Book Review: ‘The Last Battle’

(C) 1966 Simon & Schuster

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

All art, no matter what the medium might be, is a product of the times in which it is created. A 1950s-era novel like Elliott Arnold’s Flight from Ashiya, for instance, will resonate with readers or movie buffs who remember director Michael Anderson’s 1964 adaptation, but it will still reflect the concerns and issues of the late Fifties.

Likewise, a film such as Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) or Andrew Davis’ The Package (1989) will be easily identified as artifacts from the late stages of the Cold War, not just because they were made in the last years of the late and unlamented Soviet Union’s existence, but also because they addressed the angst and paranoia that many Americans and Russians felt shortly before and after the Berlin Wall came down in November of 1989.

Military histories, especially popular ones such as those written by non-academic (or, if you prefer, amateur) historians like John Toland and Cornelius Ryan, are not exempt from this rule, and I can think of no better example of that than 1966’s The Last Battle, Ryan’s narrative account of the Battle of Berlin.

Published seven years after Ryan’s phenomenal bestseller The Longest Day: June 6, 1944, the second book in what many Ryan fans call the “World War II Trilogy” tells the story of how the war in Europe came to a climactic conclusion in early 1945 with the siege and capture of the Third Reich’s capital by the Soviet army. Told from the perspectives of the American, British, German, and Russian participants – both military and civilian, The Last Battle not only chronicles the downfall of Nazi Germany and the deaths of Adolf Hitler and other top Nazis, but it also delves into the genesis of the then-ongoing Cold War and the growing tensions between the Anglo-American Allies and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s Russia over the postwar fate of Berlin and Eastern Europe.

Author Cornelius Ryan was already working on The Last Battle when he posed for this photo at Pointe du Hoc, France, on June 5, 1964. (Paul Slade; courtesy Paris Match via Getty Images)


Using the same techniques he employed in The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far, Ryan interweaves personal accounts from military and civilian participants from both the Axis and the Allied camps with a sprawling yet fascinating “big picture” account of the last battle in the European Theater of Operations. In The Last Battle, Ryan vividly describes the dramatic advances of the Anglo-American forces across Germany after the stunning capture of the bridge at Remagen in early March, the daily lives of ordinary Berliners, and the surreal atmosphere inside Hitler’s underground bunker,-where the 56-year-old Nazi dictator issues orders for the “scorched earth” policy of denying any factory, power station, water plant, or food warehouse to either the Western Allies or the hated “subhuman” Soviets…thereby condemning the German people to death. As Ryan writes in the Foreword, “…it is not a military report. Rather, it is the story of ordinary people, both soldiers and civilians, who were caught up in the despair, frustration, terror and rape of the defeat and the victory.” 

The 1975 New American Library paperback edition.

The book is divided into five parts:

  • The City
  • The General
  • The Objective
  • The Decision
  • The Battle

And as in his previous works, Ryan includes a “Where Are They Now?” section that lists the many individuals who were interviewed or sent in filled out questionnaires to Ryan or the various Reader’s Digest bureaus that assisted the author during the research and pre-publication phase of the making of The Last Battle.

Ryan had been a young war correspondent for London’s Daily Telegraph during the battles for Northwest Europe before transferring to the Pacific to cover the last months of the war and the surrender of Japan there, and although he was not an “academic” historian, he was a meticulous researcher and a keen observer of cotidian details that make his histories so compelling to the general reader.

This, for instance, is how he opens The Last Battle:

In the northern latitudes the dawn comes early. Even as the bombers were turning away from the city, the first rays of light were coming up in the east. In the stillness of the morning, great pillars of black smoke towered over the districts of Pankow, Weissensee and Lichtenberg. On the low clouds it was difficult to separate the soft glow of daylight from the reflections of the fires that blazed in bomb-battered Berlin.

As the smoke drifted slowly across the ruins, Germany’s most bombed city stood out in stark, macabre splendor. It was blackened by soot, pockmarked by thousands of craters and laced by the twisted girders of ruined buildings. Whole blocks of apartment houses were gone, and in the very heart of the capital entire neighborhoods had vanished. In these wastelands what had once been broad roads and streets were now pitted trails that snaked through mountains of rubble. Everywhere, covering acre after acre, gutted, windowless, roofless buildings gaped up at the sky.

In the aftermath of the raid, a fine residue of soot and ash rained down, powdering the wreckage, and in the great canyons of smashed brick and tortured steel nothing moved but the eddying dust. It swirled along the broad expanse of the Unter den Linden, the famous trees bare now, the leaf buds seared on the branches. Few of the banks, libraries and elegant shops lining the renowned boulevard were undamaged. But at the western end of the avenue, Berlin’s most famous landmark, the eight-story-high Brandenburg Gate, though gashed and chipped, still straddled the via triumphalis on its twelve massive Doric columns.

On the nearby Wilhelmstrasse, lined by government buildings and former palaces, shards of glass from thousands of windows glittered in the debris. At No. 73, the beautiful little palace that had been the official residence of German presidents in the days before the Third Reich had been gutted by a raging fire. Once it had been described as a miniature Versailles; now sea nymphs from the ornate fountain in the forecourt lay shattered against the colonnaded front entrance, and along the roof line, chipped and gouged by flying fragments, the twin statues of Rhine maidens leaned headless over the littered courtyard.

A block away, No. 77 was scarred but intact. Piles of rubble lay all around the three-story, L-shaped building. Its yellowish-brown exterior was scabrous, and the garish golden eagles above each entrance, garlanded swastikas in their claws, were pitted and deeply scored. Jutting out above was the imposing balcony from which the world had been harangued with many a frenzied speech. The Reichskanzlei, Chancellery of Adolf Hitler, still remained.

At the top of the battered Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s Fifth Avenue, bulked the deformed skeleton of the once fashionable Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church. The hands on the charred clock face were stopped at exactly 7:30; they had been that way since 1943 when bombs wiped out one thousand acres of the city on a single November evening.

One hundred yards away was the jungle of wreckage that had been the internationally famed Berlin Zoo. The aquarium was completely destroyed. The reptile, hippopotamus, kangaroo, tiger and elephant houses, along with scores of other buildings, were severely damaged. The surrounding Tiergarten, the renowned 630-acre park, was a no man’s land of room-sized craters, rubble-filled lakes and partly demolished embassy buildings. Once the park had been a natural forest of luxuriant trees. Now most of them were burned and ugly stumps.

In the northeast corner of the Tiergarten stood Berlin’s most spectacular ruin, destroyed not by Allied bombs but by German politics. The huge Reichstag, seat of parliament, had been deliberately set ablaze by the Nazis in 1933 — and the fire had been blamed on the Communists, thus providing Hitler with an excuse to seize full dictatorial power. On the crumbling portico above its six-columned entrance, overlooking the sea of wreckage that almost engulfed the building, were the chiseled, blackened words, “Dem Deutschen Volke” — To the German People.

The 1995 Touchstone edition uses the same photograph on the front cover as the 1966 hardcover edition.

My Take

For the most part, the follow-up to The Longest Day is a fine example of good research, a reporter’s dogged determination to get access to sources no previous author could acquire easily, and an almost novelistic approach to narrating a complex series of events that still resonated – often painfully – not just with the author but with the readers of the 1960s.

The Last Battle, unfortunately, is also a good example of what happens when an author, either consciously or not, writes a book about an event – in this case, the Battle of Berlin – with judgment clouded not just by one’s emotions but also by the political currents at the time in which the book is being created.

According to the notes by Rick Atkinson in the Library of America’s edition of The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, Cornelius Ryan began working on The Last Battle in 1961, the same year that the Berlin Wall was erected by the Soviet-backed East German Communist regime. Like President John F. Kennedy, who was a fan of The Longest Day, Ryan was an Irish-American Catholic (he moved to the United States in 1947 and became a citizen) who was deeply troubled about the sad fate of the divided city.

In a classic case of an author wearing his heart on his sleeve, Ryan telegraphs his intentions in the book’ dedication:

THIS BOOK IS FOR THE MEMORY OF A BOY WHO WAS BORN IN BERLIN DURING THE LAST MONTHS OF THE WAR. HIS NAME WAS PETER FECHTER. IN 1962 HE WAS MACHINE-GUNNED BY HIS OWN PEOPLE AND LEFT TO BLEED TO DEATH BY THE SIDE OF THE MOST TRAGIC MEMORIAL TO THE ALLIED VICTORY – THE BERLIN WALL.

Peter Fechter, the young East German bricklayer shot by East German border guards on August 17, 1962 near Checkpoint Charlie. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Last Battle is, on the surface, a journalistic narrative based on a combination of sources, including official histories, memoirs, and hundreds of personal interviews of civilian and military participants. It covers roughly the last two months of the Battle of Germany, starting some time after the Western Allies cross the Rhine River (March 1945) and advance toward the Elbe River, the geographic feature that the four Allied powers – France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States – chose as the dividing line between East and West in negotiations that took place in 1944.

