It was relatively common for studios to run short films ahead of major features in theaters years ago, and George Lucas did just that when he brought his Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back to theaters in 1980. The short film that screened ahead of The Empire Strikes Back was a medieval fantasy titled Black Angel, and after that initial run the project was believed for more than three decades to have been lost — only to resurface recently and find its way online.
Created by Oscar-winning Star Wars and Alien art director Roger Christian, Black Angel follows a knight (Tony Vogel) who returns home from the Crusades to find his village ravaged by disease and his family nowhere to be found. He sets off to find them, only to encounter a mysterious woman in the forest who tasks him with defeating a mysterious knight.
While the film was widely praised (and is frequently cited as an influential project for many U.K. filmmakers), all of the prints of Black Angel were believed lost shortly after its initial run. But in December 2011, a 35mm negative of the film was discovered by a Universal Studios archivist, and it was painstakingly restored over the following years.
Black Angel returned to theaters in 2013, when it was screened for the first time since that initial run ahead of The Empire Strikes Back. This week, it was uploaded to YouTube by Christian, with a special introduction by the director.
The description of the film reads as follows:
As viewers sat down to watch ‘Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back’ in 1980, they were shown a short film. It was so mysterious and dark that many never forgot it. Its name was Black Angel.
Along with offering some context for both the 25-minute film and its production (its budget of 25,000 British pounds was a gift from Lucas), Christian hints that a major announcement is coming June 2 — likely involving a feature-length version of the film.