THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: STAR WARS (1977)
Welcome to another edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, that column where we look at Peter Cushing’s best lines in the movies.
This column exists because I’m a huge Peter Cushing fan, and Cushing’s work as an actor is one of the main reasons I’m in the horror writing business. In short, his performances were always an inspiration for me.
Today we look at some of Peter Cushing’s lines from the science fiction classic STAR WARS (1977). For a while, it used to irk me that so many STAR WARS fans only knew Cushing from his role in this movie. How could someone think of him in STAR WARS but not be familiar with any of his previous work?
Anyway, I’m over that now, so let’s get on with things and celebrate some of Cushing’s great lines of dialogue as the dastardly Grand Moff Tarkin, the one man in the entire STAR WARS series who bossed Darth Vader around and lived to tell about it.
I remember the days back in 1976, when I first heard about STAR WARS, before the George Lucas franchise had taken root in popular culture, and I was just so happy to hear that Peter Cushing was going to star in a new movie. I had seen so few of his performances on the big screen.
I knew very little about STAR WARS before its release, other than the word of mouth which was saying that it was going to be the best movie of the year and probably one of the all-time best science fiction adventures ever. I wasn’t the only one who knew so little about it. One of the early movie ads read, “STAR WARS, starring Alec Guiness and Peter Cushing.”
Anyway, Peter Cushing does have some memorable lines in STAR WARS, screenplay by George Lucas, as in this exchange with Darth Vader:
DARTH VADER: He is here.
TARKIN: Obi-Wan Kenobi? What makes you think so?
DARTH VADER: A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of my old master.
TARKIN: Surely he must be dead by now.
DARTH VADER: Don’t underestimate the Force.
TARKIN: The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that’s left of their religion.
VOICE: We have an emergency alert in detention block AA-23.
TARKIN: The Princess? Put all sections on alert.
DARTH VADER: Obi-wan is here. The Force is with him.
TARKIN: If you’re right, he must not be allowed to escape.
DARTH VADER: Escape is not his plan. I must face him, alone.
Some of Tarkin’s best lines are when he’s speaking to Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), as in this scene, when he meets her for the first time:
PRINCESS LEIA: Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.
TARKIN: Charming to the last.
And then later when he threatens to destroy Leia’s home planet using the firepower of the Death Star if she doesn’t give him the location of the rebel base:
PRINCESS LEIA: No! Alderaan is peaceful! We have no weapons, you can’t possibly…
TARKIN: You would prefer another target, a military target? Then name the system! I grow tired of asking this so it will be the last time: Where is the rebel base?
PRINCESS LEIA: Dantooine. They’re on Dantooine.
TARKIN: There. You see, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable. Continue with the operation; you may fire when ready.
PRINCESS LEIA: WHAT?
TARKIN: You’re far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration – but don’t worry; we will deal with your rebel friends soon enough.
There’s a lot of Baron Frankenstein in Cushing’s performance as Tarkin. As when he receives word that the princess lied to him.
OFFICER: Our scout ships have reached Dantooine. They found the remains of a Rebel base, but they estimate that it has been deserted for some time. They are now conducting an extensive search of the surrounding systems.
TARKIN: She lied. She lied to us!
DARTH VADER: I told you she would never consciously betray the Rebellion.
TARKIN: Terminate her… immediately!
One of my favorite Peter Cushing moments in STAR WARS is when he pretty much tells Darth Vader to knock off his villainous behavior.
ADMIRAL: Any attack made by the Rebels against this station would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they have obtained. This station is now the ultimate power in the universe! I suggest we use it!
DARTH VADER: Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
ADMIRAL: Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you enough clairvoyance to find the rebels’ hidden fortress…
(Darth Vader motions with his hand, and the Admiral starts choking.)
DARTH VADER: I find your lack of faith disturbing.
TARKIN: Enough of this! Vader, release him!
And of course, since it’s Peter Cushing giving the order, Vader obeys.
We finish with another of my favorite lines, right near the end, just before, sadly, Tarkin gets blown up with the rest of the Death Star.
OFFICER: We’ve analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger. Should I have your ship standing by?
TARKIN: Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.
Oh well. Tarkin should have listened to his subordinate. Then he could have appeared in the sequels.
That’s it for now. Thanks for joining me on THE QUOTABLE CUSHING.
See you next time. Thanks for reading!