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 Posted:   Oct 18, 2013 - 11:19 AM   
 By:   johnjohnson   (Member)

Next month, a piece of Star Wars history will appear before the public for the first time in more than 30 years, when Black Angel -- a fantasy short that was screened alongside The Empire Strikes Back in European and Australian theaters in 1980 -- is screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

The short was written and directed by Roger Christian, who had worked as the set designer on the original Star Wars before making his directorial debut on the 25-minute movie, which tells the story of a knight returning from the Crusades only to find himself transported to a fantasy realm, where he has to rescue a princess.

The short received limited distribution outside the Empire support slot, and was never released on DVD or VHS, despite being cited as an influence on movies from Excalibur to Hellboy and even Empire Strikes Back itself. Indeed, the original negative for the movie was believed lost until late 2011.

Now, thanks to restoration from the Bay Area Visual Effects Society along with Athena Studios of Emeryville, CA, Black Angel is going to make a second public debut at Mill Valley, and then -- well, that's not entirely certain at this point. Christian has talked about possible digital distribution at some point in the future, but no deal is in place yet. For now, all Star Wars 'completists' should really work out a way to get to the Bay Area on October 13; otherwise, who knows when this chance will come again.

 Posted:   Oct 18, 2013 - 12:45 PM   
 By:   Mike_J   (Member)


I remember having to sit through this a zillion times whenever I went to see a Empire (and I saw a Empire a lot!).

 Posted:   Oct 18, 2013 - 1:02 PM   
 By:   dogplant   (Member)


I remember having to sit through this a zillion times whenever I went to see a Empire (and I saw a Empire a lot!).

I know what you mean, Mike! I was glad to read about the filmmaker finding his lost negative, or whatever, when a story appeared in LA Times the other day (see quite an interesting account of how the film was made below) but I had mixed feelings about the short itself. To be blunt, I found it boring.

It was not as bad as the short about wheat farming that ran in front of "Raiders" -- I must have sat through that damn thing half a dozen times. That and the ads for the local Chinese restaurant, Kia Ora (too orangey for crows), etc. Cheesy pre-show travelogs and Pearl and Dean screen advertising are two things I do not miss about British cinemas (I now live in the U.S., where cinemas have a different blight, particularly in the summer months, of too many damn trailers).

LA Times story:
Kia Ora:

 Posted:   Oct 18, 2013 - 2:36 PM   
 By:   Justin Boggan   (Member)

There's a minute and-a-half up on Youtube of it. Seems rather boring, based on the sample. But the breif bit of score, which is by Trevor Jones, sounds nice. Sounds like the openign choral from "Willow".

 Posted:   Mar 5, 2014 - 6:30 PM   
 By:   johnjohnson   (Member)

Well, here's a hot-ticket panel we'll probably be seeing at "Star Wars" Celebration next year.

A long time ago, in our own galaxy, there were short films screened before features. One such short film, a 25-minute fantasy epic called "Black Angel," was shown before certain overseas prints of "Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back" (1980).

And then, inexplicably, it was gone, with no trace of a negative or bootleg VHS copy to be found. Lost to legend, obscurity, and the occasional reference at fan conventions.

Until now.

"Black Angel" was commissioned in 1979 by "Star Wars" mastermind George Lucas as a short film to accompany "The Empire Strikes Back." According to Esquire, Lucas ordered 20th Century Fox to create something that would complement the tone of the darker, more mature "Star Wars" sequel.

The gig ended up going to Roger Christian, who had won the Oscar for Best Art Direction — Set Decoration for his work on "Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope" (1977). Christian was one of Lucas's trusted friends and colleagues, having found creative and cost-efficient ways to make the first "Star Wars" film look a lot more expensive than its tightly strapped $4 million budget.

Christian had finished working on set decoration for Ridley Scott's "Alien" (which also earned Christian an Oscar nomination) and was looking to take on directing. He wrote a script called "Black Angel," a fantasy film about a knight from the Crusades who's transported to a magical realm where he must rescue a princess from the title villain.

