Dear Chicago Reader:
As long as Harmon Dow [Letters, February 14] decided to throw his memory into the debate over whether the subtitle “Episode IV: A New Hope” appeared in the first release of Star Wars, let me throw a few facts into the ring. If suspicious folks like film scholars and 20th Century-Fox spokespeople won’t convince Dow, then I suggest he take a good look at some or all of the product tie-ins that were merchandised close to the original release date of the movie, such as books, comics, and trading cards.
Despite the generally scrupulous attention to detail that both Topps and Marvel paid to the shooting script of Star Wars, neither company’s 1977 products bear the subtitle in question, nor do they carry any indication that Star Wars was marketed as anything other than a one-shot movie. In fact, the Marvel adaptations contain sequences from the film that Lucas has still left unrestored for the 1997 release. Yet Marvel’s 1977 comics do not contain the subtitle in question. I hardly think that Topps or Marvel would have passed on the chance to promote a continuing line of cards and comics by omitting the “Episode IV” subtitle and all it would have implied. Furthermore, the late-1976 Ballantine Books paperback novelization of Star Wars carries a much different subtitle from the one Dow claims to recall: “From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker.” Dow might note the lack of Roman numerals in this subtitle, or the words “New,” “Hope,” or “A.”
There are plenty of other examples, but hopefully Dow (and Matthew Palm [Letters, February 7]) get the picture. I was eight years old and living in Chicago when my dad took me to see the original and unsubtitled release of Star Wars in 1977. I was nine or ten when I read an article in some fan magazine that Lucas was adding the subtitle “Episode IV: A New Hope” to the 1979 re-release, to help promote the fact that he had the go-ahead from Fox for two sequels. On the surface this debate may seem pretty squibbly, but I’m tired of letting condescending know-it-alls sock it to the talented Mr. Rosenbaum when he’s clearly in the right. And Dow’s messing up one of my cherished memories makes me finally want to answer back. Whatever “nice touch” toward 50s serials Dow thinks he remembers is merely a shadow from 1979.