The Movies that Made Star Wars

Friday at 8PM, the Star Wars Track welcomed Bryan Young (moderator), Amy Richau, Marie C Gould, Hoai-Tran Bui, and Kai Charles for a panel focusing on the films that have influenced Star Wars directors and creators, from George Lucas to Jon Favreau, via their Facebook Group Page and their YouTube channel. At the forefront, and dominating the conversation is the work of Akira Kurosawa (1920-1998). From scripting and filming techniques to his use of soundtracks in creative ways, Kurosawa’s imprint can be found across the filmography of the Star Wars franchise. In particular, the panelists discussed the impact of Hidden Fortress (1958), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957), Kagemusha (1980), and Ran (1986).

The panelists also discussed the impact of John Ford’s work, especially The Searchers (1956). The film, listed on the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, enjoys pride of place as the American Film Institute’s greatest American Western (2008). Their conversation also included  classic titles ranging from Metropolis (1927) to Academy Award winning films Casablanca (1942) and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece.

As their conversation turned to specific Star Wars actors and characters, the panel examined the legacy of “Hammer Horror” and Noir films as well as The Bridge over the River Kwai, another National Film Registry title that won 7 Academy Awards including “Best Picture” and a “Best Actor” award for Sir Alec Guiness, who later originated the role Obi-Wan Kenobi. Also discussed was the impact of silent film era actors, including Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

On a couple occasions panelists referred to work that existed in the “DNA” of Star Wars, including Seven Samurai as well as the comic series Flash Gordon. That DNA  must also include Lucas’s own early work including THX1138 (1971) and American Graffiti (1973). The panel was a fascinating, “short course” in the history of film and the ways it speaks to Star Wars movie makers and creators to this day.

“Movies that Made Star Wars” can be viewed at the Star Wars at Dragon Con YouTube channel.

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