And for the most part, much of the story, including the then-surprising reveal that the Germans’ discovery of the Allied decision to divide Germany into three (later four) zones of occupation actually hardened Nazi resistance and might have prolonged the war, rings true. Ryan accurately reconstructs the scenes and moods in the warring camps as the Anglo-American armies advance toward the demarcation line at the Elbe, whilst the Soviet juggernaut pushes relentlessly across western Poland and East Prussia to the Oder River, the last major natural barrier between the Red Army and Berlin.

Clearly, Ryan does not radically change any of the accounts of Hitler’s final days or the vivid details of the battle for the city itself. The Soviets – who had uncharacteristically given the author unprecedented access to Russian archives and even allowed him to interview almost every surviving Soviet general officer who led forces during “the last battle” (except for Marshal Georgy Zhukov, who was out of favor with the Communist regime at the time) – were not happy with the book due to its documentation of rapes and murders of German civilians during the final days of the Reich.

That having been said, Ryan’s trustworthiness as a dispassionate observer goes out the window in the sections “The Objective” and “The Decision.” In those portions of The Last Battle, the author – bolstered by statements from Gen. William H. Simpson, the commander of the U.S. Ninth Army, in which he claimed that his troops could have done it – states that the Western Allies should have captured Berlin before the Red Army.

Ryan lays a foundation for this notion – which has been debunked by historians such as Stephen E. Ambrose and Antony Beevor – by devoting a lot of space to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s insistence that the U.S. should occupy the northern part of Germany as well as Berlin at war’s end. Ryan cannily explains why this was not logistically possible, as it would have required a change in the embarkation ports used by U.S. forces in the British Isles, as well as a shift in the invasion beaches so that the Americans would land on the “left” or easternmost flank (on a north-to-south axis) and the Anglo-Canadian forces on the “right” or western side.

However, the way that Ryan tells the story of why the U.S. was assigned to occupy the south of Germany (albeit with control of two northern German ports, including Bremen), the reader gets a feeling that Ryan is saying, subconsciously, “Gee, FDR should have stood firm on his idea of including Berlin in the U.S. zone.”

That’s bad enough, but it’s understandable if you keep in mind that The Last Battle was written at a time when the status of Berlin was a source of geopolitical and military tension between the Soviet Union and the Western Alliance.

What diminishes Ryan’s authorial credibility in The Last Battle – and Pulitzer-winning historian Rick Atkinson pointed it out when he edited the Library of America hardcover edition of Cornelius Ryan: The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far – is the assertion that the Soviet leadership, in the person of Josef Stalin, tricked a politically naive Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower into not sending American and British forces to capture Berlin before the Red Army got there.

I’m not going to delve too much into that subject here; this is a book review and not a dissertation on the genesis of the Cold War. Suffice it to say, however, that Ryan’s thesis, while popular with large segments of the British and American audience who were strongly anti-Communist, is poppycock.

First, General Eisenhower was not chosen as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (AEF) for his skills as a battlefield commander. Ike, unlike his former boss Gen. Douglas MacArthur, had never seen combat. As a young officer, he had commanded small units in the infantry branch, but by and large his duties as a field grade officer were in operations and planning. As such, Ike was a skilled organizer and a man who knew how to motivate others in such a way that they wanted to please him. Eisenhower, in short, was perfect for the job of theater command not because he was a hell-for-leather battle captain like his friend and subordinate George S. Patton, Jr., but because he was a politically adept general.

Second, considering how successful Eisenhower’s two terms in the White House as the 34th President of the United States were, to accuse him of being politically inept as a five-star general in 1945 is not only false, but also insulting. (Eisenhower, by the way, was not thrilled with The Last Battle, calling Ryan’s version of his decision to abide by the inter-Allied agreement to stop at the Elbe “stupid.”)

Ryan also seems to dismiss the possibility that an Anglo-American dash for Berlin at the last minute would have been catastrophic. Yes, the Allies would have prevailed against the Nazi capital’s defenders, but at what cost? The Soviets suffered heavy casualties during the 16-day battle for Berlin, including 81,000 dead, 280,000 injured or incapacitated by illness, and close to 2,000 tanks and self-propelled guns.

I can’t imagine that many GIs wanted to fight their way in to Hitler’s capital city against die-hard SS and Wehrmacht troops fighting tooth and nail for their Fuehrer as long as he lived and urged them to keep fighting to the last man. Eisenhower certainly didn’t think Berlin was worth the price in Allied blood, especially if the Americans and British would have to “let the other fellow” take it over in accordance to arrangements made many months before any Allied soldiers had entered Germany.

On top of that, the Red Army would not have stood idly by and watched their Allies-of-convenience traipse into its allocated zone of occupation, which had been designated as far back as the fall of 1944, without objection. The Soviets would have fired warning volleys at the approaching American and British columns, and if that did not deter the encroaching Westerners, then there would have been armed clashes between East and West, much to Hitler’s delight.

The Last Battle is still worth a read, though. Just understand that, in this book at least, Cornelius Ryan allowed his emotions and the politics of the early to mid-1960s to cloud his judgment.

Life in the Time of COVID-19: Rugged Individualism or Self-Centeredness? or: Why America Can’t Flatten the Curve

Screenshot of Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

So what’s next? Ban wearing the color of blue? Or black or red? No more stripes? Plaid only Tuesdays? Why do we have politicians that do not understand what the constitution is. Some sheep are all for this. Give me a ticket and I am suing for violations of my constitutional rights. – Jennifer W., conservative

Well, here we are at the beginning of our COVID-19 summer, and even after nearly four months of partial or even total lockdowns throughout the nation, the United States of America is still the No. 1 country for coronavirus infections and deaths in the world.

As of 1:33:54 PM Eastern Daylight Time, this is where we are:

  • 9,679,764 confirmed cases throughout the world
  • 491,095 confirmed deaths throughout the world
  • 2,444,483 confirmed cases in the U.S.
  • 124,732 confirmed deaths in the U.S.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Now, you’d figure that the “greatest nation in the world” would have figured out a way to combat the novel COVID-19 virus with the same “can-do” spirit that helped previous generations cope with a Great Depression, fight a global war against two formidable militaristic regimes, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan (and a not so formidable one in Italy), put astronauts on the Moon not once but seven times, and “won” a Cold War against the repressive and morally bankrupt Soviet Union.

But no. America is saddled with the burden of an Administration that seems intent in tearing down the nation in every way possible, including the steady dismantling of existing international mechanisms (the relationship with our NATO alliances being one) that have, for the most part, kept a third world war at bay since 1945.

President Donald J. Trump’s response to the pandemic has been disastrously inept. Yes, he did ban travel from the People’s Republic of China on January 31, but, as Vox chronicles it in a timeline it published on June 8:

January 31: Trump suspends entry to the US for many — but not all — categories of people traveling from China, a move which some epidemiologists warned at the time was “more of an emotional or political reaction” than a public health decision. The Department of Health and Human Services declares the coronavirus a public health emergency.

Since then, Trump has wobbled from position to position, first claiming that it would only affect a few people and that it would go away, then coming up with the twisted notion that the pandemic was a hoax cooked up by the Democratic Party and the “mainstream media”:

February 26: The first instance of community spread in the US is confirmed by the CDC.

February 26: Trump appoints Pence to lead the coronavirus task force; during the same press conference, he again downplays the virus.

And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.

@realDonaldTrump, February 26, 2020

February 28: Trump refers to the coronavirus as the Democrats’ “new hoax” at a rally in South Carolina.

The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus… One of my people came up to me and said “Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia, that didn’t work out too well. They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax that was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they’ve been doing it since you got in… And this is their new hoax.”

President Donald Trump, February 28, 2020

I could go on and on about the Administration’s pitiful and embarrassing response to a pandemic that has killed over 120,000 Americans in just over four months. I don’t have the time to do that; I’d end up with a list as long as Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

But Trump’s maladroit handling of the COVID-19 crisis is not the only reason why America can’t “flatten the curve” the way, say, New Zealand has. The lethargic reaction at the federal (and in cases where Republicans control legislatures and/or governors’ mansions, state) level is merely the reflection of the recklessly self-centered reaction to common-sense steps to combat a global epidemic.

There are far too many facets to what I call COVID-19 Denialism, ranging from such false equivalences as this one:

If we have ~56,000 people die a year from the flu / flu like symptoms According to the CDC why is it that the W.H.O. Does not Declare this a pandemic? Just asking and questioning ?

