Ever hear the name “Black Angel”? Despite what you may think, no, it’s not name of a underground death metal band. Black Angel, is the “lost” short that debuted in front of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. A full-feature Black Angel is now in the works, with Roger Christian back to write and direct and Rutger Hauer and John Rhys-Davies set to star.
THR spoke with Christian about his new endeavor. “It’s my passion project, has been for 35-36 years,” he said. “I guess ‘patience is a virtue’ is a true saying.” Christian has launched a $100,000 Indiegogo campaign to help fund Black Angel. Prizes include a walk-on role, on-set experience, and — most intriguing of all — a piece of the film negative from Star Wars: A New Hope.
As previously stated, Black Angel was a companion short and directorial debut of Star Wars art director Roger Christian shown only in select areas back in 1980 when The Empire Strikes Back first opened. It was only screened in Europe and Australia, and after disappearing without a trace, was long believed to be an urban legend by many Star Wars fans until it resurfaced in 2011.
George Lucas commissioned the piece after reading the script in 1979, and gave Christian a budget of $50,000. The 25 minute short subject was made as an introduction to ESB, and told the story of Sir Maddox–a knight who returned home after the Crusades to find that his family was missing. While searching for them through a mystical realm, he encounters a beautiful maiden held in the clutches of an evil black knight.
Black Angel was released with The Empire Strikes Back on May 21st, 1980 and starred Patricia Christian, James Gibb, Tony Vogel, and John Young…and no–I’ve never heard of any of these folks, either.
Apparently Sir Maddox (Tony Vogel) would go on to play the iconic role of “Tall Captain” in Raiders of the Lost Ark. And John Young had previously appeared in Monty Python and the Holy Grail–as the “famous historian” King Arthur gets accused of murdering….So, there’s that.
Oh, and despite my initial suspicions: James Gibb is NOT a lesser member of the Bee Gees.
After its limited release, all copies of Black Angel were believed to be lost. A few who saw Empire back then remembered it vaguely, and Steven Spielberg himself called it “one of the most enigmatic films” he’d ever seen.
An effort to restore the film got underway, and the film “re-premiered” at the Mill Valley Film Festival in 2013. Black Angel got a digital re-release in 2014, and as of last month was available to stream in its entirety on YouTube.
The full-feature Black Angel will have a budget of “around $15 million,” and is described as follows:
Think Game of Thrones meets Valhalla Rising, Excalibur meets Lord of the Rings. A powerful tale of ancient Celtic magic and Nordic Paganism, it’ll be gritty, dirty and heroic – everything great fantasy should be.
The story follows a knight as he journeys deep into the dark underworld with the daughter of a rival king, to meet the face of evil itself and fight the Black Angel in combat. Full of drama, action and heroism, pure light is pitted against eternal darkness and damnation.
Rutger Hauer, whose credits include Blade Runner and Batman Begins, will play the High Priest Sirdar. Rhys-Davies, of Lord of the Rings and Raiders of the Lost Ark fame, will play King Aeolus. Laura Weissbecker (Chinese Zodiac) will play warrior princess Kyna.
For even more information, check out the Indiegogo campaign here.