I became obsessed with the damned thing, much to my parent's chagrin. I begged them for "The Story of Star Wars", a story book and cassette tape with dialogue and sound effects from the movie. I listened to it so much the voices began to sound like Hank Hill on Quaaludes. Before this happened I'd already committed huge chunks of the script to memory:
LEIA: "Darth Vader, only you could be so bold. The Imperial Senate will not sit still for this once they hear you've attacked a diplomatic..."
DARTH VADER: (interrupting) "Don't act so surprised your Highness, you weren't on any mercy mission this time. Several transmissions were beamed to this ship by Rebel spies; I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you!"
Cripes, how sad is that. I just typed that right from memory! I pity the poor kid that saw Episode II first during his impressionable years and now walks around muttering dialogue like:
ANAKIN: (to Padme) "I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft...and smooth." (Awkwardly paws at Padme)
Cripes, he'll never get laid. I mean even less so than the average Star Wars fan. But I digress. Whenever any event came down the pike that might earn me some sort of present or gift credit (birthday, Christmas, National Accordion Awareness Month) I spent my allotment on something that had Guerre des Etoiles stamped on it. Action figures, vehicles, posters, play sets, t-shirts, books, comics, magazines, shower curtains, spice racks, home enema kits, batting practice helmets...whatever I could get my hands on.
I'd try and draw the characters but I sucked at it. I made up stories with my action figures and recorded little passion plays with my tape player. I remember when I first moved to Stephenville around '79 I tried to sucker my new school mates into appearing in my own version of the sequel, filmed with an old Super 8 movie camera my Dad got from somewhere. Regrettably this ambitious project was dead before it even got off the ground since props, costumes, sets and the film stock itself would have forced me to be Jon Peters' butt monkey to this day in order to raise that kind of scratch.
A year later the official sequel came down the pike and our religion was confirmed. I once read somewhere that in order for a film to become a franchise, the sequel to the original has to be as good, if not better than the first. Then it doesn't even matter what the third or subsequent films are like, you can keep crapping out new entries indefinitely and people will still pay to see them.
The Empire Strikes Back would end up proving that.
Needless to say, with Empire ending on a cliff-hanger, the years between May 1980 and May 1983 WERE THE LONGEST YEARS OF MY FRIGGIN' LIFE! I tried to pass the time by rolling around in all my Star Wars paraphernalia and reading speculative articles in magazines ("Who is Boba Fett?" "Why, it's no less than Luke Skywalker's MOM!") . But, in reality, the wait was killing me and many other members of my sad little generation.
Being a good little dork, I was a member of the Scholastic Book Club in the Spring of 1983. I almost experienced a diaretic hemorrhage when I noticed that the storybook for Return of the Jedi was featured in the most recent SBC catalog, months before the film's release in May. This was indeed the Holy Grail right before me.
Well, needless to say, I saved up my shekels, sent off my order form and then proceeded to have the following interaction with my teacher for five hours every day for the next week:
"Is the book here yet?" "No." "Is the book here yet?" " No." "Is the book here yet?" "NO." "Is the book here yet?" "NO!" "Is the book here yet" "No!!!"
But, lo and behold, one morning the answer was different:
"Is the book here yet?"
"YES!!!" screamed back the teacher. "Yes, for the love of God, yes!!!"
I gaped at her in amazement. In turn, she began to stare at me as I promptly began to exhibit signs of crack cocaine withdrawl. I began to chew on my fist, shuffle in place and slap-wash my face like Curly from The Three Stooges.
"Can...um. Can I have it? Huh? Can I have it? Please? I...I really need to look at it for just a second. I gotta find out what happens..."
"No. You'll be distracted all day. You'll just have to wait until 3 pm like everybody else."
It's a damn good sight it wasn't given to me right then because as soon as that storybook was in my hot little mitts I would have bolted like a jackrabbit or jumped out the nearest window like a pint-sized ad executive.
Well, if the past three years had been torture, that school day felt like another three years on top of it. I was completely miserable the whole time, grunting out surly, monosyllabic responses to everything, drumming out a tattoo on the desk top with my fingers, tapping my foot, sweating profusely and shooting the teacher dirty looks.
Just as soon as the final bell rang I sprang from my seat like Toad from the X-Men, landed on the teacher's desk and grabbed her by the dickie.
"GIMMIE IT!!! GIMMIE IT!!!" I raged.
She managed to push me back a few paces, buying herself enough time to reach into her bottom-right desk drawer and throw the book at me like a piece of steak towards a slavering lion.
"Here! Take it! Take it!" she screamed then fled from sight, sobbing uncontrollably.
Finally re-united with "The Precious" I slunk out of the school, muttering to myself all the while:
"Must find out if Han gets rescued. Must see if Luke and Leia get together. Must find out who the f#@^ this 'Other' person was that Yoda was babbling about."
I ran home and resigned myself to a stone cold supper as I plowed through the storybook as fast as I could.
Only to find myself crushingly disappointed for the first time in my young life...
Part III right here.