The Lost ‘Star Wars’ Short Film That Mysteriously Disappeared
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas commissioned a short film to be paired with ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ in theaters. That film was the medieval fantasy ‘Black Angel’ and it was directed by Roger Christian, the acclaimed production designer who won an Oscar for his work on the original ‘Star Wars.’ And then theaters stopped playing shorts before features and ‘Black Angel’ vanished, never to be seen again … or so everyone thought.
A terrific Esquire article chronicles the creation and vanishing of ‘Black Angel’ and if you’re a ‘Star Wars’ fan or just a fan of moviemaking stories, it’s well worth your time. Here are the basics.
In 1979, Lucas became dead set on pairing ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ with a short film that matched the sequel’s tone. Christian, who was learning the directorial ropes by shadowing Ridley Scott while he worked on ‘Alien,’ had a fantasy screenplay about a knight who enters a fantasy world to rescue a princess. The script made its way into Lucas’ hands and the ‘Star Wars’ maestro gave it the nod of approval, stipulating that no one, not even the studio, could interfere with the Christian’s creative process. And thus ‘Black Angel’ was born. Lucas loved it. The studio loved it. Steven Spielberg watched it and gave it his nod of approval.
Unfortunately, the finished product only played before ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ in a handful of countries before disappearing into the ether. Christian himself, whose directorial career officially stalled with the disastrous ‘Battlefield Earth’ in 1998, thought the film was completely lost. Then a film negative surfaced, inexplicably, at a rival film studio in in 2011. After some pro-bono digital restoration from fans in high places (including Pixar and Lucasfilm), ‘Black Angel’ was screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival and Christian now plans to officially release the film in some capacity this year.
Finally, ‘Star Wars’ fans can fill in a major gap and film buffs can discover a long lost curiosity.