Black Angel (found short fantasy film; 1979)

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Black Angel’s title screen, as taken from the restored film's 2014 iTunes release.

Status: Found

Date found: 19 May 2014

Found by: Universal Studios, Roger Christian

Premiering exclusively in Australian and European cinemas in 1980, prior to screenings of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, was a short fantasy film titled Black Angel; it was written and directed by Roger Christian (in his directorial debut) and was financed by George Lucas (on a budget of £25,000) as a gift to Christian for his work on 1977's Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, for which he served as set decorator.

Shot in Scotland in autumn of 1979, the 25 minute film sees Sir Maddox, a knight returning from the Crusades, arriving home only to find that his village has been both raided and destroyed and its population devastated by the outbreak of an unknown illness referred to only as 'the sickness'; Maddox vows revenge against the Raiders and sets out to find them. After later slipping on a muddy riverbank, he is plunged into a lake, where he nearly drowns but is fortunately awoken by the voice of a mysterious girl, who he then encounters after emerging; she reveals that she is being held captive by the so-called 'Black Angel', a black knight who Maddox then endeavors to conquer in return for the girl having saved his life.

In the decades following the film's very limited theatrical release, it gained notoriety among Star Wars fans as a lost film, with not even Christian himself being able to secure a workable copy for clean-up and re-release (Christian having previously expressed a desire to undertake said re-release), until December of 2011, when an archivist from Universal Studios contacted Christian after having come across a tin of film containing the elusive movie.

A number of article interviews were conducted with Christian in late 2012 and throughout 2013, in which he revealed the discovery and reaffirmed his intentions to restore and make the film available once again, more than 30 years after it's initial release.[1] After reading one of the aforementioned interviews, Californian visual effects company Athena Studios volunteered to completely restore the film free of charge. Said restoration soon commenced, in conjunction with the Bay Area Visual Effects Society and Skywalker Sound and the film was finally shown once again on October 13th, 2013, at the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival, where it was well received.

Two shorts preview clips were released online by Athena Studios two weeks following the restoration's premiere screening and the film in its entirety was eventually released worldwide on May 19th, 2014 (following a selection of additional film festival screenings around the world, though primarily in Scotland), when it was made available for purchase on iTunes' digital distribution store to mass praise, going on to top the iTunes charts.[2] Notably, it has been suggested by Christian that a feature film version of Black Angel has begun pre-production, though not a great deal of information on said planned feature has been revealed.[3][4]

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