The power of Star Wars knows no bounds. From two film trilogies to numerous animated series (including this fall’s Star Wars Rebels) and the upcoming sequels (the first of which will be directed by J.J. Abrams) – as well as an untold number of books, comics and video games – the billion dollar franchise has existed in some form or another for the last 37 years.
The franchise’s success is all due to its insatiable fans, who have devoured every new entry released, whether it features their beloved characters or has any relation to the main films at all. Until recently, it was thought that no stone had been left unturned in terms of Star Wars content, but fortunately that’s not the case.
These days we get an endless amount of previews shown before movies, but back when the original trilogy premiered, short films were created to introduce a picture instead. In 1979, George Lucas was searching for one that would pair well with the tone of his newly completed The Empire Strikes Back.
Set decorator Roger Christian, who had won an Oscar for A New Hope, was awarded that esteemed honor after Lucas read and approved his fantasy script Black Angel, about a knight (Tony Vogel) who returns from the Crusades, only to be transported to a fantasy world to rescue a princess. Already well versed in working under a tight budget after finding creative ways to use the first Star Wars film’s cool $4 million, Christian was granted $50,000 to direct a 25-minute short film.
Watch a clip from Black Angel below:
Black Angel was attached to screenings of The Empire Strikes Back in Europe and Australia, and everyone loved it, even Steven Spielberg who said it was “one of the most enigmatic films he’d ever seen.” Then, somehow, all copies of the short film were lost. That is, until an archivist at Universal Studios surprisingly found a negative in December 2011.
33 years later, in October 2013, a digitally restored Black Angel returned to theaters as the closing film of the Mill Valley fest. It was also screened last week at the Glasgow Film Festival in Scotland. Next, Christian hopes to release the short film this year, “possibly through iTunes or Netflix and maybe even as part of a DVD re-release of ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ ”
While maybe not an actual part of the franchise, Black Angel was commissioned by Lucas and paired with perhaps the most beloved Star Wars film of all time. So for hardcore fans wanting to experience every part of the franchise, the short film should serve as a unique appetizer to hold them over until the next main course.
There’s currently no release date for Black Angel.