Battle in the Desert


Rescuing Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba was no easy task. It took a well-thought out plan, consisting of many parts and relied on cunning and chance. It all concluded with a battle in the Tatooine desert over a mostly underground creature buried in the sand. The battle and its aftermath give us lots of material to cover.


1227To Jabba and his guests, an execution was simply another excuse to have some fun. The trip to the Sarlacc pit was just a continuation of the usual party at the palace, complete with drinking, music, dancing and more.

For the Special Edition, when Han is hanging off the skiff and Chewie is grabbing his boots to hold on to him, Lucasfilm added some computer generated ropes around the boots. In the original shot those weren’t there and it looked like Han was magically hanging on by his toes.

I came across some interesting storyboard sketches at the Propstore of London.  Some of the alternate dialogue written on the sides of the sketches is quite interesting.  I’m not sure if those are just paraphrases or the actual lines spoken on set. Also note Jabba giving the Roman-style thumbs down, Jabba’s throne floating towards the camera, Jabba’s tail knocking glasses over, a strange moment where Boba Fett monitors 3PO and R2, and the “tentacle” that snaps as Luke and Leia land on the skiff.

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1133In the original script, C-3PO is forced to translate an argument between Ree-Yees and Yak Face (yes, I still call him that) while on Jabba’s sail barge. This scene takes place right before C-3PO bumps into R2-D2 serving drinks. In the novelization, it was actually Ree-Yees and Ephant Mon who have this argument. Interestingly enough, the Ephant Mon puppet had a little hole in the shoulder so Salacious B. Crumb could sit there. The argument ends with Ree-Yees pounding Ephant Mon in the snout. It appears that in the filmed version,  C-3PO is the one who gets knocked over.

Here’s how it reads:

Threepio was way out of his depth. At the moment, he was being forced to translate an argument between Ephant Mon and Ree-Yees, concerning a point of quark warfare that was marginally beyond him. Ephant Mon, a bulky upright pachydermoid with an ugly, betusked snout, was taking (to Threepio’s way of thinking) an untenable position. However, on his shoulder sat Salacious Crumb, the insane little reptilian monkey who had the habit of repeating verbatim everything Ephant said, thereby effectively doubling the weight of Ephant’s argument.

Ephant concluded the oration with a typically bellicose avowel. “Woossie jawamba boog!”

To which Salacious nodded, then added, “Woossie jawamba boog!”

Threepio didn’t really want to translate this to Ree-Yees, the three-eyed goat-face who was already drunk as a spicer, but he did.

All three eyes dilated in fury. “Backawa! Backawa!” Without further preamble, he punched Ephant Mon in the snout, sending him flying into a school of Squid Heads.

See Threepio felt this response needed no translation., and took the opportunity to slip to the rear – where he promptly bumped into a small droid serving drinks. The drinks spilled everywhere.

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1185Princess Leia Organa was always a woman of action. You couldn’t count on her to just sit still while the men did all the work. It wasn’t part of her plan to wear that metal bikini, but we sure did appreciate it.

In the novelization, there’s a scene where Leia reaches for a blaster while still chained to Jabba’s dais. An image surfaced on the The Star Wars Trilogy DVD confirming that this was shot. Here’s the passage:

Meanwhile, on the observation deck, Leia had been intermittently struggling to break the chain which bound her to the dead gangster, and hiding behind his massive carcass whenever some guard ran by. She stretched her full length, now, trying to retrieve a discarded laser pistol – to no avail. Fortunately, Artoo at last came to her rescue, after having first lost his bearings and rolled down the wrong plank.

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1251After the battle in the desert, the small group of heroes endures a nasty sandstorm that comes up out of nowhere. They leave the stolen skiff and make their way to their hidden ships on foot. When they get to the ships, they exchange a few words and are on their way.

David Oghia, writer for Star Wars Insider wrote a nice piece on the sandstorm in Issue #35 that included some never before seen photo stills. The dialogue differs depending on the source. Here’s an excerpt from an alleged third draft of the script by Kasdan and Lucas:

A ferocious sandstorm blocks our view. Then, through the ROAR, we HEAR THE VOICES of our heroes. They emerge slowly from the veil of sand, pressing on against the wind. First come Artoo and Threepio, followed by Leia guiding Han, then Luke and Lando come into view, each supporting one side of the towering Chewbacca, who hobbles from his wound. Soon, they can make out some large vague shapes in the blowing sand. It is the Millennium Falcon and, parked beside it, Luke’s trusty X-wing and a two-seated Y-wing. They must shout to be heard.

