Michael Heilemann

Dark Star

John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon’s USC short turned feature was a predecessor to Alien and an inspiration to both Star Wars and Star Trek.

Michael Heilemann
Dark Star
Michael Heilemann

B for Berkey

We know that one of John Berkey's paintings became the foundation for The Deathstar, but his influence might have gone beyond that, into the aptly named B-Wing.

Michael Heilemann
B for Berkey
Michael Heilemann

Kaluta's Landspeeder

Luke's speeder is another distinct design in a world filled with them. As it turns out, Flash Gordon flew, and 'died' in one very similar to it half a decade before Luke. Perhaps they both shop at Wioslea?

Michael Heilemann
Kaluta's Landspeeder

Flash Gordon

Fair-haired, square jawed and irresistible to women, Flash Gordon is the great American hero personified. Alex Raymond managed to upstage Buck Rogers in the comic strips with his sense of adventure, and ever-changing perils.

Flash Gordon

John Carter of Mars

Edgar Rice Burroughs might have stood on the shoulders of earlier 'officer adventures on Mars' tales, but his distinct style and sense of storytelling has cemented his place in the history of adventure stories. Here we meet John Carter and his martian bride to be, Dejah Thoris, and their planet-spanning escapades.

John Carter of Mars
Michael Heilemann

Giant Walking Machines

Syd Mead didn't work on The Empire Strikes Back, but he made a significant contribution nonetheless, when his designs for US Steel ended up informing the imperial walkers deployed on Hoth.

Michael Heilemann
Giant Walking Machines

Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation

Swept by magic carpet to the glorious planet of Mars, no sooner has Lt. Gullivar Jones fallen for the beautiful Princess Heru of the Hither people before she is kidnapped by the hideous Tither people. Gullivar pursues in bumbling fashion, in an adventure across the jungles and rivers of Mars. John Carter takes notes.

Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation

Across the Zodiac

Mars captured the imagination of a world which was in the throes of massive sociopolitical changes and coming to terms with equally massive technological progress. From it  sprang the grand space adventure genre, sword and sandal.

Across the Zodiac
Michael Heilemann

Like Father, Like Son

Lucas didn't always see Vader as Luke's father; so how did that idea come into being?

Michael Heilemann
Like Father, Like Son
Michael Heilemann

Fairytales & The Hero's Journey

Despite being substantially older than Star Wars, the Hero's Journey, also known as the mono myth, will forever be a part of Star Wars lore. But did Lucas actually employ it to 'design' Star Wars, or did he stumble upon it, and only later use it as a structuring tool?

Michael Heilemann
Fairytales & The Hero's Journey
Michael Heilemann

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

The first American fairytale, in its greatest silver screen presentation; a marvel of color and staging when it was first released in 1939. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first true American fairytale fueled another great American fairytale; here's how.

Michael Heilemann
Somewhere Over The Rainbow

American Graffiti (1974)

Torn out of his days cruising the streets of Modesto, American Graffiti is Lucas's love letter to a long since dead mating ritual. Seeming perhaps a sidestep in relation to Star Wars, when compared to the science fiction worlds of THX 1138, it was crucial in shaping the populist approach with which Star Wars conquered the world.

American Graffiti (1974)
Michael Heilemann

Studies of Semi-Nomadism in North Africa

A four-page essay on nomadic tribes in Africa, written by a teenage Lucas at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto, California.

Michael Heilemann
Studies of Semi-Nomadism in North Africa
Michael Heilemann

"Star Wars Killed the Serious Film"

In which I make a late example out of film critic Philip Kerr, and his poorly researched rant on 'modern filmmaking'.

Michael Heilemann
"Star Wars Killed the Serious Film"
Michael Heilemann

“It’s a period of civil war...”

WWII was an enormous influence on all kids of the 50s and 60s, and Lucas was no exception. From the general good vs evil nature of the conflict to the specifics of war epics like The Guns of Navarone and air-heroics of The Dam Busters and 633 Squadron, it seems entirely possible that Star Wars would never have existed if not for the war.

Michael Heilemann
“It’s a period of civil war...”

Maker of Films (1971)

Before Star Wars, before American Graffiti even, a young film maker is interviewed for a PBS special. Remarkable for its foresight in interviewing Lucas this early in his career, and for Lucas's persistent vision, much of which he lays out for Gene Youngblood.

Maker of Films (1971)