…to a self-centered refusal to wear face masks in public venues, even when local governments make it mandatory, as reflected in these comments on Facebook:

Hey guess what this isn’t a socialist nation dude. I pay for medical services. Do you? Or do you get that for free. So if I get sick which I am pretty sure I already had this mon event of a super flu back in dec. but hey who cares about the fact that the masks don’t work and you are all a bunch of suckers who didn’t bother to look at what works and doesn’t. You just go ahead and put that mask on. If I ordered you to wear a hat everyday will you? Let’s say it’s because we don’t want your sensitive head to get burned but you aren’t smart enough to know that so we’re gonna require it. Would you? – Jennifer W.

Here’s an exchange between a Concerned Citizen and a No Mask COVIDiot:

Concerned Citizen: Which constitutional right is being violated by being told to wear a mask in public? I’ll wait.

No Mask COVIDiot: Freedom of expression and due process.

Concerned Citizen: There is no right to “expression.” As for due process? What? Which process? It’s also illegal to drive in public without a driver’s license. Same thing.

No Mask COVIDiot: Freedom of expression falls under the 1st Amendment.
Also, emergency orders aren’t laws. They cannot legally be enforced.

Concerned Citizen: Then you have the right to express NOT wearing pants in public as well?

No Mask COVIDiot: You’re being crude, asinine, and indecent. No class.

No Mask COVIDiot: You’re sick.

Concerned Citizen:  You are right, no one can MAKE you wear a mask, BUT you CAN be refused service anywhere without one. So, if emergency orders can’t be legally enforced then we all can go to the airplane with our guns strapped on because we have concealed weapons permits, RIGHT?? As long as I don’t get on the plane its fine, they can’t arrest me.

No Mask COVIDiot: So if I owned a business, I could refuse you service for being pro LGBTQ, right? 😏

In the meantime, my home state of Florida has seen a surge in new COVID-19 cases – nearly 9,000 in one day.

I’m a big believer in the Great American Experiment and love my country. So much so that I don’t identify as a Colombian-American or exercise my right to have dual citizenship. In fact, this was one of the issues that divided my half-sister and me; she was born in Argentina – her father was the doctor attached to the Colombian Embassy in Buenos Aires – but always was “more Colombian than a Colombian born in Colombia,” while I consider myself an American – born in Florida – of Colombian heritage.

That having been said, I don’t have patience for the myth of American exceptionalism or the blind worship of rugged individualism, especially that version spouted by COVID deniers and “rebels against the Mask of Oppression.”

The extreme conservative take on masks. Source: Facebook

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we aren’t flattening the COVID-19 curve.

Sources:

CBS MIAMI Facebook post: Better Wear That Mask

Vox.com: Timeline of Trump’s Failed Response

‘Star Wars’ Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series Sith Jet Trooper 6-inch Scale Action Figure

Promotional photo of Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series’ Sith Jet Trooper 6-inch scale action figure. (C) 2019 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Limited via Gamestop

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Soldier of the Final Order

Protecting the skies over Exegol as the Sith Fleet launches are elite airborne soldiers, the next step beyond the standard jetpack-equipped stormtrooper. With intense training and advanced gear, the Sith jet trooper is an intelligent airborne projectile capable of devastating rapid strikes – Pablo Hidalgo, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The Visual Dictionary  

Promotional image of Sith Jet Trooper. Photo Credit; Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Introduced on May 15, 2020, five months after the theatrical release of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series Sith Jet Trooper is an impressive 6-inch scale action figure based on the crimson-armored soldiers of the 109th Battalion of the Sith Eternal army’s aerial infantry.

Sith Jet Troopers wear red armor over a black body glove, both of which are based on the First Order’s aerial infantry combat gear, except that the Sith variants’ armor is crimson, in homage to Emperor Palpatine’s Imperial Royal Guard and the late Supreme Leader Snoke’s Praetorian Guard.  Sith Jet Troopers use NJP-900 jetpacks and wield F-11ABA heavy blaster cannon to overwhelm their enemies with deadly firepower.

Sith Jet Troopers of Lanrovak, Parang, and Warblade Squads saw action at the Battle of Exegol. They inflicted heavy casualties on the Resistance forces attacking the Final Order’s Star Destroyer Steadfast. They were destroyed, however, when Resistance fighters led by Finn and Jannah used a hot-wired laser cannon to destroy the Steadfast’s command deck and caused the Star Destroyer to crash onto Exegol’s surface.

The Figure

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Released in May of 2020, Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series Sith Jet Trooper 6-inch action figure depicts one of the intimidating red clad warriors seen in the ninth and final Episode of the Skywalker Saga. It is the 106th figure in Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series line, and even though it’s not based on a “major character” along the lines of Rey, Jannah, or Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, it’s still an awesome figure.

In its ultimate push toward galactic conquest, the First Order readies an army of elite soldiers that draw inspiration from a dark and ancient legacy! – Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series Sith Jet Trooper package blurb

The figure represents the resurrected Emperor Palpatine’s Final Order’s most advanced “ground pounder,”  which unlike its First Order counterpart, is clad in blood-red armor, with a yellow specialist’s insignia – a stylized rendition of thrust cones – stenciled on the left breastplate and on the jetpack itself.

Promotional photo of Sith Jet Trooper from Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series. Photo Credit: Hasbro via Amazon. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

The Sith Jet Trooper is a striking figure; its sculpt and paint job accurately replicate such details as the aileron finlets on the trooper’s boots, the black sensor-lined full-seal body glove, the glare-reducing slit visor on the helmet’s face, and the jetpack’s turbine air-scoop inlet and filter. The contours of this trooper’s armor are more streamlined than those of the basic Sith trooper in order to reduce drag during flight.

Sith Jet Trooper comes with a single accessory: a replica of the amplified F-11ABA heavy blaster cannon. Like the trooper figure, the blaster cannon is rendered in red-and-black, a palette chosen by the evil Palpatine’s Sith Eternal cult to strike fear against any opposition to the emerging Final Order.

The 6-inch scale Black Series figure is detailed to look like the Sith Jet Trooper character from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, featuring premium detail and multiple points of articulation. – Hasbro promotional blurb.

As is the case with Hasbro’s “human” or “humanoid” character figures from Star Wars The Black Series, Sith Jet Trooper has multiple points of articulation (POAs) that allow fans and collectors alike to place their figure in lifelike poses. Whereas the original Kenner 3.75-inch action figures from the late 1970s and early 1980s had, at most, five POAs, Sith Jet Trooper has at least 12.   

Promotional photo of Sith Jet Trooper from Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series. Photo Credit: Hasbro via Amazon. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

My Take

I bought this Star Wars The Black Series action figure during one of my infrequent trips to Amazon to add a few new figures to a collection that, by necessity, has to be a limited rather than a completist effort. Figures aren’t exactly cheap; the average price for Black Series figures – as set by Hasbro – runs between $19.99 and $24.99, with “deluxe” figures falling into the higher price range. (Interestingly, the cost is not a result of Hasbro jacking up prices to squeeze collectors or fans out of their hard-earned money; if inflation wasn’t a “thing” and the dollar’s buying ability in 2020 was the same as in 1978, today’s figures would probably cost between $1.98 and $4.99. Alas, inflation exists.)

I also don’t have an entire house or apartment all to myself, so my ability to display or store my collectibles is limited. (I could, in theory, buy every Star Wars The Black Series figure if I had the resources, but most of them would end up in bins tucked away either in my closet or the attic.

I got this figure because I realized that although I have a few variants of Kylo Ren and one Supreme Leader Snoke, I really don’t have many First/Final Order characters in my collection. I also wanted to make sure I had a “villain” figure from each Episode, and Sith Jet Trooper was perhaps the most striking of the ones I saw on Amazon. So, I ordered him.

Photo Credit: Hasbro via Amazon. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

As I said earlier, Hasbro’s Sith Jet Trooper is eye-catching, even in its black-and-red packaging. Every detail is accurately replicated; I compared the figure to the image in DK Books’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The Visual Dictionary, a canonical reference book by Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo.  

Due to the limited amount of shelf space and my desire to keep the figure and its accessory in pristine condition, chances are that Sith Jet Trooper will stay in its distinctive red-and-black Star Wars The Black Series box. I can still put it on one of my Billy bookcases from Ikea and still be sure that it won’t get dusty, be exposed to extreme sunlight, or lose its F-11ABA heavy blaster.

This is definitely a cool-looking Star Wars collectible, especially for fans of the Galactic Empire and its successor regimes, the First Order and the Sith Eternal.

As always, I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed writing it. And until next time, May the Force be with you.

Thoughts & Musings: June 25, 2020

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Thunderin’ Thursday

Hi, there! Thank you for stopping by! As I write this, it’s mid-afternoon here in my corner of Florida on a hot, muggy, and stormy Thursday. Right now – this won’t go live till after 5 PM my time – the temperature outside is 96˚ F; with 51% humidity, almost calm winds of 4 MPH, and under thunderstorm conditions, the heat index Is 106˚ F in the shade. We have dark clouds overhead, so even though my study has a window, it’s dimly lit. There haven’t been too many lightning strikes so far, but that’s bound to change as the big, mean, and dangerous storm cells get closer to my neighborhood.

