THE STAR WARS VAULT (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, December 10, 2007
The Star Wars Vault may not be the greatest book ever published, but it might be the greatest thing to come off a printing press since Noah Webster published his first dictionary. This is the type of book that will have Star Wars fanatics all wide-eyed. It’s part history of the films, part pop culture extravaganza and part a treasure trove of memorabilia. The Vault tracks not only the history of all the Star Wars films, but also TV specials, animated shows, mass-merchandising, as well as how Star Wars has become a major franchise both in the United States and abroad. It’s almost hard to describe the book because I’ve genuinely never seen anything quite like it.
As you open the front cover and lift the page on the inside cover, you’ll find two audio CDs. These CDs contain tracks such as rare radio spots for the first Star Wars film; Carrie Fisher, mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Alec Guinness speaking to the media in 1977 about Star Wars; Carrie Fisher singing as Princess Leia from the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special; Excerpts from the Star Wars NPR radio drama from 1981, George Lucas answering questions at Star Wars Celebration III in 2005, and more. In all there are 15 different audio tracks on the two discs. And I have to tell you…Carrie Fisher singing brought back memories…not great memories…but memories all the same.
The films are covered in chronological order and even if you THINK you know all there is about Star Wars, you’ll be surprised at how much you will learn reading the book. The opening pages discuss Lucas’ original pitch of the film to Studio Execs at Twentieth Century Fox. But the Star Wars Vault isn’t some dry history book, no sir! The book is loaded with hundreds of color photos, most of them behind-the-scenes shots. The book is also very hands on as it is loaded with dozens of pieces of rare, reproduction memorabilia pieces. These are not the kinds of things you will find on eBay. These are one of-a-kind items that have been reproduced just for this edition.
One of the first such items is really remarkable in its simplicity. It is a copy of a typed, one paragraph invitation from Alec Guinness to the entire cast and crew to join him for drinks in the Executive Restaurant at EMI studios when shooting wrapped. Now these memorabilia pieces are not just printed on the pages of the book…they are contained in small envelopes so you can take them out, unfold them and check them out, up close and personal. Another early piece of memorabilia is the original Star Wars poster created by comic book artist Howard Chaykin for the 1976 San Diego Comic con. This was one of many cons that were visited in 1976 as cast and crew got the publicity ball rolling in preparation for the film’s release. You’ll see rare photos from these conventions and the displays that were used to promote it. Another great repro-collectible is the flyer handed out to fans at theaters inviting them to come see a preview of Star Wars at the Northpoint Theater in San Francisco. There’s even a copy of the questionnaire the viewers were asked to fill out after they had seen the film. One of my favorite pieces in the book is a reproduction, but still real iron-on T-shirt transfer that was quickly replaced because it had the wrong logo!
Star Wars was the first film to truly embrace mass-merchandising and The Vault contains pictures of dozens of Star Wars tie-in products including toys, rub-on transfers, mugs, apparel, coloring books, etc. Star Wars was everywhere! There is a cardboard landspeeder that you can take out of the book and build. This was originally a premium from Burger Chef restaurants! The book is loaded with treasures from stickers to post cards to blueprints of ships and vehicles, all facsimiles of the original items, but all damn cool. You even get a piece of cell animation art from “Droids” Saturday morning TV show. How cool is that!
There is so much in this book that I can’t cover it all in a single review. It truly is an amazing book that is informative and fun. Yes, at $85 it’s pricey for sure, but online retailers like Amazon provide a pretty nice discount. With Christmas fast approaching this is THE PERFECT gift for the Star Wars fan on your shopping list.
Mania Grade: A+
By: Stephen J. Sansweet and Peter Vilmur
Publisher: Harper Collins