This article was written by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan as part of the Breening Thursdays series.
Today is Thursday, so it’s time for another Breening Thursday article here at PEPS. What is a breening article, you ask? Breening is a verb coined by Variety in the 1930s to describe Joseph I. Breen’s unique process of self-regulating films as head of the Production Code Administration (PCA). Here at PEPS, we copy this intricate process of making films comply with the Motion Picture Production Code on un-Code films. Of course, ours in only hypothetical, since we describe how each objectionable point in a film made outside the American Breen Era (1934-1954) could have been different.
During August, #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020, we are publishing Breening Thursday articles every week. Today’s topic is the first Rating System Era (1968-present) film we have breened this month. Starting in May, we have breened one Star Wars film from the original trilogy each month, skipping July because we suspended breening articles during #CleanMovieMonth2020.
Today, we are continuing this process with the third and final film in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi from 1983. Before reading this article, you might want to read our breening of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back to understand the self-regulation of important points like the Force and Luke and Leia’s siblinghood.
When The Empire Strikes Back ended, Luke (Mark Hamill) had discovered that Imperial villain Darth Vader (David Prowse/voice by James Earl Jones) is his father. Meanwhile, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) had professed her love for former smuggler pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford) before the Empire froze him in carbonite and shipped him back to alien gangster Jabba the Hutt. So things stand. In this film, the Resistance is still struggling against the evil Empire, and we will finally meet the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) himself in the flesh. With no further ado, let the breening begin!
Note: We are breening the original release version of this film, not one of the later releases. We will specify when referring to special edition changes.
At Jabba’s palace, his main assistant has a strange, pink, fleshy head. His appearance, particularly the tentacles which encircle his neck and his glowing eyes, is too bizarre. He shouldn’t look so revolting. His skin color should be changed, the tentacles should be removed, and his eyes should look less creepy.
C-3P0 and R2D2 soon encounter warthog-like guards. These creatures look appropriately whimsical and are very reminiscent of Maleficent’s guards in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. However, they drool, which is vulgar. These guards shouldn’t drool.
Jabba himself is a huge problem. His entire composition is repulsive. His fat, slimy body and scaly skin are disgusting, and his bizarre eyes are creepy. He needs to be designed according to entirely new lines. From deleted scenes in A New Hope, I understand that he was originally filmed with an actor playing a human gangster (Declan Mulholland). I believe the plan was to superimpose some alien over him, but they ran out of time and money and deleted the scene. By the time of Return of the Jedi, George Lucas had decided to make him a horrific alien. This change was reflected in a special edition of A New Hope, which restored Han’s scene with Jabba but replaced the actor with a CGI alien. I think that Jabba be a human character as in the first film, since this would remove the bizarre element of a slug lusting after a human woman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw1gkNd6Z_8
Salacious Crumb, Jabba’s assistant, is a bit too scary in appearance. He looks like either a strange little rat or bat. He is essentially comedic relief, especially with such a name, since all he does is laugh. I think he should look more comical rather than creepy. Also, he shouldn’t sit practically on top of Jabba. If the latter were a human, not a slug, Salacious couldn’t perch so near his strange body.
In Jabba’s court, there is a green slave girl, Oola (Femi Taylor). Her top is appallingly revealing. In fact, she just has strips of some material, perhaps leather, down the front and back of her torso, barely covering what was needed to keep a PG rating. If her skin weren’t painted green, it would be more evident at first glance that she is very bare. Although she is a slave, she must wear a covering costume.
Jabba’s whole court is full of disgusting, vulgar, and vile aliens of all shapes and sizes. All these creatures need revision so that they are less horrible.
Jabba seems to be smoking a hookah in this scene. This should be removed, as it implies drug use.
When C-3P0 and R2D2 are arrested by Jabba, they are brought to a creepy prison. This prison should look less scary, which could be accomplished by removing arms which reach out and some of the strange noises.
In this prison, the droids are brought to a chamber where other droids are being tortured, screaming as they are burnt, branded, and crushed. This is horrific, since these are sentient beings. Droids could be shown in bondage, but the torture must be removed.
In Jabba’s court, there is a rock and roll dance number in which female aliens dance to a rock beat. Rock and rock is unacceptable in Code films, since its beat stimulates the baser element.
In a special edition version of this film, the original rock and roll number was replaced with a new rock and roll song, “Jedi Rocks.” This number included the addition of CGI aliens. This new number is just as unacceptable as the original. If there is a song here, it must not be a rock and roll number.
The nearly naked alien women present in this dance number are unacceptable. They must be decently dressed.