As you can see, I didn’t write a review today, either. I woke up thinking that I’d have something in mind at least by noon – I usually have an item (be it a movie, book, TV show season set, or Star Wars action figure) chosen in the morning, but sometimes I don’t have an aha! moment until 12 PM or even later.

Well, noon came and went, and I had nothing.

One o’clock came and went…same thing. Zilch ideas for reviews.

Now it’s just past four, and still no review ideas.

And with bad weather overhead, I’m not going to sit here spinning my wheels uselessly while I wait for inspiration to fire up my brain before my PC gets fried by a lightning strike.

Ah, well. Maybe tomorrow.

On the Good News Front

Not everything is Sturm und Drang here, though.

I got a text message from Best Buy earlier this afternoon. It was to let me know that the package with my 4K UHD Blu-ray sets of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story are on their way – via USPS – and will arrive on Saturday. The original estimated date of delivery was Monday the 29th, but apparently the Force is with me.

The cover art for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s 4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy set. (C) 2017 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd.
The cover art for the Solo: A Star Wars Story 4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy set (C) 2018 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

I still wish Best Buy had the steelbook editions – I have the nine main Skywalker Saga films in that type of packaging, but not the two Anthology movies – but at least I’ll have all of the existing Star Wars films on 4K UHD. (I still won’t be able to watch the new format BDs until the TV and Blu-ray player I bought nearly three years ago are connected – and functioning properly, but…baby steps, guys. Baby steps.)

And…even better news, at least for today: the thunderstorm has cleared the area and now it’s both cooler outside (85˚F, but it’s still humid out there, so the feels-like in the shade is 91˚F, 94˚F if you’re out in the open) and cloudier. But no lightning!

Well, that’s about it for today, Dear Reader. So until next time, stay safe, be healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.      

Thoughts & Musings for Mid-Week: June 24, 2020

My mom in 2009, about a year before her health issues prevented her from going to Publix. (Photo by the author.)

Musings for Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Well, it’s midafternoon here in my tranquil corner of Florida on this, the 24th day of June 2020. It is hot and sunny outside, with temperatures in the neighborhood of 95˚ F  but with a heat index of 100˚ or more.

Now, I know what you’re going to say: “It’s summer, and you live in Florida. Of course it’s going to be hot. It’s the subtropics!”

Yes, it is summer here in the Sunshine State, and yes, I know that this is not exactly the Arctic Circle. But aside from a six-year stay in Colombia between the ages of three and nine and a three-month-long study abroad stint in Seville Spain almost 32 years ago, I’ve lived in Florida all of my life. I’ve experienced all sorts of weather events – from the day it snowed in Miami (January 20, 1977) to a long chain of hurricanes, tropical storms, and even no-name storms – and I can honestly say: until the mid-2000s, it didn’t get this hot so early in the season. 

Highs in the 90s (with heat indexes of 100+ degrees) are common in late July all the way to mid-September. Or at least they used to be. My late mother, in the last years of her life, even commented that she used to hold off turning on the air conditioning till mid-June up until 2003 or so.

Incidentally, I used to dread the coming of summer between 2010 and 2015; Mom was mostly confined to a hospital-type bed in what used to be the guest room in our small townhouse in the Fountainbleau Park area of Miami-Dade County after having back surgery in June of 2010. As her primary caregiver, I fretted about such things as power outages, heat waves, and hurricanes, not so much for the house or even for my own survival, but because Mom insisted that she would rather die at home rather than be evacuated or – worse – go to my half-sister’s apartment.

Indeed, there was one day – I can’t remember the year, but it must have been either in 2013 or 2014 – when we had a power outage shortly after noon on a hot July day. I had help that day; one of the respite aides from Easter Seals was there when the lights, the TV in Mom’s room, my laptop (I was writing a piece for Examiner), and the air conditioning went out, and later my half-sister Victoria dropped by as well.

But my mother’s room had a large window that faced due west, and even though we had some shade from the lychee tree my grandmother planted in the backyard in 1979, sunlight still streamed in starting around one o’clock in the afternoon and didn’t let up till after seven or so in the evening. So that room was unbearably hot in the summertime, and even though Florida Power & Light (FP&L) sent out a repair team as soon as they could, Mom was drenched in sweat and her room felt as hot as an oven.

Vicky and the Easter Seals respite worker did their best to coax Mom into drinking cool liquids, and eventually the power was restored and, with it, the fan in her bedroom and the house’s air conditioner. Mom took it like a trouper on that occasion and didn’t complain much, but there would be other occasions when we’d have what FP&L called “main line power outages” or a transformer would literally explode, and the power would be out for half the day and well into the night. I could cope with the heat by going out for brief walks while the home health aide or my half-sister watched over my mother. Mom, who was bedridden because she’d lost the will to walk sometime in the summer of 2012, could not.

A short time before she died in July of 2015, even though her memory was not terribly reliable due to the effects of dementia, Mom remarked, “Is it me, or are summers getting hotter?”

Odds and Ends

I had hoped to write a review today, but I stayed up too late trying to watch a movie out in our Florida room. I had to wait until somebody else finished watching  America’s Got Talent  – a talent show that I don’t care for, to be honest  – so I could use the TV and the Blu-ray player. I had a hard time choosing what to watch, so rather than doing the wise thing – reading a book might have been a better idea – I ended up watching Star Wars (aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) for the nth time.

I tried watching it with the “archival audio commentary track” on the Blu-ray disc from the “international region-free” Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga box set I bought for “regular use” so that I don’t have to handle the more expensive Best Buy Exclusive set with the 4K UHD discs, at least not until we can finish the protracted process of setting up the UHD TV set and its Blu-ray player. I’ve listened to the other audio commentary tracks for the Original Trilogy films in the 2004 DVD set and the 2011 Blu-ray set many times over the past 16 years, but I can’t say the same about the “archival” audio tracks, which are edited from various sources, including 1970s era interviews by the late Charles Lippincott – Lucasfilm’s first vice president for public relations – and the audio track from Kevin Burns’ Empire of Dreams: The Making of the Star Wars Trilogy.

I think I managed to watch about half of A New Hope before I finally got sleepy, ejected the disc, put it in its storage compartment, turned off the TV and Blu-ray player, and shuffled quietly to bed. I’m not sure what time it was when I went to sleep, but it must have been past one in the morning. I managed to wake up early, but I didn’t have it in me to think of something to review or write something topical.

Oh, and speaking of 4K UHD Blu-rays and Star Wars:  I had Rewards Points in my Best Buy account, but they were due to expire on July 4, so I had to choose between using them or losing them. I’d earned lots of points when I ordered the Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga box set In March and a couple of other things in April, but I had let most of them lapse. I only had a $5 certificate left in my Best Buy account, but I wasn’t going to let that lapse, too.

(C) 2017 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)
(C) 2018 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

So, Dear Reader, I decided to get the 4K UHD discs of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story. I really wanted the steel book ones, but I think Target, not Best Buy, sells those. And rather than let my hard-earned $5 credit go to waste, I applied it to my order. If all goes well – and in these COVID-19 times, there’s always a chance that something may not go well – I’ll have my 12th and 13th 4K UHD Blu-rays in my collection by Monday of next week.

Well, that’s all I have to report today. So, until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

‘Star Wars’ Collectibles & Toys Review: Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure)

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Lando Calrissian: Smuggler, Cardplayer, Scoundrel…..

On June 22, 2020, Rhode Island-based toymaker Hasbro, Inc. released Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure), one of a wave of new or repackaged 6-inch scale figures featuring characters from director Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This wave includes Luke Skywalker (Snowspeeder), Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot, and Rebel Soldier (Hoth). Based on the smuggler-turned-Baron Administrator of Cloud City played by actor Billy Dee Williams, this figure is a fine example of Hasbro’s commitment to creating Star Wars action figures that fans of all ages will seek out and add to their collection.

As envisioned by George Lucas in his early concepts for Empire, Lando Calrissian is a “slick, riverboat gambler type of dude. Han Solo is a rather crude, rough and tumble kind of guy; this guy will be a very slicked down, elegant, James Bond-type. He’s much more of a con man, which puts him more in the Mr. Spock style of thinking, being smart, cool, and taking tremendous chances. An emotional Spock, someone who uses his wits rather than his brawn. He could be a gambler friend of Han Solo’s. They’re both underworld characters.” [1]

Lando Calrissian was the second all-new major character introduced in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (the other, of course, was Yoda, the diminutive but wise-and-powerful Jedi Master). In essence, he is what we now call a “frenemy” for Han, a person from Solo’s past – in this case, a fellow smuggler, and the previous owner of the Millennium Falcon. In Empire, Lando is a man who is content with the status quo of the galaxy; he’s not overtly loyal to Emperor Palpatine’s New Order, but he’s willing to overlook its repressiveness and avoid supporting the Rebellion – as long as the Empire doesn’t interfere in his lucrative tibanna gas mining business in Bespin’s Cloud City.  

