Long-lost Star Wars companion short Black Angel released online
It's been unavailable for 34 years, but now Star Wars fans can see fantasy short Black Angel, the short film that accompanied The Empire Strikes Back on its original release
While Star Wars fans eagerly await the force reawakening with the release of J.J. Abrams’ eighth instalment of George Lucas’s epic space opera on 16 December, a much smaller cog in the Star Wars legend quietly slipped on to the internet yesterday. Black Angel, the long unavailable fantasy short that accompanied The Empire Strikes Back on its original 1980 release, is now available to watch for free on YouTube.
Directed by Roger Christian, who was art director on Star Wars and Alien, Black Angel has become a piece of Star Wars folklore. The negative was thought long-lost, but it showed up three years ago and since then Christian has been touring the cleaned-up print at several festivals, including last year’s Glasgow Film Festival where The Skinny finally caught up with the short and spoke to Christian.
Roger Christian discusses Black Angel at Glasgow Film Festival 2014
Despite not being available for over three decades, those who saw Black Angel before The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 had it lodged in their memories. It's an Arthurian tale about a knight returning from Crusades to find his home deserted, and becoming caught in a battle with a mysterious black knight in a bid to rescue a princess. "This film has kept coming up over the years," Christian told us at last year's GFF. "A lot of people have asked about a possible rerelease, even the screenwriter of Hellboy, Peter Briggs. He and I were speaking one day and he said, ‘You’ve got to get this film out! It’s in my head. I can recite the lines to you!'"
Get the film out he has. In his introduction to the YouTube video, below, Christian gives a hint as to why the short has stayed with those impressionable Star Wars fans all this time. He suggests it’s the film's mythical qualities: "I was very influenced by Tarkovsky at the time, and I like the way he made films to connect to the subconscious, and I attempted to do the same with Black Angel, because that is the power of myth."
The film proved pretty influential. John Boorman was so taken by its atmosphere and cinematography that he screened it for the crew on his King Arthur epic Excalibur and George Lucas reportedly like the way Christian slowed down his fight scene so much that he pinched the technique for a sequence in The Empire Strikes Back.
Introducing the film below, Christian reveals that some very exciting news surrounding Black Angel will be announced on 2 June, whilst warning viewers to "set their clock back 34 years." We think he’s being a bit hard on himself. Its pacing is certainly languid, even at only 25 minutes, but it’s easy to see why those vivid, majestic images got seared in those Star Wars fans' heads a long time ago in a cinema far, far away.
Watch Black Angel in full