The less-than-shocking news today is that “At the Movies,” the long-running film review show, is kaput. The thing I remember most about this venture is the first time I ever watched its primal incarnation, “Sneak Previews” with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. The show had instant gravity, I couldn’t get enough of it. Although it had it’s ups and downs, it was always fun to see Ebert disagree with someone.
The first time, though. I’ll never forget it because I had just come home from seeing Star Wars for the first time, and “Sneak Previews” had a review of it. That’s how we rolled back then.
Aside from a few media outlets like Ebert’s show, and Good Morning America, it was easy to miss out on trailers (I never once saw the Star Wars trailer in 1977), and other promotional clips from the film. In fact, all I ever saw was a GMA segment where they showed clips of the heroes running around inside the Death Star. Chewbacca and some weird gold robot were all I remember seeing from that.
Having been into movies for a while in my tenth year, I had been pretty much burnt out on simian type fantasy movies, and seeing what looked like a slight improvement on Planet of the Apes (and some dork in a white outfit), I made up my mind: meh. That was two weeks before it even opened, and then I went on my summer trip to my Grandparents’ house in Missouri, where I was spoiled and got to play for two weeks.
I flew back home, a solitary ten-year-old kid, on a Western DC-10. One nice stewardess* took pity on my boredom, and set me up with some headphones for the in-flight radio, which I immediately found fascinating.
Skimming the channels, listening to rock mostly, I came across a channel where some guy was talking, and I kind of left it there while I worked on a Find-A-Word puzzle.
Before I knew it, this orchestral number had started to play, and I was immediately seized by its power. I remember staring out the window at the clouds below, trying not to hyperventilate, as the music pounded away in my ears. After it ended, I quickly consulted the program guide the nice lady had given me, and discovered that this piece of music was the Main Title to Star Wars.
It was merely hours after I landed that I convinced my Dad to take me to see Star Wars, and the wonder unfolded. This was different, I was immediately aware, and I disappeared for two hours, returning a changed soul. Dad and I talked excitedly about the trench scene, and the sheer awesomeness of the whole thing. And when we came home, the first thing I did was flip on the television, and there was “Sneak Previews.” I got to relive the moments, especially Darth Vader vs Ben Kenobi, right alongside professional film critics that were as excited as I was as they confirmed my zeal with their gushing.
The next day I started buying the cards.
As far as Siskel/Ebert and their legacy regarding this post, this is as close to the mark as I could find on YouTube – them actually reviewing Return of the Jedi. There’s also this, but I warn you to turn the volume down.
I love Ebert’s quote, “If you didn’t know better, you’d think they actually went into outer space to film this.” Oh, and “flying motorcycles.”
*they weren’t called flight attendants then, and there were no men in that occupation.