In many ways, Lando Calrissian is the kind of person Han Solo might have been had he not joined the Rebellion after the Battle of Yavin; a smooth-talking underworld figure looking out only for himself. However, Lando’s position as Baron-Administrator of Cloud City have made him grow a bit beyond that. As Han observes in Empire, Lando is now “a businessman, a responsible leader.” And once his “deal” with a certain Dark Lord of the Sith falls apart and Lando sees the ruthless, venal side of the Empire, he, too, undergoes a transformation from a shady fringe-of-the-galaxy criminal to newly-converted freedom fighter and Rebel.   

The Original Figure

LANDO CALRISSIAN: After losing the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo, Lando Calrissian went semi-respectable as the administrator of Cloud City. – Hasbro promotional blurb, Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

This Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch scale action figure is a descendent of Kenner Toys original 1980 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 3.75-inch micro-action figure. Indeed, the package’s back card uses the same still image from the movie on the obverse side, as well as most of the logos and other indicia found on the Kenner figure’s cardback from 40 years ago.

Of course, this 2020 figure is not a remake of the 1980 figure – Hasbro has a separate product line called the Retro collection, which consists of almost-exact replicas of the 3.75-inch figures from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Instead, Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian is a reissue of Hasbro’s 6-inch scale Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian #39 from June 2017, with the same sculpt, paint job, and set of accessories but in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary packaging.

Star Wars The Black Series figures are designed and sculpted to look as closely as possible as the Star Wars characters they represent; Lando Calrissian  looks a lot like Billy Dee Willams’ “card player, smuggler, scoundrel”  as he appeared in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back.

Modern toy manufacturing technology and Hasbro’s continuing efforts to bridge the gap between “toys” and “collectibles” have gradually improved the look of Star Wars-based action figures since it purchased Cincinnati-based Kenner Toys in the merger mania of the 1990s. The 1978-1985 Star Wars micro-action figures that I collected when I was a teenager and young adult were cool and fun to acquire and display, but even the most ardent fans admit that:

  • Most of the human characters had a “generic toy-like” look to them
  • They had limited points of articulation (POA)

Kids younger than, say, nine or 10 usually didn’t notice these flaws, or if they did, they allowed their imaginations to override what their eyes saw and transport them to that galaxy far, far away in their own adventures pitting the heroes of the Rebellion against the forces of the evil Empire. I was too old – I started collecting Star Wars figures on my 15th birthday – and I did notice such details as Luke Skywalker’s hair (and lightsaber blade) being too yellow and that Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi didn’t really resemble Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, or Alec Guinness.

Kenner’s 1980 Lando Calrissian figure looks nothing like Billy Dee Williams. Kenner’s Hong Kong-based factories simply didn’t have the technology – such as computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) – to give the small figure the necessary detailing so that it would look like the smooth-talking cardsharp and conman. His skin tone was usually a darker shade of cocoa than that of the actor who plays Lando, and Kenner gave the figure a permanent smile on its tiny sculpted plastic face. And Lando’s elegant cape, which was sky-blue with gold trim on the obverse side and lined with gold-colored fabric, was a solid gray vinyl “cape” in the same style as those solid-color capes worn by Darth Vader, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, and Princess Leia Organa.

Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure

40TH ANNIVERSARY FIGURE: Celebrate 40 years of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with this Lando Calrissian The Black Series action figure featuring 1980s-inspired design. – Hasbro promotional blurb on the Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary action figure page

What’s in the Box?

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

As I mentioned earlier, this Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary figure is a repackaged Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian #39 in “Kenner branding.” The 1980s-styled packaging is a scaled-up (from 3.75-inch scale to 6-inch scale) card back with the same still featuring Billy Dee Williams and a blister pack with the 6-inch figure inside. The old “Kenner” blue-and-white logo is placed – as it was in 1980 – on the lower-right corner of the front side; the back mimics some of the 1980-era branding as well, with five promo photos of figures from the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Collection surrounded by a silvery Star Wars collection logo.

The five figures advertised here are:

  • Luke Skywalker (Snowspeeder)
  • Lando Calrissian
  • Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot
  • Rebel Soldier (Hoth)
  • Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah)

The figure is wearing the elegant cerulean blue tunic, yellow shirt, and dark blue trousers we saw Lando wear throughout much of his on-screen time in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This outfit is accessorized with a stylish black belt and matching black boots, as well as a flowing blue-and-gold cape. Because Lando wears his tunic closed, we don’t see as much of his yellow undershirt as the image on the packaging implies.

The figure also comes with two accessories:

  • A DH-17 Blaster
  • A Cloud City Communicator

PREMIUM ARTICULATION AND DETAILING: Star Wars fans and collectors can display this highly poseable (4 fully articulated limbs) figure, featuring premium deco, in their action figure and vehicle collection. – Hasbro promotional blurb on the Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary action figure page

A significant distinction between the old and new Star Wars figures is the number of points of articulation (POAs) they have. In the context of toy manufacturing, POAs are analogous to joints in the human body, such as the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and so on. The more POAs a figure has, the more lifelike the poses can be.

An original 1980 Lando Calrissian action figure, seen here in an eBay auction listing shown on Worthpoint.com. Photo Credit: Worthpoint.com

Kenner micro-action figures from 1978 to 1985 usually have only five POAs. They are:

  • One in the neck area (to turn the figure’s head from side to side.
  • Two in the shoulders (to have the figure “aim” a blaster or brandish a lightsaber in “action poses”) or make the figure look like the character is driving/flying a vehicle
  • Two in the hips (to place the figure in a sitting position in a vehicle)

Some figures, such as R2-D2 and R5-D4, only had three POAs; Chewbacca only had four because his head and torso were sculpted as a single piece and thus had no neck swivel point.

Kenner tried hard to make its figures as good-looking and “playable” for kids as possible, so it sculpted some of the figures in such a way that the limbs had natural-looking “bends” at the knees and elbows, but most of the characters (Rebels, Imperials, or “neutrals”) could only grip their blasters in one-handed (and straight-armed) handholds.

Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian  (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure is not only larger than its 1980 precursor, but it also boasts 13 points of articulation. They are:

  • One for the neck
  • Two for Lando’s shoulders
  • Two for his elbows
  • Two for his wrists
  • Two for his hips
  • Two for his knees
  • Two for his lower legs

The advantage of having so many POAs in a figure is that one can pose it in more realistic ways. This is especially true if you create Star Wars dioramas for fun (and to display your action figures).

My Take

The Star Wars saga captured the hearts of millions with iconic characters, impressive vehicles, and a galaxy of stories that has passed the test of time again and again. Commemorate the 40TH Anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with figures from The Black Series, featuring classic design and packaging! (Each sold separately. Subject to availability.) – Hasbro promotional blurb on the Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary action figure page

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

I’ve been collecting Star Wars action figures – and other collectibles – since I was 15 years old. I have several Lando Calrissian action figures from the various 3.75-inch scale collections made by both Kenner and Hasbro over the past 42 years. Some of them, of course, are from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, including Lando Calrissian (Skiff Guard) and Lando Calrissian (General), but I also have counterparts to this figure, including the 1980 original from Kenner and a 2000s-era Power of the Jedi figure that would be a “Mini-Me” to this one.

I received my Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary) figure yesterday. It is still in its Kenner-branded blister package with 1980s-styled cardback, but from what I see it is a nice rendition of the character  George Lucas described as “a very slicked down, elegant, James Bond-type.”

I don’t think that his face is 100% like Billy Dee Williams’ – some actors are difficult to render in figures of this size, after all – but there is a resemblance. Lando’s skin tone is certainly lighter and more lifelike than that depicted on my 1980 Kenner action figure, which had more of a “dark chocolate” complexion. And the general contours of Lando’s face are sculpted quite nicely – the guy has a nicely neutral-but-serious look on his countenance, which I prefer to a perpetually-smiling one.

I like the amount of detail that Hasbro has given to this figure. The two-tone removable cape is made out of fabric, and the design is faithful to costume designer John Mollo’s. I like how it has the blue-with-gold trim on the outer side, and the gold-colored lining on the inside.

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Another cool detail: Hasbro doesn’t content itself with giving the figures “solid-color’ accessories, not even with figures that are smaller than this one. The DH-17 blaster has silver and black coloring, and the Cloud City Communicator is silver with gold-and-black detailing.

