The Making of The Empire Strikes Back Showcased on Long-Lost Dutch TV Documentary

Note: The film switch­es to Eng­lish about 45 sec­onds in.

Ear­li­er this month, we fea­tured the launch of The Empire Strikes Back Uncut, a fan-dri­ven attempt to re-cre­ate the most beloved Star Wars movie of them all. But for an insight into the cre­ation of the orig­i­nal film, have a look at the Dutch tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­tary above, The Mak­ing of The Empire Strikes Back (part one, part two). The broad­cast focus­es on the painstak­ing cre­ation of the film’s spe­cial effects, most of which still hold up 32 years after audi­ences first glimpsed them. We see the mod­els, the mat­te paint­ings, and even the pha­lanx of per­form­ers and tech­ni­cians need­ed to exe­cute the Nor­way-shot bat­tle on the ice plan­et Hoth. It took $18 mil­lion, so pro­duc­er Gary Kurtz tells us, to pull all of this off. Sure­ly that seemed an extrav­a­gant, no-expense-spared fig­ure in 1980, but today, in light of the prof­its, ded­i­cat­ed fan­base, and place in the zeit­geist, it sounds like a bar­gain.

Alas, The Mak­ing of the Empire Strikes Back exists on the inter­net only in an incom­plete form, but the sto­ry behind its redis­cov­ery turns out to be inter­est­ing enough to com­pen­sate. Star Wars fan site offers a detailed four-part arti­cle on this, “one of the most lost doc­u­men­taries about The Empire Strikes Back.” Though direct­ed by famed French “grand-reporter-cam­era­man” Michel Par­bot, it fell into obscu­ri­ty soon after its ini­tial broad­cast. But read­ing of the sub­se­quent search for a dis­trib­utable copy, we real­ize that we under­es­ti­mate the com­pletist ardor of the Star Wars fan­dom at our per­il. A fas­ci­nat­ing read indeed, but per­haps, like the MetaFil­ter com­menter who could only exclaim “I HAVE SEEN A MAN IN A WAMPA SUIT,” you pre­fer sim­pler plea­sures.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hun­dreds of Fans Col­lec­tive­ly Remade Star Wars; Now They Remake The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars as Silent Film

Mark Hamil­l’s Star Wars Screen Test (Fea­tur­ing Har­ri­son Ford)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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