I was 8 when Star Wars was first released in Malaysia in 1978. It wasn’t even called Episode IV – A New Hope yet then. Die-hard fans will know that the film premiered in May a year earlier in the USA but one has to remember that in those days the format of cinema was actual reels of film. Unlike today when a film may be premiered simultaneously across the globe due to digital technology, in the 70s we had to wait for the reels to come our way. If you check IMDB, even the UK release date for Star Wars was December 1977. I remembered watching Star Wars at the Cathay cinema in Bukit Bintang with the rest of my family, an experience of which I had written in a blog post 15 years ago.

In that old blog post, I had briefly written about a cassette tape my parents bought for us in Singapore in 1979 (if I remember the year correctly). Home video systems were non-existent in general households then, and I have to say this cassette was my only chance to revisit the film I loved so much.

It was a gold coloured cassette which came with a square-shaped booklet in light blue. The story in the cassette was pretty much the audio from the actual film. The content was appropriately edited to fit a cassette, running at 24 minutes on each side. The story was narrated by Roscoe Lee Browne, and while some parts of the film were not included in the cassette (eg Luke and Leia swinging across the Death Star chasm, and Gold V’s “Stay on target!” dialogue in the end battle, among others) so as to fit into the running time of 48 minutes, the editing was pretty clever as to not lose the essence of the story told in the actual film.

Saying that we played the cassette to death is mere understatement. Almost every family car trip (I don’t know how my parents could be so patient) would see this tape being played. Having the cassette playing in the background was almost a must when we played with the Kenner action figures. It may be too much to say that my knowledge of Star Wars was wholly moulded by the cassette’s content but suffice to say that actual dialogue, the sound effects and John William’s score was pretty much in my head from the age of nine. I have to say that I had misheard some of the dialogue, kinda similar to how some people sing the wrong words to a song. I have to emphasise that not only I misheard the dialogue, the dialogue was pretty much made-up words that had no meaning. Like:

(Commence primary ignition!)


What message?! The one you’ve just been playing! The one that you’re carrying inside your VESTIGATEDS!
(What message?! The one you’ve just been playing! The one that you’re carrying inside your rusty innards!)

C’mon lah. I was like 9.

The day then came when the magnetic tape in the cassette snapped in the car, on the way to Ampang Park if I am not mistaken. Actually, the tape was running on its last legs as it had been chewed up by different tape players over the years. The damage was such I didn’t think it was salvagable. We were sad (probably not our parents) obviously, but soon after this incident, our parents bought us another cassette set – this time of both Episodes IV and V. Both cassettes came with a picture booklet each.

It was from the Read Along series and we were so happy when we first received it. Until we discovered that while the sound effects and score were from the film, the dialogue was done by voice actors emulating our beloved characters. And the Darth Vader was so… “Where-ARR is the location of the rebel base?!!”. This series was worse as the whole story ran for only 12 minutes and the dialogue was rewritten to have the story in context. Listen to it yourself here:

It wasn’t until 1982 when dad bought us our first VCR – a National NV-777 model during our school holidays in Singapore. I think we had a Star Wars video soon after, albeit a pirated version as original tapes were pretty much non-existent in Malaysia[1].

I finally bought my first original Star Wars VHS tape when I was at university in Newcastle in 1990 for my studies, a far cry and a very long time from my audio cassette days.

And the rest (4:3 format, widescreen, original DVD, Special Edition DVD, Blu-ray box set, Japanese release DVD trilogy set) is pretty much history.

Fast forward to the present day, I managed to find the audio to that well-loved Star Wars cassette. That audio story with Browne narrating from 1978 existed in several formats – music cassette, 8-track, vinyl record and 4-track reel-to-reel tape.

This YouTube video has the 4-track being played back on it and I managed to download the audio, which now sits neatly in my iTunes/Apple Music set up for nostalgia’s sake. Happy memories.

[1]Star Wars was first released as a home video in 1982.