Whether you are a long-time Star Wars action figure collector or new to the hobby, if you don’t already have the original Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian #39 figure, get this one before resellers snatch them all up for Hasbro’s MSRP of $19.99 and sell them on eBay or third-party stores at Amazon for inflated prices.

 Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary) figure is a nicely rendered replica of a character who has been a fan favorite for over 40 years, and the packaging adds a bit of nostalgia, especially for adults who grew up with the original Kenner Star Wars figures.

As always, I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed putting it together. And until next time, May the Force be with you.


[1] The Empire Strikes Back Story Conference, November 28 to December 2, 1977, transcript summary, as quoted in The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler, Del Rey Books, New York, 2010.

‘Star Wars’ Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series Rebel Trooper Action Figure

Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. via DHCollectibles.com

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Drawn from many homeworlds and species, Rebel troopers were the Alliance’s front-line soldiers in the war against the Empire. They defended the Alliance’s leaders on countless worlds and during many operations, changing uniforms and tactics to meet each challenge. ﹘ Packaging blurb, Star Wars: The Black Series #69 Rebel Trooper

Hasbro introduced the 69th Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch scale action figure, Rebel Trooper, a little over two years ago at the International Toy Fair, an annual event held in New York City’s Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center. Based on a minor character seen in the opening sequence of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, this figure was one of three new figures introduced in an assortment that also included Tobias Beckett (#68) and Han Solo (Bespin) – the latter being the 70th figure in the Star Wars The Black Series collection.

This “wave” started shipping out to retailers – both “brick and mortar” and online stores such as Amazon and Entertainment Earth – in July of 2018, thus increasing the ranks of Star Wars character-based action figures in the Star Wars The Black Series, a Hasbro product line (or collection, if you prefer) that started in 2014 and is popular among Star Wars fans and collectors alike.

Launch into lightspeed adventures with a collection of classic and new characters, vehicles, and role-play items that feature the authentic movie-styling and battle action of the Star Wars universe. ﹘  Hasbro promotional blurb 

 What’s in the Box?

Star Wars The Black Series Rebel Soldier comes in a distinctive red-and-black box, a style of package Hasbro introduced six years ago. The box features the collection’s logo above the “window” on the front panel, and there’s an illustration of the character – done in a muted silver-gray color – on the lower right hand corner of the package’s obverse face.

A screenshot from my digital copy of Star Wars: A New Hope.

A close look at the illustration reveals that Rebel Soldier isn’t just a generic trooper, but represents the first Rebel character seen in Star Wars: A New Hope – the steely-gazed veteran soldier who is the first to raise a DH-17 blaster and aim it at the hatch through which a boarding party of Imperial stormtroopers will invade Princess Leia’s Tantive IV (aka the Rebel Blockade Runner) in an attempt to intercept the stolen Death Star plans.

 In the box?

Well, Star Wars The Black Series Rebel Trooper (#69) is a 6-inch scale figure that depicts a gray-haired, blue-eyed veteran soldier with prominent gray eyebrows and an expression of grim determination sculpted on his face. He wears  a Rebel Alliance fleet trooper’s uniform that includes a vest (removable), a helmet (removable), blue uniform shirt, gray combat trousers, and black service boots. In addition, Rebel Trooper comes with a BlasTech DH-17 blaster pistol and a set of the Death Star plans.

(Incidentally, the simulated “data card” in this figure’s set of accessories links Rebel Trooper to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as well as to Star Wars: A New Hope.)

My Take

Build your Star Wars collection with authentic, highly detailed Star Wars collectible figures, vehicles, and Force FX lightsabers from The Black Series. Advance into battle with role-play gear that includes blasters, masks, and iconic, customizable lightsabers that are part of the Star Wars blade builders system. ﹘ Hasbro promotional blurb

When I collected the original Kenner Toys action figures – or, as Kenner called them in 1978, “micro-action figures” – in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rebel Trooper was one of the two characters from the 1977 film that I most wished to have a figure of. (The other one was Grand Moff Tarkin; apparently, a figure based on the Governor of the Imperial Outlands and commander of the first Death Star was designed, but it was never produced.) It wasn’t till the mid-1990s that Kenner – now a division of Hasbro – finally released action figures of the Rebel trooper and Tarkin.

I own two different versions of the 3.75-inch scale Rebel Trooper action figure: a bulky Rebel Fleet Trooper that looks like he’s taken too many steroids, and a 2000s-era Tantive IV Defender variant from the Star Wars: Power of the Jedi line. As a result, I didn’t exactly need #69 Rebel Trooper from the Star Wars: The Black Series collection. Nevertheless, Hasbro did well when it picked one of the more prominent (yet anonymous) crew members of the Tantive IV as its choice for a “minor character action figure.”

Rebel Trooper is truly a top-quality figure. The sculpt/paint job on the figure, which literally could have represented any of the Rebel defenders assigned to delay Vader and his boarding party long enough for Princess Leia to get the Death Star plans away from her captured Blockade Runner, is outstanding. Both the action figure itself and the line drawing on the packaging are so well-done that I immediately knew who the figure was supposed to represent. 

When I ordered Rebel Trooper earlier this year from Amazon, I didn’t notice those details; I just saw that Hasbro had made the figure and that it was available – from a third-party seller – for a reasonable price ($25.98 vs. the MSRP of $19.99). I also didn’t notice that the figure comes with the “data tape” with the Death Star plans and a removable helmet until I received my figure back in late February.

This Star Wars The Black Series figure is, I believe, a Star Wars collectible that is worthy of adding to anyone’s collection. 

Product Information

  • Manufacturer: Hasbro
  • Source Film: Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Year: 2018
  • Original Retail: $19.99
  • Assortment Number: E1210/B3834
  • UPC Number: 6 30509 68391 8

Thoughts and Musings on a Sunday Afternoon: June 21, 2020

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Well, Constant Reader, it’s Sunday afternoon here in my corner of the Sunshine State, and it’s hot, muggy, and uncomfortable outside. According to my computer’s Weather app, the current temperature is 95˚ F (35˚C), but with an almost becalmed wind and a humidity level of 50%, the feels-like temperature is 105˚ F (41˚C) outside. (Inside the house, that’s a different story; we have the air conditioning on at 74˚ F, or if you use the Celsius scale, 23˚ C.)  According to the forecast, no rain or thunderstorms are expected in our vicinity, but it is hot and humid out there.

I had hoped to have a review or a Movie Watcher’s Memory (MWM) post written and published by now, but the Muses have not been smiling on me this weekend. I started one draft for an MWM post yesterday, but the narrative was going nowhere, so it’s in my “saved drafts” folder in WordPress, at least for now.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

As for reviews…well, last week I wrote two reviews on my latest additions to my Blu-ray library. I have many other Blu-rays and DVDs in my collection to review, as well as books and Star Wars collectibles, but I think that staying up late to watch not just Superman: The Movie but a documentary about the making of the movie Alien Resurrection as well wasn’t the best of ideas.

Promotional photo by Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

I do know, however, that if you enjoy my reviews of Star Wars The Black Series figures, you will be seeing at least one new write-up. Today Amazon shipped the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Lando Calrissian figure that I preordered in April. It’s supposed to get here tomorrow, so I’ll have a write-up on WordPress later in the week. I’d love to say I’ll have it up by Tuesday evening, but since we are entering the rain-and-storm season here in Florida, I can’t guarantee that.

My dad in his Aerocondor pilot’s uniform, circa 1960.

Today is Father’s Day 2020, so I will close this brief Sunday musing by wishing all of my readers who are fathers a Happy Father’s Day. I hope it has been a good one so far, and that you are all keeping safe and healthy during these tough and scary times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Book Review: Marvel Comics ‘Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope’ (Remastered 2015 Edition)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Cover art by Adi Granov (C) 2015 Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope

Based on a screenplay by George Lucas

Writer/Editor: Roy Thomas

Artist: Howard Chaykin

Consulting Editor (1977): Archie Goodwin

Cover Artist (2015): Adi Granov

The original comic adaptation of the greatest space-fantasy film of all is remastered for the modern age! Weeks before George Lucas’ first Star Wars film hit theatres, Marvel gave fans their first look at Luke Skywalker, boldly asking: “Will he save the galaxy, or destroy it?” You may know the answer, but that doesn’t spoil the fun of seeing Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope like never before…including scenes that never made the silver screen! When Princess Leia is taken prisoner, Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 ride to the rescue and take on Darth Vader in his awesome Death Star. It’s six against a galaxy – one that’s far, far away and a long time ago! May the Force be with you, in the mighty Marvel manner!  – from the back cover blurb, Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope 

Marvel Comics Star Wars #1 was published in April of 1977, several weeks before the May 25 release of the film. (C) 1977 Marvel Comics Group and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

On May 5, 2015, Marvel Worldwide published Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, a 128-page volume that contains issues 1-6 of Marvel’s original 1977 Star Wars comics.

