Belfast Telegraph

Black Angel returns to UK screens

A short film shown in cinemas before The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 - and subsequently lost - has returned to UK screens to the delight of Star Wars fans.

Black Angel was directed by Briton Roger Christian, who won an Oscar for his work on the first instalment, A New Hope.

The 22-minute feature shot in Scotland is the tale of a knight on the way back from the crusades who rescues a princess.

The original was lost and Black Angel later gained cult status in film circles.

Two years ago Universal Studios contacted Roger to say the prints had been found and they were painstakingly restored.

More than three decades after the feature's original release, he attended a sell-out screening at the Glasgow Film Festival.

Speaking ahead of the event, Roger said he would not be as nervous as last October when he saw it again for the first time at the Mill Valley Film Festival in California.

He said: "I went out the back of the cinema and thought 'I can't go in and watch this'. It's a different pace, it was made 34 years ago. But then I thought I should, because they've spent all this time and dedication to restoring it, so I had to go in the back and sit there and watch.

"I felt OK. It looked really beautiful and the photography is stunning. People are so enamoured with it still."

Roger won an Oscar for his set decoration on Star Wars and received a nomination for his work on his next full-length feature, Alien.

His move into directing was supported by George Lucas and Black Angel was shown in cinemas ahead of the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back.

Both he and George were influenced by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa (1910 - 1998).

He said: "H e was the main influence for me on the film and the way I made it. The way he put dramatic landscape and drama together into a Cinemascope frame - to me he invented it.

"That's what led me to Scotland. The dramatic landscapes I wanted, the only place I could find them were here. Eilean Donan castle represented the kind of romantic, Pre-Raphaelite castle that I wanted."

The director said that while shooting on a budget in the remote Highlands he and his eight crew members survived on sandwiches and "huge vats of porridge" cooked up by male lead actor Tony Vogel.

In the years that followed Roger said he was regularly asked by fans and by fellow filmmakers to re-release Black Angel.

He said: " It was all serendipity. The negatives were lost, the prints had got lost, I didn't think there was any chance. Peter Briggs who wrote Hellboy kept saying 'you've got to put this film out'. Then I was contacted by Wired magazine about a series of articles on what they called forgotten relics and they said 'your film keeps coming up'.

"When the neg was found I thought, I've got to go along with this, because that was sheer fluke."

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