The year was 1983. A generation of children who had grown up watching Star Wars at the cinema was now queuing down the street to get tickets to the third and final installment in the series – Return of the Jedi. By now, these same fans were experts on George Lucas’ flourishing universe, had nagged their parents to buy them all the toys, and as far as they were concerned, knew exactly what Return of the Jedi would bring to the table.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Block of Hungary, science fiction fans were chomping at the bit to get their hands on tickets to a very different movie. At least, that’s what we’ve deciphered after looking through some of the country’s unique promotional material to advertise the release of Return of the Jedi.
Let us explain. In the US and UK, the official one-sheet posters used to advertise Return of the Jedi, although incredible to look at, were your typical Western movie posters. They featured all the key characters from the movie, with a few additional characters thrown into the mix to create intrigue among fans. For example, the US posters incorporated the then unknown Ewok’s, while the UK version featured a mysterious figure leading Chewbacca by the neck in chains. Over in Hungary, though, they completely reinvented the wheel.
Gone were the bright, flashy colors that bred excitement and awe, replaced by an orange hue that was more Dune than Jedi. The artist – Hungarian born Tibor Helenyi – did opt to keep Darth Vader in the finished piece, but he was far from recognizable, and could even have been missed if you didn’t know what you were looking for. His mask looked more like an oncoming freight train than it did the all-powerful face of the Empire, with exaggerated eye sockets, and one completely replaced by a half-finished Death Star.
There are also familiar looking Stormtroopers, traversing the orange mess on speeder bikes, and a few ships that could perhaps be mistaken for X-wing Starfighters, if you squint hard enough, or look at the poster at the same time as poking yourself in the eyes fast and hard.
But perhaps the strangest part of the Hungarian Return of the Jedi poster is the inclusion of the strange creature in the bottom left corner. What the actual f**k is that? Did we fall asleep when this Gorn-looking thing sneaked on set? Or did George Lucas deem the bizarre mixture of Hordak and a snake too much for Western audiences, and decided to keep it as a Hungarian exclusive instead? We’re guessing, of course. This thing may have even been a fighter for the rebellion and may have died a brave but tragic death. If that’s the case, then we’re sorry.
The more likely answer to all of this is Mr. Helenyi never actually saw Return of the Jedi (though, he denies this). Maybe he saw Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back, but probably only briefly enough to be able to recall Vader and the Death Star, albeit badly. Or maybe Helenyl did watch the movie and was actually a huge fan. Unfortunately, though, he only saw the “I’m high as f**k and thought this was all some kind of fever dream” extended edition, and no one bothered to tell him he got the details very, very wrong. We jest, of course, but boy his posters were bizarre.
We’d love to say that the Helenyi poster is the craziest design out there, at least when it comes to being an accurate depiction of the Star Wars universe, but then you only have to look at the Russian one-sheet to realize there are weirder ones available, and someone somewhere is proud of them.
Where does Return of the Jedi rank for you in the history of the Star Wars movies? What’s the weirdest Star Wars poster you’ve ever seen? Would you watch any of these versions detailed above? Let us know in the comments section, and don’t forget to check out all our other coverage of the 35th anniversary of Return of the Jedi.
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