Published originally in 1977, the six-issue series was scripted by writer-editor Roy Thomas and drawn by Marvel’s legendary Howard Chaykin, the artist who also created Star Wars’ first poster for the 1976 San Diego Comic-Con. Based on an early version of George Lucas’s fourth draft of the Star Wars screenplay, Thomas’s comic adaptation gave fans their first in-depth look at Star Wars nearly a month before the film’s May 25. 1977 premiere.

For the most part, Thomas’s comics adaptation closely resembles Lucas’s finished film; however, it recounts the events in Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope in subtly different ways, due to differences between the screenplay Thomas was using as a reference and the final shooting script.

Early in the first issue, Thomas introduces Luke Skywalker in a scene that intercuts the capture of Princess Leia’s consular ship with panels of the young moisture farmer seeing the battle through his macrobinoculars. Director Lucas shot those scenes at the insistence of some of his friends who thought Luke needed to be in the movie earlier. But after thinking about it further, Lucas deleted them because they slowed the movie’s pacing.

There are other differences between the comic adaptation and Lucas’s Star Wars. In his introduction to the remastered version, the late Peter Mayhew, who played the role of Chewbacca in five of the nine  Star Wars Skywalker Saga films, writes:

In the comics, Chewbacca often comes off as a barrel-chested bruiser rather than the gentle giant he was in the films. Seeing another artist’s interpretation of the characters, whether it be in comics or book form, is always fun for me. 

Other minor changes include:

  • Darth Vader uses the Force to summon a cup across a Death Star conference room during his confrontation with an Imperial admiral.
  • Jabba the Hut (there’s only one t in this pre-1983 version of Star Wars) is presented as a humanoid alien in a scene that was filmed but deleted from the 1977 film. This sequence was restored for the 1997 Special Edition; the humanoid alien was replaced with a CGI-rendered slug-like Jabba the Hutt based on the character’s appearance in Return of the Jedi.
  • The two Rebel fighter squadrons’ call signs in the comics are Blue and Red; in the film, Luke Skywalker’s X-wing squadron was Red, while the Y-wings belonged to Gold Squadron.

My Take

The reverse cover features a “remastered” version of Howard Chaykin’s classic 1976 poster for the San Diego Comic Con. (C) 2015 Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Marvel Comics and other licensed comics publishers have reissued the six issues that comprise this 2015 collection before.  Marvel itself did this several times in the months following the film’s release.

In 1977, before studios started releasing movies on home media, Marvel’s comic books allowed Star Wars fans to relive the adventures of Luke Skywalker and his Rebel friends in a visual medium. Consequently, Marvel’s Star Wars issues #1-6 were so in demand that the publisher reprinted them in various formats, including a black-and-white trade paperback edition and a super-sized Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars #3 (1978).

In many ways, the 2015 Remastered Edition is a refined version of Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars #3. It presents Star Wars issues #1-6 in a single hardcover book, which is divided into six chapters. Each chapter is marked by a remastered reproduction of its corresponding comic book issue.

The six chapters are:

  • Star Wars  
  • Six Against the Galaxy
  • Death Star!
  • In Battle with Darth Vader
  • Lo! The Moons of Yavin!
  • The Final Chapter?

Howard Chaykin’s original cover illustrations for Issues #1-6 are recreated in their over-the-top 1970s style, with wildly imaginative illustrations that capture the swashbuckling spirit of the story but don’t accurately reflect the issues’ content. (On the cover for issue $6, for instance, Chaykin depicts a lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader with this breathless teaser line: See Luke Skywalker Battle Darth Vader!)

The comic books’ original artwork and most of the text have not been messed with – much. Disney-owned Marvel did not compel Thomas to rewrite his script to fit the film’s established canon, nor did Chaykin have to redraw Chewbacca so the Wookiee looks less like “a barrel chested bruiser.” Luke Skywalker is still Blue Five (instead of Red Five), and lightsabers are still referred in the text as “lightsabres.” There’s even an old uncorrected typo (“you’ry my only hope” instead of “you’re my only hope”) in one Chapter Two panel. 

Still, despite changes at the corporate level regarding ownership of the Star Wars franchise, Disney-owned Marvel did not erase Star Wars history with the remastering. When this book was released in 2015, Disney had still not released The Force Awakens, and 21st Century Fox was still owned by Rupert Murdoch and his family. Yet, Disney-owned Marvel (and Lucasfilm) respected the past, so much so that  the cover art for Issue #1 still says “Marvel’s Official Adaptation of the Monumental 20th Century Fox Movie!”   

The biggest difference between the 1977 comics and their 2015 remastering is that colorist Marie Severin’s original 70s Pop style color scheme was replaced by a more subtle new coloring done by artists from Chris Sotomayor’s Sotocolor.

To make this version of the comics adaptation more in synch with 21st Century graphics novel art styles, the coloring artists at New York City-based Sotocolor retouched every panel in the six issues to give them a more coherent and modern look. 

 Sotocolor also color-corrected the energy blades of the lightsabers belonging to Star Wars’ two Jedi characters – Luke Skywalker and Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi – especially on the issue covers. Howard Chaykin, not having seen the film yet, depicted all the lightsabers, not just Darth Vader’s, with red blades. 

Because Lucasfilm canon states that only Sith lords use lightsabers with crimson energy blades, the colorists at Sotocolor now show Luke and Obi-Wan’s laser swords with the more canonic blue ones.

Overall, Marvel’s remastered version of Star Wars – Episode IV; A New Hope is a nice compromise that will please most fans. It doesn’t try to change the 1977 comics’ text or art except where it was necessary. As a bonus feature, the remastered hardcover edition  of Star Wars includes then-editor in chief Stan Lee’s introduction to Issue # 1 and Roy Thomas’s essay “The Story Behind Star Wars: The Movie and the Comic Mag.”

I bought this book as an Amazon pre-order in April of 2015, and I received it on the day it hit bookshelves. I still have my 1978-era Star Wars Special #3 , so I was able to compare both editions. They’re both good; the only differences between them are that (a) the 2015 hardcover is more durable and (b) the color palette reflects two vastly different eras.

I wholeheartedly recommend this remastered edition of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’s classic Marvel Comics adaptation.

4K UHD/HD Blu-ray Set Review: ‘Jaws’ (45th Anniversary Limited Edition)

(C) 2020 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Film That Made People Afraid of the Water Turns 45

Jaws (1975)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

On June 2, 2020, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment unleashed Jaws – 45th Anniversary Limited Edition, a two-disc set which presents Steven Spielberg’s first blockbuster film in two Blu-ray formats: 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) and High Definition (HD), along with the Movies Anywhere code for a digital copy.

Packaged in a striking lenticular slipcover and accompanied by a 44-page collectible booklet, this marks the UHD debut of the classic adventure movie about a small New England town police chief’s efforts to deal with a rogue great white shark that has attacked several swimmers at the start of the busy summer tourist season. Jaws – 45th Anniversary Limited Edition was also released 18 days before the 45th Anniversary of the film’s premiere date – June 20, 1975.

“You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat…”

Adapted from Peter Benchley’s 1974 best-selling novel by Benchley and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb, Jaws takes place in mid-1970s Amity, a small Cape Cod-like community that is largely dependent on tourism for its subsistence. Its economic survival is jeopardized when a young woman named Chrissie Watkins (Susan Blacklinie) goes for a moonlight skinny-dip in the waters off Amity Beach – and is promptly killed by a shark.

In the morning, the town’s relatively new Chief of Police, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), gets a missing person report from the young man who was the last person to see Chrissie alive. But when Deputy Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer) discovers the young woman’s remains on the beach, and the town coroner determines she died as a result of a shark attack, Brody realizes that he and his community have a serious problem in their hands.

Mayor Vaughn: Martin, it’s all psychological. You yell ‘barracuda,’ everybody says, ‘Huh? What?’ You yell ‘shark,’ we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.

At first, the town’s elected officials, led by Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) try to cover up the first shark attack. As he explains to Brody in an effort to justify the decision to keep the beaches open, Amity is a small “summer town” that depends on “summer dollars.”

Mayor Vaughn insists that the “accident” that killed Chrissie is an isolated affair and orders the beaches to remain open. But the shark has claimed the waters offshore as its new feeding ground and kills a boy named Alex Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees) only a few yards away from the beach.


This incident forces the reluctant Mayor Vaughn and his town council cronies to act. After Mrs. Kintner (Lee Fierro) places a $25,000 bounty on the shark, Vaughn and the town elders make a compromise that pleases no one: the beaches will be closed, but not on the all-important Fourth of July weekend.