A chance meeting with Sandy Lieberson, head of Fox Studios in London, during post-production sound mixing sessions on "Alien" allowed Christian the chance to pitch "Black Angel." The script got to Lucas and it was greenlit two days later with a budget of $50,000 and on two very Lucas-ish conditions: Lucas would be the first person to see the final cut, and Christian should be granted complete creative freedom.

"And that's George," smiles Christian during a recent interview at Urban Post Production House in Toronto.

Christian and his crew of 11 were then off to Scotland to make a movie with some leftover rolls of 35mm film from the "Empire" shoot and access to Eilean Donan castle. The director himself admits he spent most of the budget on "proper huge heavy horses."

Hey, at least he didn't have to make the exterior of a certain Corellian ship out of airplane scrap metal again.

Christian's knack for low-budget troubleshooting proved to be helpful during post-production when he was informed by his editor informed that there wasn't enough footage to meet the 25-minute contract. To lengthen the film, they implemented a process called "step-printing," in which a slow-motion effect is created by printing one frame repeatedly.

Lucas was so impressed with this process that he used the technique himself in the surreal nightmare sequence in "Empire" in which Luke confronts a vision of Darth Vader on Dagobah.

Lucas liked the rest of the film, too, and showed it to his pal Steven Spielberg, whom, per Christian, said it was "one of the most enigmatic films he'd ever seen." "Black Angel" was then screened with "The Empire Strikes Back" in parts of Europe and Australia, as the U.S. was no longer showing short films with features by then.

And then it got lost... somehow. Christian had an original negative and print copy that he kept at London's Boss Film Studios, but when the facility went bankrupt in the '90s, it got tossed. Fox lost its copies as well when its storage facility, U.K. Studio Rank, shut down around the same time. Lucasfilm Archives didn't seem to have a copy, either.

Then, in December 2011, Christian got a call from an archivist at Universal who claimed he had a negative. How a copy of "Black Angel" ended up at the rival studio is anyone's guess, but word got around, and last year Christian got a call from David Tanaka, a visual effects editor at Pixar, and Brice Parker, a producer at Athena Studios, who wanted to digitally restore "Black Angel" and screen it at the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival in California.

Thirty-three years after its debut, "Black Angel" returned to theaters last October as the closing film of the Mill Valley fest. It was also screened last week at the Glasgow Film Festival in Scotland.

So... are "Star Wars" fans going to be able to see this anytime soon? Christian says he plans on releasing "Black Angel" later this year, possibly on Netflix and iTunes or perhaps on a DVD re-release of "The Empire Strikes Back."

"I would like it to be with 'Star Wars,' because it's history. It belongs there," he said.

 Posted:   May 20, 2014 - 6:45 PM   
 By:   johnjohnson   (Member)

The incredible fantasy short film Black Angel is now available worldwide on iTunes. Black Angel is the 1980 short film that was attached to the theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back in the UK, much of Europe and Australia. It also represented the writing and directorial debut of the Oscar winning Star Wars art director Roger Christian.

It became part of cinematic lore having been lost for over thirty one years before being rediscovered in late 2011. Fondly remembered by the audience of The Empire Strikes Back and celebrated by film makers in the generation that followed - the impact of Black Angel cannot be understated.

Filmed in and around Eilean Donan castle in the Highlands of Scotland in the autumn of 1979 on a grant of £25,000, the script was personally picked by George Lucas to accompany the next instalment in his Star Wars franchise. Created and Directed by Roger Christian whom was a trusted friend of George Lucas having supported and innovated on the art direction of Star Wars for months before the original film had even been picked up.

Having lost his own negative of the film whilst working for a company that was closed down in an administration event, and with Lucas' own copy lost within his massive archive - the film was all but lost until Universal Studios found an original 35mm negative in December 2011. Painstakingly restored with the help of Athena Studios and Skywalker Sound, Black Angel was screened again for the first time in October 2013 at the Mill Valley Film Festival in Marin County, California.

