginning. It tells the story of Keith Mallory (played by Gregory Peck) and a group of allied soldiers (including David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, and James Darren) as they work to destroy a pair of the biggest and well-fortified ship-destroying guns the allies have ever seen. If the guns aren’t destroyed within a few days, all of the allied soldiers being ferried through that channel for a rescue mission will be killed.

The story is entirely invented, there’s no island of Navarone, there were no British soldiers stranded on the isle of Keros, and the actors were all too old for the roles they were playing, but that doesn’t negate the charm and suspense of this effects laden picture.

Both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi have echoes of the plot. In the original Star Wars picture, the Rebel fleet must destroy the Death Star before it makes it within range of Yavin IV and it works out well. It inverts the tension with the bad guys attacking instead of passively hiding on an island. But Return of the Jedi is where the influence is felt the most.

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The Cinema Behind Star Wars: Battle of the Bulge

Bryan Young | January 20, 2014

The Rebel Base from The Empire Strikes Back

I’m a fan of old-school war movies and it’s pretty clear that George Lucas is, too. For me, Battle of the Bulge, directed by Ken Annikan is a movie that I hadn’t seen prior to the recommendation of Dave Filoni, the supervising director on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. During one of the many times I harassed Filoni about movies they were watching behind the scenes of The Clone Wars to inspire themselves and the show, he told me that this was a big one I needed to watch and he wasn’t kidding.

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The Cinema Behind Star Wars: The Dam Busters

Bryan Young | December 9, 2013

The Dam Busters is a 1955 British film set in World War II. It tells the daring true story of an Royal Air Force raid to destroy a trio of German dams, deep in enemy territory.

Conventional weapons simply wouldn’t do the job, so scientists had to develop a new way of delivering a bomb: skipping it across the water so it would wedge up against the dam. In order to hit the target, the pilots had to fly exactly 60 feet from the surface of the water and every bomber in the mission had to drop their bomb at exactly the same spot.

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The Cinema Behind Star Wars: Lawrence of Arabia

Bryan Young | October 14, 2013


It’s no secret that the generation of filmmakers that produced George Lucas love the work of David Lean. Lean produced brilliant works like Bridge on the River Kwai and Doctor Zhivago, but none more so than the masterpiece of Lawrence of Arabia.

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The Cinema Behind Star Wars: Hitchcock, Ridley Scott, and The Fugitive

Bryan Young | March 12, 2013

If you’ve watched the final arc of the fifth season of The Clone Wars, you might have noticed something interesting about each of the episode titles. (And if you haven’t watched the final arc of the fifth season of The Clone Wars, why in the world not?)

Each of the episode titles, “Sabotage,” “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much,” “To Catch a Jedi,” and “The Wrong Jedi,” correspond to a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Sabotage, The Man Who Knew To Much, To Catch a Thief, and The Wrong Man all deal with themes and situations similar to those faced by Ahsoka Tano in this series of episodes. In Sabotage, police are left to investigate a terrorist plot that blew up a crowded bus, which can relate directly to the bombing of the Jedi Temple. The Man Who Knew Too Much has a spy confess knowledge of an assassination plot moments before he’s murdered, leaving Jimmy Stewart to put the pieces together on his own to prevent more killing. To Catch a Thief follows Cary Grant as he works to clear his name of crimes he’s accused of but didn’t commit, and The Wrong Man follows Henry Fonda as he struggles to prove his innocence in a system where the circumstantial evidence holds more weight than the truth.

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The Cinema Behind Star Wars: Kagemusha

Bryan Young | February 11, 2013

It was never any secret that George Lucas was a fan of Akira Kurosawa’s. In the first installment of this column, we looked at the inspiration of The Hidden Fortress on Episode IV, but that’s not where the influence between Lucas and Kurosawa ended. By the late seventies, Kurosawa was a legend, but couldn’t get the money to finish his epic film, Kagemusha.

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The Cinema Behind Star Wars: Predator

Bryan Young | January 14, 2013

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Back at Star Wars Celebration V, I thought I was being clever when I asked Dave Filoni what films they’d been looking to draw inspiration from for episodes of The Clone Wars that had not yet aired.

We talked for a while and he gave me quite a list of films that I would expect to be inspiration for an all-ages cartoon adventure. And then he hit me with one that dropped my jaw: Predator.

The R-rated, Arnold Schwarzenegger action/sci-fi movie?

The very same.

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The Cinema Behind Star Wars: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Bryan Young | December 17, 2012

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Western films have long served as inspiration in the course of film history. Orson Welles reportedly watched John Ford’s film Stagecoach repeatedly while preparing and editing Citizen Kane. Akira Kurosawa was said to have worshiped the work of John Ford and applied the Japanese sensibilities of samurai to a uniquely western genre of storytelling. Kurosawa made epic western-like films like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro.

One of his films in particular, Yojimbo, inspired one of the most influential directors of westerns, Sergio Leone. Leone turned Yojimbo, a samurai film inspired by westerns, into an Italian-made “spaghetti western” called A Fistful of Dollars. Seriously, it’s a direct remake with many of the same shots and lines directly paying homage.

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The Cinema Behind Star Wars : The Disney Connection

Bryan Young | November 26, 2012

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It’s easy to watch Disney films and see the similarities between so many of the motifs of classic storytelling and the hero’s journey that is ever present in the Star Wars films. It’s difficult to pin whether the films and cartoons of Walt Disney directly influenced the creation of Star Wars (with a few notable exceptions), but the style of story and method of storytelling on display is so similar it’s hard not to feel they came from the same school.

Take The Sword in the Stone, for instance. It looks at young Arthur’s journey toward becoming king — with the help of an eccentric wizard that everyone thinks is just a crazy old man. Sound a lot like A New Hope? The entire movie plays like an extended, comedic training sequence of Master and Padawan, right down to the mysticism and hard life lessons. Parallels to Luke’s time on Dagobah in the cave could very easily be drawn to Arthur’s time spent as a squirrel or a fish. He learns hard lessons in a situation he doesn’t completely understand and has to face difficult truths about himself and his life.

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The Cinema Behind Star Wars : Notorious

Bryan Young | October 22, 2012

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Back in Season Two of The Clone Wars, there was a fantastic episode named “Senate Spy.” It told a story of intrigue among Senators when the Jedi Council asks Padmé to spy on a fellow senator (and former lover) who is working with the Separatists. To spy on him, she’ll need to rekindle their relationship. And they assign Anakin as her liaison.

If the story sounds familiar, it’s because it shares the same rough story as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 masterpiece, Notorious, starring Cary Grant (as Devlin, the liaison) and Ingrid Bergman (as Alicia, the reluctant spy). While this movie might have some relationship themes that are over the heads of younger viewers, it is a spy film dripping in tension, and the team on The Clone Wars paid homage to all the best parts of it.

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