Brody is a paradox – he’s a former New York City police officer with a phobia about being in the water yet accepted a job as police chief in a small island town – but he takes his oath to protect and serve his community seriously. Come hell or high water, he’s going to save Amity, not only from the shark he is convinced is stalking the waters offshore, but from short-sighted and narrow-minded politicians like Larry Vaughn.

Forced to confront his deepest fears and those of his wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary), Brody joins forces with shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a crusty local captain named Quint (Robert Shaw) to find and kill the deadly aquatic predator – a 30-foot-long great white shark.

Quint: [seeing Hooper’s equipment] What are you? Some kind of half-assed astronaut?

Quint (Cont’d): Jesus H Christ, when I was a boy, every little squirt wanted to be a harpooner or a sword fisherman. What d’ya have there – a portable shower or a monkey cage?

Hooper: Anti-shark cage.

Quint: Anti-shark cage. You go inside the cage?

[Hooper nods]

Quint: Cage goes in the water; you go in the water. Shark’s in the water. Our shark.

Quint (sings): Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again.

The stage is set for one of the most thrilling – and nerve-racking – confrontation between men and nature. And when Brody, Hooper, and Quint go out to sea aboard Quint’s Orca, there’s no guarantee that they will return to Amity alive.

My Take

The art for the Jaws soundtrack. (C) 1975 Universal Pictures

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is a rarity among movie adaptations of such literary works as short stories, novellas, or novels; as written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb (with uncredited assists from Howard Sackler, John Milius, and actor-writer Robert Shaw), Jaws is better than the best-selling novel that inspired producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck to adapt it in the first place.

The novel is good, don’t get me wrong. I read the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books edition countless times during the Summer of Jaws – my mother didn’t let me go see the movie in theaters, but paradoxically she let me read the abridged version of the book.[1] I read the unabridged novel when I was a student at South Miami High, along with ‘Salem’s Lot and Carrie by Stephen King.  It’s the perfect “beach read,” really; Benchley was a good storyteller, with a good sense of pacing and a lot of information about sharks, their physiology, and other traits, mixed in with suspense and elements of horror.

The reverse side of the 4K UHD Blu-ray package. (C) 2020 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Nevertheless, when producers Brown and Zanuck hired Benchley to do the first draft of the screenplay, they told him the movie was going to be a straightforward adventure and that many of the novel’s subplots had to go, including an extramarital affair between Ellen Brody and Matt Hooper, and Mayor Vaughn’s business dealings with local Mafiosos.  Brown, Zanuck, and – eventually – director Steven Spielberg believed those subplots were not important to the story, so out they went.

Spielberg also believed that Jaws needed humor to lighten the movie’s tone, otherwise Jaws would just be a dark horror story. To spice the film with the necessary amount of levity, Spielberg asked actor-writer Carl Gottlieb to come up with additional material for supporting characters, including lines that could be improvised in front of the camera – either on the set or on location.

Theatrical Release Poster from 1975. Art by Roger Kastel. (C) 1975 Universal Pictures

Hooper: Boys, oh boys… I think he’s come back for his noon feeding.

Spielberg made a risky choice and shot Jaws at sea instead of the controlled environment of a water tank at Universal Studios in Culver City (CA). At first, Spielberg’s decision proved disastrous. Bad weather caused costly delays in principal photography; the cast and crew members became seasick; and Spielberg’s judgment was put in question. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the film’s three animatronic sharks, all named Bruce[2],  did not work as well as the director hoped. As a result, Spielberg had to keep his great white shark out of sight for much of the film.

However, the hassles with the balky Bruces proved to be providential and contributed to Jaws’ success. Accidentally, Spielberg managed to make the lethal great white’s non-appearance seem more menacing and frightening.

Serendipitously, Spielberg takes a cinematic trick from Alfred Hitchcock’s playbook of suspenseful filmmaking. By not showing us the shark until late in the movie, Spielberg creates a sense of growing tension and unease.

We usually fear what we can’t see, especially when we are swimming in the ocean. In Jaws, we only know that danger approaches when John Williams’ two-note shark motif plays in the background and Spielberg’s camera shows a vulnerable potential victim in the dark blue waters of the North Atlantic.

Jaws is a character-driven picture, which is rare in the action-horror genre. Screenwriters Gottlieb and Benchley  focus more on the human players of the story rather than on  Jaws’ “creature feature” elements. Their script gives the shark hunters –  Brody Brody, Hooper, and Quint – well-drawn and relatable personalities that allow audiences to identify with and root for them as they go off on their quest to catch and kill the deadly white shark.

45 years after its release, Jaws is still one of the greatest adventures ever made. It’s also one of the most successful films in history. In 1975, its domestic box office gross of $260 million set a record that lasted until Star Wars’ theatrical run in 1977. Per Box Office Mojo, Jaws is the seventh top-grossing film of all time when the effects of inflation are factored in.

Along with Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Superman, Jaws ushered in the era of the Big Tentpole Movie. Crowd-pleasing wide-release films such as Die Hard, Indiana Jones, and the various Marvel Cinematic Universe films probably would not exist if any of those three filmshad flopped.  

Jaws also catapulted the then-27-year-old Steven Spielberg into a long and wildly successful career as one of the world’s eminent filmmakers. This was only his second feature film; his first theatrically released effort, The Sugarland Express, earned good reviews but was not a box office hit. That movie’s producers – David Brown and Richard Zanuck – nevertheless saw that the young director of TV series episodes and the TV movie Duel had talent. And by assigning Spielberg to direct Jaws, they laid the foundation for a brilliant career that includes such films as E.T., The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, and The Post.  

The 45th Anniversary Limited Edition Set

(C) 2020 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released the Jaws: 45th Limited Edition multi-format two-disc set on June 2. It consists of a lenticular slipcover case with an updated riff on Roger Kastel’s original poster art from 1975.  This slipcover contains:

  • Jaws in a 4K Ultra High Definition Blu-ray Disc
  • Jaws in a 1080p High Definition Blu-ray Disc
  • Insert with Movies Anywhere Digital Copy Code
  • 44-page Collector’s Booklet

Although I own a Samsung 4K UHD TV and a compatible Blu-ray player with the proper cables and a Samsung sound bar, those items have not been fully set up, so I can’t comment on the UHD elements of this release.  But according to Martin Liebman’s review on Blu-ray.com, here’s a little taste of what you can expect from the native 4K (2160p) disc’s video:

For its 45th anniversary, Universal brings Jaws to the UHD format with a practically impeccable 2160p/Dolby Vision UHD presentation. In the early minutes beyond the campfire scene the picture demonstrates superb command of its elements, the first of many notable scenes of practically reference quality. Grain is fine, accentuating the native filmic roots and bolstering the sense of cinematic texturing that sweeps through the shots with resplendent accuracy. Throughout, the picture proves to be very dynamic. There are many examples of notable, superb textures that stand apart at this resolution, notably period attire: light jackets, heavier sports coats, even a thin veil worn by a grieving mother. There’s a tangible increase in sharpness and clarity across the board when comparing to the previously issued, and still perfectly workable, Blu-ray, but the UHD brings out the absolute best the original elements have to offer. Many of the weathered accents around the beaches and piers are tack-sharp and tactile and details both interior and exterior around town gain appreciable boosts to sharpness and clarity, even at distance, obvious in comparison but even plain to see when simply watching the UHD straight through. Skin textures and hairs are unsurprisingly some of the most obvious beneficiaries of the resolution increase and clarity gains. What a vivid, flowing, and fine film-like experience. – Martin Liebman, May 23, 2020 review.


As for the 1080p “regular” Blu-ray, it’s the same disc that Universal released eight years ago as part of its Centennial Anniversary series.  As Liebman says in his review of the 45th Anniversary Limited Edition Jaws set, this Blu-ray is “still perfectly workable.” It contains the film itself, as well as the following extra features (* indicates availability on both UHD and BD discs)

  • The Making of Jaws*
  • The Shark is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws*
  • Jaws: The Restoration*
  • Deleted Scenes and Outtakes*
  • From the Set *
  • Theatrical Trailer*
  • Jaws Archives (1080p BD only)

Overall, I like the 45th Anniversary Limited Edition release of this classic film. The new cover art does  take some getting used to, but on the whole, it’s not a bad set to get, especially if you are building a UHD collection for a 4K TV with the proper player connected. (4K UHD discs will not play on a regular 1080p BD player.) The packaging is nice – especially the lenticular art on the slipcover.

The 44-page booklet, too, is a nice bonus that includes stills and publicity photos of the main cast members, short bios, a short history of how Jaws was made, and other cool information about this 1975 classic.

I’m looking forward to watching Jaws in its 4K version! It will take a while, but I’ll see it in its fully restored UHD glory.

[1] See Movie Watcher Memories: or Mom Nixes Shark Pic

[2] Named after Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer