Original Screen-Used Empire Strikes Back
 Stormtrooper Helmet

After having a chance to visit Christies I've decided to devote a complete page to this superb helmet find. Many thanks to Helen and Sarah at Christies for allowing me such great access.

New - September 08 - Click here to see our Video Review of this original helmet on YouTube

Made by Andrew Ainsworth at Shepperton Design Studios for Star Wars- A New Hope in the spring of 1976. This was one of the HDPE/Polythene "Fishpond" helmets which were produced before the move to ABS a month or so later.

The helmet was most probably used in ANH but was certainly used for The Empire Strikes Back filmed in 1978/79 (again at Elstree Studios) and can clearly be seen in the following shot - congrats to Gizmo in Australia for finding him!


Though not the ideal material to use, Ainsworth said that the khaki-green HDPE Polythene was used as it was "lying around the factory" at the time and was a lot easier to pull than the ABS later used for the Hero helmets - most especially the undercuts most apparent on the rear of the helmet. However it proved to be difficult for other reasons, namely;

1) The HDPE was a Khaki colour so unlike the ABS Hero's, it had to be painted. However, getting the paint to stay on was very difficult and they had to "sand the surface to get the paint to key, even then it would chip and flake easily". Andrew Ainsworth remembers their "Joy when they were able to start on the ABS Stormtroopers", no painting!

2) Getting a decent pull from the vac-former was difficult in other ways to the ABS. Polythene typically expands and contracts as its being pulled off the mould and this is apparent when you look at the 'pinched areas' such as the tears and also the 'crinkly' interior of the helmets (which compares against the insides of the ABS helmets were all smooth).


As you can see the overall finish, despite its age is extremely good. the first thing that strikes you when picking up these original helmets is their weight. People look at them and they have a "weighty" look about them when in fact they are extremely light, about the same as the modern replica helmets.

Both of the original "mic tip's" are in place and although there has been some paint peeling, is considerably less than John Mollo's helmet sold the previous year (which also had the mic tips missing). In the photo below you'll notice an interesting thing. The marks on the right hand side of the helmet (as you're wearing) are NOT from chipped paint showing the khaki HDPE below but actually what look like glue or some kind of residue. Interesting that no one bothered to remove them when they were filming as they can clearly be seen! Note as well the white mark on the right eye is actually a build up of paint, not flashing.

If you look closely at the "Hovi Mix pa" Mic tips you can see an inner white section which has a convex end. The outer section is black although the paints come off the front areas showing the white underneath. From a distance this gave it a reflective quality almost like they were made of metal. In the shot below you can also see that the right tip (left as you're wearing it) looks unpainted from half way down.

the overall finish is quite glossy although from this angle you can see the many surface bumps, the result of the finish of the HDPE as its pulled from the moulds, some dust and debris which found its way into the vac former when pulling, some surface inconsistencies in the moulds (some caused by repeated usage of the moulds) and finally the problems with painting. 

You can also see (above) the cut/split between the cap/back section above the left ear (as you're wearing it)

in the past there has been some discussion over the decals and specifically their colour, but this photo should clear up a few points. As you see from this pic above, the ESB decal grey is actually VERY similar to the ANH colour as this colour-matched ANH sheet shows (from a 2004 AA Helmet). Again the tube stripes below are very similar in colour, although slightly darker (but then that may be the effects of time). In addition note that the ESB decals had white and blue bands on the tube stripes (below) and not just blue bands on a blank background.

Below, for the ESB helmets the green acetate visor was held in place with a black stick-rubber type material and not draft excluder. Even now in 2004 it was still sticky and pliable. In addition notice how rough the internal surface is very pitted (especially the cap/back section) - as mentioned at the top of the page this is partly a by product of using Polythene, as well as the state of the moulds and the vac former itself. The internal surface looks to have been painted with some sort of grey primer.

Below a shot of one of Andrew Ainsworth's 2004 helmets in comparison with one of the originals from 1976's. Its an interesting comparison Replica Vs Original. 

From above you can see how the 1976 Polythene Helmet on the right is very warped. Again as mentioned at the top of the page this is indicative of the problems Ainsworth/SDS had in 1976, when working with the Polythene material.

Below a side angle shot with the screen-used ESB helmet in the foreground

...and a view from the rear with the original helmet showing the fabric badge which must have been stuck on by one of its previous owners. The modern SDS suffering with a much reduced undercut and less "bell" shape around its base. In addition there appears to be a difference with the placement of the trapezoid, especially the one on the left.

Weight-wise the difference between replica and original is only 40 grams. Given that's the weight of about half a slice of bread that's probably the additional weight of the paint!

Finally a couple of nice Studio Shots of this great original Stunt helmet, now with ESB Makeover!

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