In Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, the planet Alderaan is obliterated by the Death Star on the orders of Grand Moff Tarkin.
For cinema audiences at this time, was this act by a movie villain seen as notably egregious and shocking?
In my movie knowledge, there is no prior instance of villainy on the scale of instantaneously obliterating a population of billions to prove a point to a helpless captive. Does this level or scale of brutality have a parallel in prior work on screen, or would this be unknown and dramatic to the audience of 1977?
I should emphasise I'm specifically looking for audience reactions to satisfy an answer to this question - I was born in 1986, so I am well removed from any firsthand knowledge of this.