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Use The Force

This Epic Mixtape Explores 40 Years of Star Wars Fandom

Luke, be a Jedi tonight.

Sam Fragoso

Editor's note: An earlier version of this video was removed from YouTube over copyright claims, but should be fixed now.

On this day 40 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars descended upon unwitting American audiences. Then again, how could anyone have predicted the earth-shattering aftermath of George Lucas' sumptuous space opera? The trailer—a masterclass in promotion—offered nothing more than ambiguity. "[It's] the story of a boy, a girl, and a universe," reads a narrator. "It's a big, sprawling space saga of rebellion and romance… An epic of heroes and villains and aliens from a thousand worlds. Star Wars… a billion years in the making, and it's coming to your galaxy… this summer." Heroes! Villains! A thousand worlds! A billion years! This is how you sell a movie. And boy did it sell. In the intervening years, it's estimated that Star Wars has grossed roughly $1,574,577,264 (with inflation). That number does not include the money made on the countless sequels, prequels, spinoffs, and offshoots of Lucas' intergalactic fairy tale.

But the greatest feat of the Star Wars franchise has nothing to do with its ability to turn a profit. Throughout the 20th century (and into the 21st century) the series has thrived—and endured—through unrelenting enthusiasm. As Katharine Trendacosta writes at io9, "One of the best things about Star Wars is that it has one of the lowest barriers of entry to any fandom." There's no wrong way to love Lucas' singular sci-fi's (unless, of course, you think Attack of the Clones is actually a worthwhile movie and not a somnambulant snooze-fest).

Like any fandom, though, there's a spectrum of devotion. Some look back on these films through the prism of youthful fondness, rose-colored memories from childhood. Others continue to nobly carry the torch while JJ Abrams and company build upon the legacy Lucas created. Then there are the needlessly meticulous obsessives, who bemoan each infinitesimal alteration made to their beloved franchise.

The Cinefamily, however, doesn't fit into any of those aforementioned boxes. One of the premier art house theaters in Los Angeles, the programming team at Cinefamily (including Hadrian Belove, Tom Fitzgerald, and Marcus Herring) have always prided themselves on being dedicated video collectors. Cinematic crate-diggers. "Throughout the theater's history," Belove told Motherboard, "we were always trying to find ways to put our editing knowledge to use." This collective talent has manifested itself in many ways, including compilations of rare cult footage to a supercut of some of the more brutally outrageous kills in cinematic history. In the past, these rarified programs could only be viewed as live presentations at Cinefamily. Denizens of Los Angeles have grown accustomed to the theater's specific brand of ingenuity. Now, finally, after a decade of existence, the theater has decided to release its latest mixtape, titled Star Wars Nothing But Star Wars, for public consumption.

At 90+ minutes, the mix includes a wide-variety of intergalactic oddities: Star Wars commercials, lost footage, fan films, rarities, and, yes, pornography. The goal, as Herring notes, is to "get back to a time where Star Wars was fun, before Comic-Con and Wookiepedia took hold." Having watched it twice now, the video proves to be a fascinating window into this 40-year-long phenomenon. It doesn't get bogged down in the convoluted mythology of Star Wars—"the character backstories, spaceship designs, or any of the boring stuff that turns normal people off," says Herring. Instead, Star Wars Nothing But Star Wars is interested, squarely, in us. People who've spent fractions of their lives watching and thinking about this fictitious universe. To celebrate this historic anniversary, the folks at Cinefamily are playing the role of cinematic resurrectors. Our part is to watch the living and the dead. Should you choose to do so, may the force be with you during this trip down memory lane.