In the space of about 54 minutes, with a generous helping of the original dialogue recordings, sound effects and music from the movie itself, Star Wars is retold with narrator Roscoe Lee Browne narrating the more visual parts of the action.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: As odd as it may seem, The Story Of Star Wars was actually a best-seller for its time – a time when laserdisc and even home video were exceedingly rare in homes, and in any case, the home video market that would bring Star Wars home a few years later simply didn’t exist. It was yet another part of that masterstroke of merchandising genius that George Lucas pioneered; I listened to this thing ceaselessly when I first got the LP, and along with those pesky action figures, storybooks and whatnot, it helped to ensure that, like so many other kids my age, we had the story and even much of the dialogue of Star Wars virtually committed to memory, long before it was shown on TV by CBS, or released on home video. Or before we knew what home video was.
If I might be allowed to wax philosophical on a part of the package that’s only tangentially related to Jedi and droids and spaceships: what surprises me in listening to the record again is how literate the whole thing is. 30 years after this LP is released, I now write for a living in the news media, and this children’s record has lovely, concise language that I’d be reprimanded for using today on that basis that they’re ten-dollar words. It’s lovely to revisit this slice of my childhood, but also a bit depressing for the frustration that it brings to mind when the needle lifts off the record and I have to return to my alleged adulthood. There is little doubt in my mind that the narration script for this story would be written in much simpler – dare I say “dumbed down”? – language today.
From a production standpoint, it’s amazing how gracefully a movie with a running time of just over two hours can be crammed into a single record with a running time of just under one hour. It doesn’t feel rushed, and the eloquent narration by actor Roscoe Lee Browne never seems to step on the movie dialogue at all; the only point at which Browne’s narration competes with the movie sound mix is during the fast-paced Death Star attack at the end of side two. The choices of dialogue and scenes are exactly what’s needed to tell the story; a few memorable moments are left by the wayside, naturally, but this has the effect of both boiling the story down to its bare essence (while preserving a surprising number of character moments, such as Han’s “Hear me, baby? Hold together.”) and preserving some classic moments as the exclusive domain of the movie – the record didn’t spoil the movie’s uniqueness by a long shot.
As a document of the movie, its merchandising momentum, and a bygone medium (a well-crafted, suitable-for-all-ages audio recording of a major movie), The Story Of Star Wars is a fascinating audio time capsule – and still plenty of fun to listen to. Part of me wants to think that this might get a cleaned-up CD release in time for the 30th anniversary of the original movie next year, but truthfully, I’ll be surprised if it surfaces outside of vinyl or 8-track tape again.