I don’t know. All I can
see is a lot of blowing sand!

That’s all any of us can see.

HAN (blinking)
Then I guess I’m getting better.

As soon as the group huddles under the bulk of the Falcon, the wind dies down to something more describable as a severe weather condition. Threepio hits a switch, and the gang-plank lowers with a HUM.

HAN (turning to Luke)
I’ve got to hand it to you, kid,
you were pretty good out there.

LUKE (shrugging it off)
I had a lot of help.
Think nothing of it.

No, I’m thinking a lot about it.
That carbon freeze was the closest thing
to dead there is. And it wasn’t just sleepin’.
It was a big wide awake nothing!

Luke nods, as Chewie growls affectionately at the young Jedi warrior, mussing his hair like a proud uncle. And Leia warmly hugs him.

LUKE (moving to his ship)
I’ll see you back at the fleet.

Why don’t you leave that
crate and come with us?

I have a promise I have to keep
first… to an old friend.

Luke and Artoo take off in their spacecraft.

(looking dubiously at Lando, obviously
remembering his friend’s betrayal
and subsequent aid)
Guess I owe you some thanks, too, Lando.

Figured if I left you frozen like that
you’d just give me bad luck the rest of
my life, so I might as well get you
unfrozen sooner or later.

He means “You’re welcome.”

Come on, let’s get off
this miserable dust ball.

There are many different versions of this dialogue but the idea is pretty much the same. The going reason as to why this scene was cut is because George Lucas felt that the audience needed a break from the action. There was an incredible action sequence just a minute ago and to follow it up with another action scene might be too much for the audience so it was removed and some of the dialogue was inserted into the pickup scene (shot later with Mark Hamill) where the ships are going their separate ways.

Re-inserting the sandstorm scene into the Special Edition would have been a problem due to the redundant dialogue so one can speculate that is was left out yet again for that reason.

Mark Hamill treated Prevue magazine to an interview in October, 1983 where he discussed some of the trials and tribulations of filming the sandstorm scene. Here’s the quote:

PREVUE: What happened during the aborted sandstorm on the first day of shooting [of JEDI]?

HAMILL: It was one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in. Instead of sand, Fuller’s Earth was used – a sort of chalky, dusty theatrical product for creating everything from slime to dirtying the set. They threw the stuff in front of the wind machines, and it got in our lungs, into every orifice in our bodies. You wouldn’t believe it – take a shower, and torrents of brown water spirals down the drain. It got in our eyes, ears, noses. We couldn’t see; it was hard to breathe, really bad. I’m not exactly sure why they decided to take the scene out, either. In EMPIRE, act one ended with the snow battle. Maybe they thought the sandstorm was too tense for the same purpose.

PREVUE: Was that sand worse than the snow in EMPIRE?

HAMILL: Oh, yeah. Between takes in the snow we could bundle up or go into a survival hut. That was pretty awful, too.

A old book called The Making of Return of the Jedi (edited by John Phillip Peecher) covers this scene. It mentions that the sandstorm was the first sequence shot for the film and talks briefly about its deletion.

In The Art of Return of the Jedi on page 50, there is a great sketch by Nilo Rodis-Jamero of Lando Calrissian simply described as “Lando – Skiff Guard” but it’s pretty obvious that it’s Lando from the sandstorm sequence. There’s also a sketch of Leia (presumably for this scene) on page 99 of the book From Star Wars to Indiana Jones by Mark Cotta Vaz and Shinji Hata. once posted an image of Luke from the sandstorm. After everyone gets inside the Falcon, Luke heads to his ship but looks at his damaged hand. He then puts on the black glove and departs. In the re-edited scene we all know, he puts the glove on inside his ship while talking to Han in the Falcon.

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Click to downloadA very brief clip of the Sandstorm sequence from one of the early trailers
Click to downloadFan-made compilation of images and dialogue depicting the sandstorm sequence by Robert Scott


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