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Coming next month to an Empire near you
June 29, 2010 11:17 AM   Subscribe

In the months preceding the release of The Empire Strikes Back, a telephone hotline was set up to allow callers to dial in and hear teasers for the movie. In the years since the Bantha Tracks story, fans savvy to the existence of the "Empire Hotline" have sought out recordings of the messages, performed exclusively for the hotline by actors Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader). Thanks to Craig Miller, Lucasfilm's first director of fan relations, these long-lost recordings can now be heard and enjoyed for the first time in 30 years.

Previously, on the 30th anniversary of Empire.
posted by albrecht (55 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, what a blast from the past. Now I really feel old.

Also, as usual James Earl Jones steals the show. Whadda voice.
posted by bearwife at 11:23 AM on June 29, 2010


I was hoping for a moment that the entirety of Darth Vader's message would just be him breathing. 1-900-SITH-SEX.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 AM on June 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Holy cow! Awesome! I still remember seeing the Star Wars-Empire double bill at the now-gone University Theater in Toronto. And I still have a program that says "Revenge of the Jedi" on the ads inside.
posted by GuyZero at 11:24 AM on June 29, 2010


The number seems to now ring an attorney or other professional with a small practice.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:29 AM on June 29, 2010


Anthony Daniels did some voice work for the promotion of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry for their Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, and I thought it was pretty bad ass that my friend got to write "on hold" messages for C3-PO.

These are cooler but doesn't involve awesome (if my child soul's crushing) backstage gossip.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:29 AM on June 29, 2010


Greedo called first.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:30 AM on June 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hmm. Harrison Ford was phoning it in as Han Solo for longer than I thought.
posted by Verdant at 11:34 AM on June 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I especially like the way the messages bridge the awkward gap between staying in character in the fictional universe (at various inconsistent timelines) and acknowledging the existence of the movie. C3PO's message breaks the fourth wall to the greatest degree, but they all have some hamhandedness about them. Like Han Solo says: "Something tells me it's not going to get any better when the Empire strikes back." *eye roll* It's not quite "I'm just so tired of all these star wars," but it's close.
posted by albrecht at 11:37 AM on June 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Oh, how quaint these are, long before the days of viral videos and stealth message board shill marketing.

Truth is, when the original Star Wars came out, they must have had no budget because I remember going to see it, having never heard of it, just to kill some time on a hot summer afternoon, and being completely blown away. Mind you, I was as much of a computer geek as you could be back then, and even I hadn't heard of it.

As for the Empire Strikes Back, I remember going into Manhattan with a bunch of my friends, and, after the requisite visit to the Compleat Stratigist and Forbidden Planet, we stood on line at some huge movie theater where it was premiering, in a line that stretched around the corner and down the block.
posted by crunchland at 11:47 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't know about this particular hotline, but my cousin and I called the Ghostbusters one constantly.
posted by Legomancer at 11:48 AM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, every time I see new Star Wars apocrypha it just looks and sounds worse and worse. At this point I'm beginning to doubt there was ever a really fun space western movie in the first place.
posted by Nelson at 11:56 AM on June 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


> At this point I'm beginning to doubt there was ever a really fun space western movie in the first place.

Follow your feelings, Luke.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:00 PM on June 29, 2010


You know, every time I see new Star Wars apocrypha it just looks and sounds worse and worse.

Really? I had the exact opposite reaction. I've gotten so used to everything in Episodes IV through VI, hearing the quiet breathing and voice of Vader was disconcertingly menacing. "Whoa. I don't know this part. Oh man, he's talking TO ME. OH GOD MY THROAT"
posted by Greg Nog at 12:01 PM on June 29, 2010


Great stuff, thanks for posting it. James Earl Jones came to the library I worked at in the mid-1990's for some kind of program. At the same time, we were just starting to roll out an automated overdue books phone call system. I told everyone who would listen (and some who wouldn't) we HAD to get Mr. Jones to record the message for us. Of course they ignored my suggestion. Damn suits on the third floor had no sense.
posted by marxchivist at 12:05 PM on June 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


holy shit Harrison Ford is crazy drunk.
posted by shmegegge at 12:14 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


At this point I'm beginning to doubt there was ever a really fun space western movie in the first place.

