Empire Strikes Back's Lost Short Film Finally Rediscovered
If you saw The Empire Strikes Back in Europe or Australia during its original theatrical run, you may remember seeing before it something called Black Angel, a 25-minute short by the film's art director, Roger Christian. About a knight returning from the Crusades who rescues a princess from a mystical realm, the movie was less similar to Empire and much more like Excalibur and other sword-and-sorcery films that followed it-- in fact, it inspired those films. But until now, nobody-- not even Christian himself-- has been able to revisit it.
We hear often of films from the early HOllywood era being lost to time, but it's rare for something made in 1980 to genuinely disappear. All the same, after influencing countless young Star Wars fans, Black Angel was believed to be lost for decades, with no VHS or DVD release and even Christian unable to hunt down the original negative…. until a phone call a year ago. Speaking to Wired, Christian says he got a phone call from an archivist at Universal Studios who told him "We found this tin of film labeled Black Angel, and it seems to point to you,’” Christian recalls. “I wrote back, ‘You just made my Christmas for the last 20 years.’ ”
I always wonder how people manage to discover lost tins of film so often-- are movie studios really so crammed with junk drawers and mislabeled boxes that they're coming across all these gems? Black Angel's discovery may not be as earth-shattering as, say, those recovered minutes from Metropolis a few years back, but it does solve a puzzle that's haunted an entire generation of Star Wars fans, who have wondered about this little movie but have never even been able to prove it existed. Christian says he's not certain how he'll re-release the film, but suggests a digital download would be ideal. Then again, with Empire Strikes Back coming back to theaters in 3D eventually, Black Angel could very well wind up on the big screen yet again.
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