On restoring Star Wars



The movies were put out on DVD about ten years ago… the main feature was one of Lucas’ edited versions, but they also tacked on a 4:3 copy of the unedited original which was kind of a big deal because it was the only time it ever showed up on DVD. Now I’m wondering how close to “original” those “originals” actually are.

Does anyone know what I’m talking about, and can they comment on it?

Obviously the 4:3 ratio kind of stinks but that’s more or less how I watched the movies as a kid anyways.

Perhaps Lucas has some sort of body dysmorphic disorder by proxy where he feels compelled to keep on tweaking what others see as something quite lovely until it becomes a disturbing mess…


Apparently the color on them is really bad for starters.


From what I understand, the 4:3 version released on DVD wasn’t even pulled from a master print or negative. It was merely transferred off an old release print, with no clean-up or color-correction.

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It does look an awful lot like watching my old VHS tapes. Not the good tapes mind you… the third or fourth generation copies.

I guess they just wanted to give us an authentic 1980’s viewing experience.

Shame they didn’t include an option to view it with tracking errors.

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I have the remastered laser discs from the Mid-90s which are supposed to be the best copy of the original trilogy.

I then have a DVD set that is supposed to be a port of the laser discs.

I don’t recall the ratio, though it is “wide screen”.

Disney likes money. I have a good feeling they will put out the “original” unmolested version in both DVD and BluRay. If they were smart, first DVD then BlueRay 6 mo later.

I mean really - it is a no brainer. It would be like printing money.


I have a set of DVDs from a garage sale. I’ve only seen the revised edition of #4. It was awful. Nothing to do with the enhancements; the contrast and colors were off.

Something I saw in the original movie release of “Jedi” (and promotional clips shown on TV beforehand) that will never be seen again:

Near the end of the skycycle chase, Luke and a cycle trooper get in a fistfight, and Luke knocks the helmet off of the trooper.

For a split second we can see the trooper’s exposed head; a narrow-faced, black-haired fellow.

This did not make it into the laser disk version.

Just in case anyone missed it, the mini-documentary on the making of the Despecialized Edition is relevant and (for Star Wars and/or moviemaking nerdery superfans at least) pretty interesting.


I still have the Fox laser disc release of New Hope. You can even get them on ebay for less than $20 right now. The 4:3 is kinda lame but the color is good, the audio is excellent, and its a fairly faithful 1981 theatrical release version (New Hope added to crawl).

I’m sure some experts out there know about some super obscure changes and such to the laser disc release but I like it.

You can get both the disc and a player for less than $50 right now. Go ahead and grab em from your favorite auction site and have a retro movie night with you fellow Star Wars fans.

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I wouldn’t say “difficult” - there’s a gorgeous and lovingly crafted rip of the laserdisc floating around on bittorrent that took me all of 10 seconds to find when I last had a reason to go looking for it.

I also wouldn’t say that Lucas’ fuckery with versioning justifies downloading it, but he certainly isn’t making it easy to do the right thing.


I have the Deluxe THX Boxed CAV format Laserdisc set of the the first 3 films. It’s on 9 discs (18 sides, since LDs are double-sided). The very wordy official title is “Widescreen Collector’s Edition Star Wars Trilogy, The Definitive Edition”, whew!

Each disc is sleeved, and each group of 3 discs for a film has a bigger sleeve, and the whole thing is in a sturdy box that also contains a program book with some “making of” info about the disc set, plus all the chapter stop descriptions (LDs had chapter stops, but no on-disc menu system), plus the hardback book “George Lucas: The Creative Impulse”.

According to that “making of” it was not made from a single print, but they used the best quality scenes from a variety of sources to create a new video transfer. To quote, “The result is a clean, consistent picture which is the closest possible to the original theatrical presentation.” THX techs also remastered the entire soundtrack, using the original sound elements from Skywalker Ranch facilities, under the supervision of two of the sound engineers from the original films.

AFAIK, that’s the closest to the original in a digital format that’s ever been made available.

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I cringed hard while watching this, because I’m right smack dab in the middle of this demographic. There should be a 12 step group for people like us.

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Thats what I have. Put it on layway at Suncoast for like $200-300 IIRC. I don’t even have a laser disc player.

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If anyone is wondering about checking out the Despecialized Editions, DO IT. You will not regret it. I have the most recent version of each and I always make sure to distribute them among friends around the holidays each year. Friends don’t let friends watch the special editions.

In case you’re wondering the DVD extra versions and even the old Laserdiscs don’t even come close to the experience of watching these things. They look great on your home theater system, they look great projected, they just look amazing…and they sound pretty incredible too. It’s like going back in time and then getting to see the first screening of the best prints in the best theater they ever played in.

Oh and please, let’s all stop spreading that silly rumor? Disney doesn’t even have the home video rights to the original trilogy right now. There’s nothing to substantiate these rumors at all. Fox has all three of those films, they will continue to have two of them for several more years, and they may have one of them forever. Chill out, download these wonderful fan projects, and enjoy.


I’ve got that set, I don’t let my kids watch the other version because I’m not a monster.

I guess the quality depends on what your basis for comparison is. I never watched the original trilogy in high def (at least, not since my dad took me to see Return of the Jedi) so in my mind I was comparing them to the old VHS copies I’d watched previously. By that standard the DVDs were pretty good. By modern blu-ray standards they probably suck.


There’s just one flaw in this reasoning: Disney doesn’t own the home video distribution rights; Newscorp does.

I’m told that Fox likes money too. Hopefully the two companies can put their differences aside and work together for the good of the money money money.


You can pick up a decent one for not much money on ebay, or, occasionally, goodwill or other thrift stores. I’ve got two, one of the top-loading 20-pound beasts that were the first ones released in the U.S., and a 1988 one that works OK except for a missing shuffle wheel.

It’s an interesting format, the picture quality’s right between DVD and VHS, I’d say.