The film can be purchased from the following locations:

iTunes US for $2.99
iTunes Canada for $2.99
iTunes UK for £1.99

 Posted:   May 13, 2015 - 5:48 AM   
 By:   johnjohnson   (Member)

 Posted:   Jun 2, 2015 - 5:06 PM   
 By:   johnjohnson   (Member)

A feature-length version is to be produced of “Black Angel,” a short film that George Lucas commissioned to accompany screenings of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980. Among the cast of the new pic are John Rhys-Davies, who played the dwarf Gimli in the “Lord of the Rings” franchise, and Dutch thesp Rutger Hauer, who starred in “Blade Runner,” “Batman Begins” and “Sin City.”

“Black Angel: The Feature Film” has partnered with crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to launch a 45-day campaign, which goes live from today. The film will be shot in “an earthy and authentic style combining high adventure with high drama hot on the heels of fantasy icons ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hunger Games,’” according to promotional material accompanying the campaign. Production is slated for September, with filming locations to include Hungary, Belgium, Morocco and Scotland. Carnaby Intl. will handle worldwide sales.

The film will be directed and written by Roger Christian (“Nostradamus,” “Underworld,” “Masterminds”), who also penned and directed the original short. Christian will once again be teaming up with “Nostradamus” producer Harald Reichebner (“Never Talk to Strangers,” “The New Adventures of Pinocchio”), as well as Sean O’Kelly, Alex Tate and Andrew Loveday. Co-producers will include Jozsef Cirko and John Engel. The film will be an international co-production between Belgium, Hungary, Canada and U.K.

The campaign on Indiegogo has a fundraising target of £66,000. Contributors will be given the chance to snap up exclusive perks, from an invite to the red-carpet premiere, to a part in the film as an extra in the Demon King’s army, an all-expenses paid one-week mentorship with the audio department during the post-production process, and even the chance to own a piece of the actual film negative from the original “Star Wars: A New Hope,” gifted to Christian by Lucas.

The original short film “Black Angel” played with “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” in Europe and Australia in 1980. Shot in the Scottish Highlands, the 25-minute film was produced on a shoestring budget of £25,000 in 1979. One fan was Steven Spielberg who said it was “one of the most enigmatic films he’d ever seen.” It is also claimed that it had an influence on subsequent fantasy films, such as John Boorman’s 1981 pic “Excalibur.”

After its theatrical run, all copies of the short film were thought to be lost, but an archivist at Universal Studios found a negative in 2011. The prints had wound up in the U.S. following the collapse of U.K. studio Rank which, it turned out, had stored the prints along with other film negatives in World War II bunkers. Some 33 years later in October 2013, teams at several visual effects companies in San Francisco headed up by David Tanaka, Brice Parker and Jon Peters restored the film frame by frame. “Black Angel” had its world “re-premiere” as the closing film of the Mill Valley fest in California. It was also screened at the Glasgow Film Festival in Scotland and finally re-released digitally in early 2014 through iTunes. More than 385,000 people have viewed it on YouTube.

“Black Angel: The Feature Film” is an epic fantasy based on a knight who undertakes a classic hero’s journey to fight the Black Angel, the Demon Kings commander in the lands of Serandal. Guided by the sorcerer Myrddin and aided by Princess Kyna, the daughter of a rival king, they take on an epic adventure to stop the darkness from taking over the lands and allowing the demon king to reign supreme.

Christian said: “I wrote ‘Black Angel’ as an epic adventure inspired by the great Samurai films. For the feature film I want the audience to experience the intensity of the battles where life or death is the only prize. Like the first ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Alien’ we are going for absolute reality, engaging the audience in the drama so they feel like they are really there in this ancient world, shot in staggeringly beautiful landscapes, ancient cities and castles. With flying demons and sorcerers, princesses and knights, armies of the undead and an evil god of the underworld, we are filming down and dirty; ultimate realism that audiences hunger for and the world I am passionate to create on film again.

“’Black Angel: The Feature Film’ is being made for the fans and crowdfunding is the best way of ensuring creative freedom so that audiences get the film they want to see made,” Christian continued.

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