From whence did Star Wars came? From the fertile imagination of George Lucas alone, or something much more? And if so, what artistic forces influenced George Lucas in the first place? Each one of us, from our earliest childhood, is exposed to folklore and fabulous tales of heroic fiction, from within our families founding culture, and from media in movie theaters, television and beyond. Here are some possible creative sources for George’s Star Wars sagas, some obvious, others a bit more subtle and obscure.
The Seven Samurai and the Jedi Knighthood: The 1954 Japanese celluloid classic, The Seven Samurai is widely regarded by many Sci-Fi cinema scholars as Lucas’s foundation artistic influence in writing the Star Wars trilogy. The overall plot certainly appears similar to Star Wars. Substitute Jedi for Samurai, The Empire for armed bandits, and swords for light sabers, and you have an intriguing, if not rather suspicious, dead-on match.
Jawas, Sand People, and Bangladesh ship breaking yards: The compelling, highly panoramic contrast of tiny Jawas in their towering Land Crawler against vast tracts of desolate desert sand on the planet Tatooine is eerily reminiscent of huddled, shadowy Bangladeshis breaking apart beached freighters on the Chittagong Sea beach in this picture from Breaking Ships, a riveting photo essay by Roland Buerk. Ship breaking in the region started automatically when a 20,000 tonne vessel was driven ashore by a devastating tidal bore in 1965. That was the first ship scrapped, giving Lucas ample time to make an artistic connection. Furtherermore, comparing the berobed, wild-eyed appearance of Bangladeshi ship breakers to the equally menacing and unpredictable Sand People is no daunting stretch of the imagination as well.
X-Wings, Red Leaders and Barnes Wallis Bouncing Bombs: The indelible Grand Finale in the original Star Wars movie, the attack on the Death Star, is hauntingly similar to Great Britain’s attack on 6 German Dams in World War II, as described in the 1954 black and white movie The Dam Busters. Brilliant British engineer Barnes Wallis unique “Bouncing Bombs” were successfully deployed using the Avro Lancasters of No. 617 Squadron RAF in Operation Chastise on the nights of May 16-17, 1943.
The trench battle in the Star Wars movie is an almost exact duplicate of one of these bouncing bomb attacks. The valleys surrounding the Nazi dams were almost impossibly narrow and inaccessible, not to mention bristling with gun towers, just like the Death Star’s. In addition, it was dark, the gun towers on the dam were firing tracers, and they even lined up for their bombing runs by using a guidance device constructed of 2 pegs mounted several inches apart on a slingshot sized wooden handle. When the pegs lined up with the dam’s gun towers, the bomb was to be dropped, same as the ubiquitous computer guided canal attack on the Death Star’s oddly vulnerable exhaust port. Even the battle audio sounds remarkably the same, complete with “You’re next, Red Leader! Where’s Blue Leader? (sound of explosion) He’s gone!” Had the young Lucas watched The Dam Busters and incorporated it into his own celestial battle trilogy 20 years later?
Icy Mimas and the Death Star: *ahem* A close up photo of Saturn’s icy moon Mimas wasn’t acquired until 1980 by the Voyager spacecraft, long after the original Star Wars, but who can deny the casual resemblance? A mere coincidence? Or is the desolate, distant Saturnian moon a reminder that Man’s imagination is as real and tangible as matter and space itself? Probably not, but The Force, it would seem, just may still be out on that one.