A particularly fat alien woman dancing during this scene is the subject of focus for a moment. She is disgustingly revealed. All the characters, particularly the females, should be decently covered.
There is some very suggestive choreography in this number, involving female aliens gyrating. Any dance number which is included to replace this rock and roll number must not feature suggestive choreography.
Jabba pulls a little creature out of a glass bowl of water next to him and eats it alive! This is disgusting and must be removed. If Jabba eats anything, it must neither be alive nor disgusting. This is especially important because he is now a human character rather than a strange slug.
Outside Jabba’s palace, we see a giant frog grab some animal out of the air with its tongue and eat it. Afterward, it burps. This is completely irrelevant. Both the eating and the burp must be removed.
When Leia comes to Jabba’s palace to unfreeze Han, she is discovered by Jabba. As he looks at her, he licks his lips. This is very suggestive. Of course, no human’s tongue could look as grotesque and prominent as the alien’s. However, no matter what Jabba’s composition, he must not lick his lips or do anything else which is suggestive. Instead, he could look at her somewhat licentiously and grab her by one arm, although he must not be too rough. He should seem more eager to imprison her than to take amorous advantage of her.
This point is nearly irrelevant, since it involves the original design of slug Jabba. However, the camera focuses on Jabba’s tail wagging as he looks lustfully at Leia. This is extremely suggestive. Obviously, such a shot would be impossible with a human in the role. However, I merely wish to emphasize that no imagery, body language, or dialogue may be included which suggest an immoral relationship between Jabba and Leia.
In the palace, Jabba has Leia as his slave girl. She wears a very skimpy metal bikini, plus chains. This is one of the most famous shots from the original trilogy. Reportedly, George Lucas included this costume because Carrie Fisher always complained that one couldn’t tell she was a woman in her costumes. She needs to wear a costume which, to quote designer Edith Head, is “tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.” Unfortunately, Edith Head wasn’t available to dress Miss Fisher as she did her mother. Although her costume may imply slavery, it must be decent. No form of bikini is acceptable, and I also discourage a midriff-revealing outfit of any kind. Whatever she wears must not reveal any cleavage and must cover her legs to the knee. Her current costume must not imply that she is being held only for amorous purposes. She should look like a prisoner rather than a slave.
When Luke comes to save Han and his other friends from Jabba, he is dropped into the Rancor pit, and we see the monster for the first time. This dinosaur-like galactic beast looks absolutely horrific, complete with hideously scaly skin, huge teeth, and big claws that are the stuff of children’s nightmares. The Rancor needs to be redesigned so that it doesn’t look so grotesque. It can still be a big lizard, but it shouldn’t look so grotesque.
Particularly grotesque is the creature’s mouth. It has huge, disgustingly dirty teeth and a big slimy tongue. No closeups should be done of its mouth, which must not look so awful.
As Luke falls into the Rancor’s pit, a hog-like guard falls in with him. Since Luke is more agile than his unfortunate companion, the monster grabs the guard first while the helpless creature squeals like a pig. The Rancor is then shown eating the guard alive. This is horrifically violent. Even if it weren’t shown onscreen, the suggestion of creatures being eaten alive is awful. Instead of eating its victims, the Rancor should just kill them with a single swipe of its paw. However, no direct focus should be put on this actual killing. Then, for the rest of the scene, Luke will try to avoid being killed rather than eaten alive.
After Luke successfully kills the Rancor, a fat, shirtless man comes over to the dead beast. He appears to have been the monster’s trainer or keeper, since he is in tears because of its death. Aside from the bizareness of the fact that anyone could care about such a monstrous creature, this character is listed on IMDb as Malakili, the Rancor Keeper (Paul Brooke). Personally, I found this element very goofy, although not blatantly unacceptable. However, it is indecent for this man to be shirtless. If he remains, he must be wearing a shirt.
After Luke survives the Rancor, Jabba sentences him, Han, and Chewbacca to being eaten by another vicious creature, the Sarlacc. They are condemned to be thrown into a pit which is the nesting place of the Sarlacc. C-3P0, who is now Jabba’s interpreter, eloquently announces their horrible sentence: “In his belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.” The dialogue about being digested over a thousand years is not only ludicrous, since they obviously would not live a thousand years, but very disgusting. Instead, he should say, “You will be thrown into this pit to be eaten by the Sarlacc.”
In the background of Jabba’s court, there is a disgusting thing hanging from the ceiling. I call it a thing because I am really not sure what it is. It could be a snake or some other weird creature, but it looks more like some animal’s internal organ to me. Either way, it is revolting and must be removed from the decor.