Sounds even funnier if you read it with Comic Book Guy's voice.
posted by i_cola at 12:20 PM on June 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nice job, Princess. You've just told the whole universe where you're hiding.


"My Lord Vader, our phone operators have intercepted a transmission from the rebel leader. She claims the rebels are hiding in a secret underground base on the ice planet Hoth."

"Very well, Admiral. Recall the probe droids and set a course for this 'secret' base. We will crush these fools."

posted by Wulfhere at 12:21 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nice job, Princess. You've just told the whole universe where you're hiding.

She is as clumsy as she is stupid.
posted by albrecht at 12:22 PM on June 29, 2010


My five-year-old's gonna love these! I'll make an iPod playlist out of 'em and put it on repeat next time we're in the car - could be just the tool I need to convince her once and for all that Empire is a far better movie than *wince* Phantom Menace.

Kids these days . . .

Not my inner kid, my actual . . . aw fuck it . . .
posted by gompa at 12:38 PM on June 29, 2010


The breathing in Darth Vader's message is all wrong - even he's talking over his own breathing.
posted by Brent Parker at 12:42 PM on June 29, 2010


My 3 year old son really likes Star Wars - he calls Episode IV "Luke Star Wars". We introduced him to Empire this past weekend with a lot of talk about it being Scary Star Wars. He was gobsmacked that Darth Vader is Luke's father. He keeps asking about it.

When we go back and forth to his day care, we listen to the Star Wars radio series, during which I remind him that blowing up a planet is NOT OK. My diligence is paying off because when asked if he wants to be an evil overlord, he said that he wants to be a good overlord. Now you know to whom you will be paying homage.
posted by plinth at 1:02 PM on June 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


The breathing in Darth Vader's message is all wrong - even he's talking over his own breathing.

Seriously! I am more bothered by this than I would have imagined! I mean, christ's sake, it's a breath noise. He can't make that when he's talking. It's not his ring tone. Fucking hell.
posted by cortex at 1:03 PM on June 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Kids these days . . .

Make her watch this. It covers your point in the first 48 seconds.

If you think you child's too young for it you're a bad parent and you should feel bad.
posted by clarknova at 1:11 PM on June 29, 2010


I remind him that blowing up a planet is NOT OK

You just reminded me of the last verse of the old Frank Hayes filk song "Never Set the Cat on Fire":
Don't start an interstellar war; it has no helpful uses.
When someone asks you 'what's it for?', you'll only make excuses.
If thirty trillion folks get hurt, you'll go to bed with no dessert!
Don't start an interstellar war.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:22 PM on June 29, 2010


I mean, christ's sake, it's a breath noise. He can't make that when he's talking. It's not his ring tone. Fucking hell.

Maybe it's my memory failing me or my joke detector needs rebooting, but doesn't Mr. Vader talk over his breath noise all through the original movies? I remember that as being an Original CBG-Style Complaint About Star Wars.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:22 PM on June 29, 2010


Say what you want about the new prequels, but at least General Grevious coughs convincingly.
posted by mazola at 1:26 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's my memory failing me or my joke detector needs rebooting, but doesn't Mr. Vader talk over his breath noise all through the original movies?

Yup. They may have fixed that in the later movies/re-releases though.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:31 PM on June 29, 2010


Maybe it's my memory failing me or my joke detector needs rebooting, but doesn't Mr. Vader talk over his breath noise all through the original movies? I remember that as being an Original CBG-Style Complaint About Star Wars.

Someone will have to check. I don't remember encountering it, but it could be that (a) I didn't notice or (b) it was fixed while Lucas was happily fucking everything else up in the reissues.

