The Art of Darkness

Black Angel: Lost Fantasy Movie Resurfaces

May 21st, 2015 by Cobwebs

Black Angel is a short fantasy film which is semi-legendary among Star Wars fans; it was shown in theaters in Europe and Australia before The Empire Strikes Back, and was directed by ESB art director Roger Christian. It’s also got something of a following amongst fans of 80s sword-and-sorcery movies, because it was hugely influential on the look-and-feel of films like Legend and Excalibur. The film was also notable because it pioneered “step-printing,” a method of slowing down action scenes, which was used for the lightsaber duel in ESB.

The film was lost soon after its theatrical run and was presumed gone forever, but a print was recently discovered at Universal Studios. It’s been digitized and is being made available on YouTube until the end of this month.

Here’s the press release:

Black Angel, the short film attached to initial screenings of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, is to be made available for free on YouTube until the end of May 2015. It will be released on Tuesday, 12th May, accompanied by an exclusive introduction from director Roger Christian. A crucial part of the Star Wars legacy, Black Angel was commissioned by George Lucas, who chose it to accompany Empire in Europe and Australia. The 25-minute film was produced on a budget of £25,000, given to Christian by an Eady Scheme fund from the UK government.

An epic fantasy adventure, the script follows a knight (Tony Vogel) who returns from the Crusades, only to be transported to a fantasy world to rescue a princess from the clutches of a dark and mysterious character. Shot in the Scottish Highlands, the film highlights the beauty and majesty of the location. It was loved by fans and industry tastemakers the world over, with Steven Spielberg describing it as ‘one of the most enigmatic films I’ve ever seen.’

Following its release, all copies of the film were lost for over 30 years. That is, until December 2011, when an archivist at Universal Studios came across the negative. The prints had ended up in the US after the collapse of the UK studio Rank, which had stored the prints along with other film negatives in WWII bunkers. The film was restored frame by frame by a visual effects company, before having its ‘re-premiere’ in October 2013 as the closing film of the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival. It was also screened at the Glasgow Film Festival in Scotland and released on iTunes in early 2014, where it quickly ranked as ‘#1 short film.’

Christian won an Academy Award for Art Direction for his work on the original Star Wars movie. He was also nominated for the same award for his work on Alien. Christian is widely acknowledged as a key part of the ‘Star Wars family’ of writers, directors, cinematographers and crew who have been involved in the billion-dollar franchise since day one. Black Angel was his directorial debut

And here’s the full movie. Ain’t technology grand?

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