As Luke, Han, and Chewie are brought to the Sarlacc pit, Jabba and his entourage fly along to the sacrificial spot in the Hutt’s huge flying yacht. Onboard, Jabba is obviously coming on to Leia. Although we can’t understand his alien language, he seems to be drinking a toast to her, and she is obviously very distressed by his excessive attentions. If he were a human, we would be able to tell what he is saying. Instead of clutching at the chained woman, she should just be standing or sitting there, looking miserable, and Jabba could propose a sinisterly cordial toast, such as, “To you, my dear, my lovely new guest.” Perhaps Jabba could even reveal in this scene or the previous one that he intends to force her to marry him; thus, he could toast, “To my lovely future bride.”
In 1983, the Sarlacc pit was a sandy pit with teeth along its opening and worm-like tentacles coming out of the earth, which is shown in the above image on the left. In a special edition version of this film, the Sarlacc was enhanced with CGI to look scarier. As you can see in the picture on the right, the edited version contained larger tentacles reaching out and a Venus fly trap-like mouth. Although I initially thought that the more minimalist design of the original pit was less grotesque and disturbing, after looking at them longer I decided that the CGI-animated Sarlacc is less scary because it looks less realistic. Ultimately, both designs are grotesque. I have a very strong stomach, but I find myself feeling a little nauseated from looking at these screenshots. The Sarlacc itself should not be visible. We should just see a pit and perhaps hear snarling and growling from the unseen creature inside.
As the rebels are preparing to be thrown into the pit, they are surrounded by guards with hideous skeletal faces. They can look sinister, but they must not be so horrific in appearance.
C-3P0 reads the sentence to the three rebels as they stand on the plank above the pit. He then offers them the opportunity to beg Jabba for mercy. Han angrily replies, “3P0, you tell that slimy, piece of worm-ridden… filth, he’ll get no such pleasure from us!” The hesitation before the word filth implies that Han is going to say a swear word. Although he doesn’t actually say a profanity, this is unacceptable. Instead, he could just call him “that slimy worm.”
A fight ensues, and several of Jabba’s minions are shown falling directly into the Sarlacc pit. Especially in the CGI version, they are shown close-up going into the mouth. Since the Sarlacc is now just a pit, people should just be shown rolling into, but obviously no mouth or tentacles would be visible.
Aboard Jabba’s ship, the battle between the gangster’s thugs and the rebels spreads. Leia strangles Jabba with a chain, perhaps using the Force to overpower him as his tongue wags during strangulation. This is very violent. It also would not be possible in its present form if Jabba were human, as we have suggested for the breened version. Rather than Leia killing Jabba single-handed, which could be interpreted as murder if he were human, it should just be a fight. During the course of the fight, he could fall off the ship to his death. Perhaps he could be fighting Leia when it happens.
After Leia strangles Jabba, he is disgustingly black, like a dead frog. Obviously, this is impossible in the edited version, since he is human and falls to his death. However, no matter how he dies, no focus should be put on his corpse.
After Han accidentally hits Boba Fett’s jet pack, the bounty hunter says, “What the!” as he launches to his death. Although he says no profane word, it is implied. He should just scream as he flies.
Boba Fett eventually falls into the Sarlacc pit, where we see him being eaten much too plainly. As noted before, he and the Sarlacc’s other victims should just be seen falling into the pit, presumably to be eaten by the unseen monster.
After Boba Fett is eaten, the Sarlacc burps. This is vulgar and must be removed.
During the fight, C-3P0’s eye is torn off by Salacious Crumb. Since this droid is capable of feelings, it is horrific that his body is thus mutilated. Salacious Crumb can attack C-3P0 and pin him down, but he mustn’t pull any body parts off.
Later, a Stormtrooper says “What the?” after an Ewok hits him to distract him. Again, this implies profanity. Instead, he should say something like, “What was that?”
When the Rebels are exploring the moon of Endor, they come across an Ewok trap, on which a dead animal was hung as bait. This animal skin looks quite disgusting. Instead of looking like a whole animal, it should just be a large piece of meat.
After Luke tells Leia that she is his sister and that he must confront their father, Darth Vader, they kiss briefly. In the articles about the two previous films, we discussed the difficult issue of these characters’ semi-romantic relationship before it was revealed/decided that they are twins. If the issue were solved in the earlier films as we determined, there would be no strange thoughts of incest by this point. However, since we now know that they are siblings, the kissing is improper. In some Code films, you see brother and sister kissing on the lips in a perfectly acceptable way, but there has been far too much gossip about these siblings’ “romance” to permit it in this case. They should just hug.