But it's six of one, etc. Point is when you actually hang out with Vader, dude obviously doesn't breath like that. I mean, heck.
posted by cortex at 1:32 PM on June 29, 2010


Wow, there's not many cassettes from 1980 that survive with this level of quality. And I'm sure this wasn't a 50-cent Certron tape, either.
posted by crapmatic at 1:36 PM on June 29, 2010


I especially like the way the messages bridge the awkward gap between staying in character in the fictional universe (at various inconsistent timelines) and acknowledging the existence of the movie.

Oh it's still going on. Check out any Twitter feed or Facebook account being used to promote a movie or TV show: "So wait, if you're Vincent Chase, why are you talking about having a show on HBO? Vincent Chase is a movie star, and HBO doesn't seem to exist in his world. Adrian Grenier has a show on HBO."

It also bothers me when people in Halloween costumes keep going in and out of character.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:40 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The breathing in Darth Vader's message is all wrong - even he's talking over his own breathing.

Just be thankful they didn't get David Prowse.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 1:41 PM on June 29, 2010


Hello - this - is - Carrie - Fisher - and - I - am - awkwardly - reading - from - a - piece - of - paper.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:45 PM on June 29, 2010


From the comments:

Posted by: akalsey | June 28, 2010 2:32 PM
Using Tropo (http://tropo.com) I created a phone app that plays the recordings so you can hear them as they originally were meant to be heard. Call (714) 643-2997 to hear one recording at random. Outside the US? Use SIP at 9991443239@sip.tropo.com or Skype to dial +99000936-9991443239.


(I just tried it; it works.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:50 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I mean, christ's sake, it's a breath noise. He can't make that when he's talking.

Yeah I thought so too for about one second. Then I used my imagination and decided that it was part of his suit's breathing aparatus
posted by clarknova at 1:52 PM on June 29, 2010


Yup, Darth Vader talks while breathing, at least in the original movies. Check out the (SPOILERS!) scene where Luke finds out Vader is his father--a number of the lines have the breathing effect underneath them. I've always thought it was a neat touch from the sound editors, emphasizing just how mechanical and alien Vader has become.
posted by EarBucket at 1:53 PM on June 29, 2010


Like an iorn lung or something.
posted by clarknova at 1:53 PM on June 29, 2010


Then I used my imagination and decided that it was part of his suit's breathing apparatus.

Then why does his breathing get so labored at the end of the final duel in Jedi? Oh right, maybe the breathing apparatus was stored in his hand and that's just the auxiliary breathing apparatus kicking in after it was cut off and...
posted by albrecht at 2:03 PM on June 29, 2010


Maybe it's my memory failing me or my joke detector needs rebooting, but doesn't Mr. Vader talk over his breath noise all through the original movies?

Yup, Darth Vader talks while breathing, at least in the original movies. Check out the (SPOILERS!) scene where Luke finds out Vader is his father --a number of the lines have the breathing effect underneath them.


This is also true of the NPR Radio Theater adaptations of the original trilogy. It was disconcerting for a while, but then I grew to overlook it. However, in the nearly full half-hour they devote to Vader's psych-torture of Leia (only hinted at in the movie), they've pretty excellently done some great labored / excited breathing stuff for Vader while he's trying to get info out of the princess. That entire episode really creeped me out when I was however-old, and it's still one of my favorite bits of audio theater. If for nothing else, to hear Vader getting pissed off and his breathing reflecting his frustration.
posted by hippybear at 2:06 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, hippybear, that's actually the only part of that play that's stuck with me, twenty years later. Brock Peters, best known for playing Tom Robinson in the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird (and who, incidentally, played a small recurring character in several of the Star Trek movies) turned in a very nice performance as Vader.
posted by EarBucket at 2:15 PM on June 29, 2010


And so okay, thanks to these recordings here's the cast of Star Wars singing Tom's Diner, in a fashion, thanks to my ongoing obsession with Echo Nest Remix's afromb.py:

Tom's Cantina

Then I used my imagination and decided that it was part of his suit's breathing aparatus

Dammit, if only I had an imagination then I'd be able to form a valid opinion about how a fictional character's made-up breathing apparatus functions.
posted by cortex at 2:16 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This whole things strikes me as fake.

