I’m trying to recall my first viewing of A New Hope, back when it was called Star Wars and nobody knew any better. I was a Westport, Connecticut lad at the time, and I’m fairly sure I attended a Manhattan showing right after the opening on 5.25.77, probably at Loew’s Astor Plaza.

Seeing a film like Star Wars in some dinky Fairfield County venue was unthinkable. Only the finest big-city venues had truly tip-top projection and sound back then. Dolby stereo sound had only been introduced a couple of years previously, the first-out-of-the-gate test case being Robert Altman‘s Nashville.

You can immediately feel the grip and the pull from these clips. There’s something vital going on, and the great Alec Guinness lent a veneer of class. I liked Star Wars but within its genre arena; in my eyes it wasn’t its own thing but a winking homage to Flash Gordon-style space adventures.

Two or three weeks later I saw William Friedkin‘s Sorcerer, and immediately told my friends “this is it…easily the best film of the year!” Maybe it was, but the infantilization of mainstream cinema had taken hold, and films like Sorcerer no longer had the mojo. Little did I know at the time…