During the fight between the Stormtroopers and the Ewoks on Endor, the camera focuses on an Ewok discovering his friend or relative who has been killed. He tries to revive the other creature, but to no avail. Although death is the casualty of war, there is something extremely disturbing about this sequence. After all, Ewoks were designed particularly to appeal to young audiences, so it could be very upsetting for children to see one of the cute creatures being discovered dead.
During this fight, Leia’s arm is wounded. Han touches her in concern. When he puts his hands up, we see that he has blood on his fingers. This is gory. There should be no blood visible on his hands.
At the film’s climax, Luke is zapped with Force lightning by the Emperor. This painful torture is a bit too prolonged. The second to last time the Emperor zaps the young Jedi should be removed.
When Darth Vader gets zapped by the Emperor’s Force lightning, his skull is visible through his thick helmet for an instant. This shot is very creepy and could be particularly disturbing to children who are afraid of skeletons. This shot must be removed.
Tiffany’s Conclusion: This film had an interesting narrative progression. More than many other films I have seen, it changed its tone during the film’s runtime. The first thirty minutes was very dark, grotesque, evil, and even vulgar. The indecent female costumes, suggestive dancing, eating of live creatures, burping, and other suggestive and grotesque imagery are not consistent with the content of the previous two films. In general, the objectionable content has seemed to have more purpose in earlier films. In this movie, the prolonged Jabba sequence, which contains all but seven of the Code violations, doesn’t fit the general narrative. During that part, we forget about Jedi, the Force, Darth Vader, and the general destiny of the series. For whatever reason, George Lucas seems to have gotten quite sidetracked during this part. However, after Jabba and his crew have been defeated, the film improves 100%! The objections in the remaining three-quarters of the film were so fewer than in the two previous films. There were no excessive kisses between Han and Leia. No profanity was said. Very little excessive violence was included. Even the representation of the Force doesn’t violate the Code. In addition, the story continues the themes begun in the two earlier films, ending with a satisfying conclusion. Despite these pleasant aspects, I found the film’s overall appeal to be dampened for me because of the offensive elements in its first quarter. If these Code-violating elements had been removed, the main characters, especially Han and Leia, who play smaller roles in the storyline, would have had more time to flourish. Thus, the film, which I found to be very enjoyable, would have been even better. After all, what does an epic saga about selflessness and bravery overcoming darkness and evil have to do with metal bikinis?
Rebekah’s Conclusion: I am very glad to have finally watched the entire original trilogy. I have heard this film criticized rather the way the prequels are, and it did strike me as having a similar feeling to the prequels. However, like the prequels, I enjoyed it very much. I found the first quarter of the film, which involved Jabba and his evil court, much more violent, suggestive, and all around objectionable than the other two films. However, after Jabba and his crew were blown up, the film turned itself around and proved to be one of my favorites yet. I understand many people dislike the Ewoks the way they dislike Jar Jar Binks. However, I found them entirely adorable and lovable. I was delighted every moment they were onscreen, and I would definitely say they are my favorite alien species. I found their defeat of the Stormtroopers quite believable and convincing. After all, everyone jokes that the Stormtroopers are clumsy idiots with bad aim, so it’s no wonder that these slightly vicious little creatures could crush them with their clever traps and ingenuity. I have watched clips of the throne room scene and Darth Vader’s death multiple times, but I was unaware that it constantly cuts back and forth between the battle between Luke and Vader and the Battle of Endor. These two simultaneous plots only added to the excitement and suspense of the sequence. As a prequel fan, it was very special for me to see the introduction of the Emperor and Darth Vader’s redemption. Since we watched a Special Edition copy, it was a real treat for me to see Hayden Christensen appear at the end. I also thought it was wonderful seeing Luke as a fully trained, accomplished Jedi Knight. While Leia and Han’s love story was not as prevalent in this film as it was in The Empire Strikes Back, it still shone through as Han showed his softer side and became a true hero of the Rebellion. The ending was very satisfying, and I would certainly say that this is a great final installment in an excellent trilogy. I look forward to now watching the prequels, from which I have watched many great clips over the last few months, in their entirety. I hope you will continue to read and like our Star Wars breening articles. After all, it is unavoidable. It is your destiny!
What did you think of our breened original trilogy of Star Wars? We hope that these three articles illustrate how even the most famous Rating System Era franchises could have been just as good if not better if they had been self-regulated. After all, if a story is truly great, it will still have depth after its unacceptable elements are removed. Come back in September to read our breening of the first film in the saga’s story, Star Wars: Episode I. “That is the way of things. The way of the Force.”
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