For Star Wars fans, May 25 is an historical anniversary. On this date, audiences were treated to their first taste of the Star Wars universe with Episode IV – A New Hope. Unbeknownst to even George Lucas himself, the film’s release ignited a global phenomenon -- one that is still thriving some 39 years later.
As Star Wars mania went full speed ahead after A New Hope, audiences were eager to see how the ongoing saga would unfold. The stunning revelation of Luke Skywalker’s familial origins at the tail end of The Empire Strikes Back only served to further amp things up, and by the summer of 1982, the first peeks of Return of the Jedi were beginning to trickle into theaters.
While American theaters began to run their Return of the Jedi teasers in August of 1982, across the pond in England, it was a different story. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Academy Film Archive, a new Return of the Jedi teaser has been uncovered – the very same teaser that British Star Wars fans had been introduced to in May of 1982, three months before American Star Wars fans got their first glimpse at the third film in the initial trilogy. You can check out the 35-second teaser for yourself above.
The teaser commences by stating that the film’s U.K. release would be Christmas of 1983, but that decision – one that was initially made in order to take advantage of holiday merchandising – was eventually scrapped in favor of a summer release. This particular teaser was exclusively screened prior to a U.K. double bill of Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back in 1982 in which advertisements had stated that audiences would be given the opportunity to “see the trailer for the 3rd part of the saga.” Apart from the footage offering only still images from Return of the Jedi, what truly stands out is the film’s title. Initially slated to be called Revenge of The Jedi, George Lucas changed it to Return of the Jedi after realizing that revenge wasn’t exactly a trait synonymous with Jedi knighthood. Of course, Lucas later got to use “revenge” in a Star Wars film title with the release of 2005’s Revenge of the Sith.
Today this somewhat downscaled version of a trailer would likely irritate fans more than excite them, especially when one considers how much more informative teaser trailers have become. Yet despite the somewhat misleading ad-campaign to get fans into the theater for the Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back double bill, even these images set to music for 35-seconds must have caused quite a stir.
It’s interesting to see this little piece of history and imagine a time when the events of the original trilogy were still completely unknown to Star Wars fans. What’s more, the Academy Film Archive says it “holds several trailers from the United States with the initial Revenge title,” which could very well mean that there’s a good chance for more unseen gems to be released at a future date.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.