In 1979, Star Wars art director, Roger Christian, received the go-ahead by George Lucas to create a short film titled Black Angel, which was to precede European and Australian theater screenings of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Until recently, the 25-minute short, which the Academy Award winning art director wrote, directed and produced, remained in archival obscurity; all of its original prints had been reportedly lost, and Christian was left with only memories from his first directorial undertaking.
After a negative was discovered in 2011 by an Archivist at Universal Studios, Brice Parker, a leading producer for Athena Studios and David Tanaka, Visual Effects Society Chair for the Bay Area, decided to take on the restoration project, pro bono, apparently in mere homage to arguably one of Hollywood’s most impacting and influential film series. The restoration project took over 12 weeks for Athena Studios to complete, a job which involved frame recreation, color correction, and meticulous TLC for the original negatives, which were reportedly in poor shape.
In an interview with LA Times, Parker explains, “David and I were both huge ‘Star Wars’ fans, and this was one of the missing relics from the ‘Star Wars’ era, and we knew we had an opportunity to bring it back.”
The Mill Valley Film Festival, in its 36th year, had the pleasure of providing an outlet for the film’s first-ever U.S. screening this past week.
According to LA Times, the film, which concerns itself with the otherworldly obstacles a decorated knight faces in an attempt to save a beautiful princess from a supernatural land, was not only influenced, in aesthetic and theme, by the films of Kurosawa; it also did some influencing of its own, especially in regard to Excalibur, which was released in 1981.
Though diehard celluloid lovers are often quick to denounce emerging digital formatting technologies, the charming restoration story of Black Angel serves as an example of at least one undeniably positive aspect of the seemingly inevitable industry paradigm shift.