It would appear from the volumes of making-of materials and documentaries on “Star Wars” that Lucasfilm has nearly every piece of film surrounding it stored in the archives. However, less preserved are the outside works of those who worked on the saga, namely “Star Wars” art director Roger Christian: with financial assistance from George Lucas in 1979, he wrote, produced and directed a 25-minute short entitled “Black Angel” that showed in front of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Since its release, it was presumed that copies of the film were lost forever, but with the news back in December that its original negative had been found, we've got our first glimpse of the short, as well as clarification on its latest release.
Following "a knight returning from the Crusades who is transported to a mystical realm where he must rescue a princess from a black knight," the Akira Kurosawa-influenced film has never been publicly shown since European and Australian screenings of 'Empire' in 1980. But after a lucky discovery in the Universal archives led to a new digital restoration of the film from Athena Studios, it was finally given its North American premiere this week at the Mill Valley Film Festival in Marin County. Understandably, Christian has spoken out on his excitement and eagerness to get it screened. "I've waited three decades to be able to show this film to audiences once again," he said. "I'm so grateful."
Christian is eying a Netflix and iTunes release next year for “Black Angel,” and last year, he also expressed the idea of showing it back in its premiere spot—in front of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Even with possible theatrical tie-ins of the original trilogy with J.J. Abrams' new effort it seems unlikely that Christian will get his wish, but we're willing to bet a repertory theatre is up for showcasing “Black Angel” in style nonetheless. You can read a full account of Christian's journey to making the film over at the LA Times, as well as catch a brief clip of the director's finished, restored work.