How can Han Solo leave a message for anyone while he is still frozen in carbonite?
posted by flarbuse at 2:41 PM on June 29, 2010


How can Han Solo leave a message for anyone while he is still frozen in carbonite?

You are aware that he's frozen in carbonite at the END of the movie which had not been released, which these phone messages are promoting?
posted by hippybear at 2:45 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are aware that he's frozen in carbonite at the END of the movie

WHOA SPOILERS

Incidentally, this post marks another two-hour block of me reading arcane factoids on wookieepedia. This is like the second time in a week. Thanks, metafilter!
posted by Greg Nog at 2:49 PM on June 29, 2010


> Incidentally, this post marks another two-hour block of me reading arcane factoids on wookieepedia.

Oh, then you must know about the agony that the chief Death Star gunner felt and how he hesitated just long enough after Yavin came in range to give Luke the time he needed to take that shot. The agony.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:53 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are aware that he's frozen in carbonite at the END of the movie which had not been released, which these phone messages are promoting?

These phone messages were recorded in late 1979, presumably after principal photography for Empire was finished, which would put Solo firmly in carbonite at that time.
posted by mazola at 2:56 PM on June 29, 2010


Wow, Carrie Fisher can barely contain her derision and mockery. Joke's on her though, she will forever be remembered as cinnamon roll hairdo and nothing else.
posted by Locobot at 2:58 PM on June 29, 2010


Where is Chewbaccca's message?!?!?!
posted by GavinR at 3:11 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Where is Chewbaccca's message?!?!?!

Make your own!
posted by hippybear at 3:25 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Joke's on her though, she will forever be remembered as cinnamon roll hairdo and nothing else.

Nope. She'll be remembered as a combination of sexy slave girl and murderous ex-fiancee with a rocket launcher.

Where is Chewbaccca's message?!?!?!

Han picked it up in a plastic bag.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:37 PM on June 29, 2010


she will forever be remembered as cinnamon roll hairdo and nothing else.

I think you're underestimating the pleasure some of us take in knowing about and remembering epic addictions to drugs.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:40 PM on June 29, 2010



Then I used my imagination and decided that it was part of his suit's breathing aparatus


Actually, I think it has something to do with midichlorians.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 3:57 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Then why does his breathing get so labored at the end of the final duel in Jedi ? Oh right, maybe the breathing apparatus was stored in his hand and that's just the auxiliary breathing apparatus kicking in after it was cut off and...

His life support system's circuitry had just been repeatedly zapped by the Emperor's force lightening, and he had a lot more injuries than just the hand.
posted by vibrotronica at 4:13 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


There has never been a Yentl hotline. Why?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:51 PM on June 29, 2010


His life support system's circuitry had just been repeatedly zapped by the Emperor's force lightening, and he had a lot more injuries than just the hand.

If you listen closely, you'll clearly hear him wheezing AFTER Luke cuts off his hand but BEFORE he gets zapped by the Emperor. I actually like the effect, because it highlights Vader's weakness and vulnerability at that moment, making his redemption all the more poignant, but it also gives support for the "Vader's breathing as, you know, breathing" theory over the "Vader's breathing as mechanical breathing apparatus that therefore can make breath sounds while Vader is speaking" theory.
posted by albrecht at 8:23 PM on June 29, 2010


Here's Josh Robert Thompson's take on Robert De Niro auditioning for the part of Darth Vader in Empire.
posted by New Frontier at 10:21 PM on June 29, 2010


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