A long four decades ago, in the far, far away village of Whitinsville, Mass., two brothers and a friend were so thrilled by the movie they just saw that they decided to remake it shot for shot.
The movie, of course, was Star Wars, 40 years old on May 25. It changed millions of lives — not least of which were Jim Jongsma, John Jongsma and Gary Baker, who saw it at White City Cinema over in Worcester.
The trio of fans filmed their homage over the next three years using two Super 8 cameras and a budget of $1,000. The original was financed by 20th Century Fox to the tune of $8 million; this version was mostly financed by a paper route.
A whole lot of cardboard and masking tape were used to build costumes and sets in their basement. For blaster shots, they scratched the celluloid. Their high school steps stood in for the Yavin IV throne room. For Tatooine scenes, they biked over to a nearby sandpit.
Considering those constraints, and the fact that the trio couldn’t exactly refer to the original any time they wanted, the results were surprisingly good.
Also, given the fact that they used gunpowder to produce effects on those cardboard sets, the brothers concede it’s a miracle they got out of the shoot alive.
“One night we took a rubber ball painted like the Death Star and hung it on a pole with fishing string,” Jim Jongsma told attendees at Star Wars Celebration last month. “We taped an M-80 [firecracker] to the back of the ball, lit the fuse, and started filming. That woke up the neighborhood!”
Kids, don’t try this at home.
The result of their efforts was 80 minutes of silent Super-8 footage that has never been screened for a wider audience. Now, however, the Jongsma-Baker team has uploaded it to YouTube. Here’s a brief documentary they made on the production:
Here’s part one of the film:
And even on a $1,000 film, naturally, there’s a blooper reel.
If all this sounds a little familiar, you may be thinking of Raiders of the Lost Ark — The Adaptation, a shot-for-shot remake that was immortalized in a documentary called Raiders!: The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.
That remake was also put together by three friends over a period of years, albeit in Mississippi rather than Massachusetts. But there the similarities end. The Raiders trio spent a whopping $5,000 on their remake, which made them a big budget Hollywood studio by Jongsma-Baker standards.
And the Jongsmas didn’t quit remaking Star Wars when they grew up; they simply went on to build more professional-looking droids as part of the R2 Builders Club, a fan organization that has been tapped by Lucasfilm to provide droid props for future movies.
All of which goes to show: whatever beloved hobbies you pursued in your childhood basement don’t have to stay there.