Of the many controversies involving Star Wars, George Lucas‘ dead-set refusal to release the un-specialized editions of the original trilogy probably doesn’t even crack the top 10, but for the dozens of film purists out there, it’s definitely been the bee in the bonnet of the bee in the their bonnet. They’re doubly annoyed, you see. So imagine our surprise when a group of fans found an original 35mm film print of Star Wars from 1977, and sank their own time and money into cleaning it up. And then they posted it online for fans of the untainted original version of the film to enjoy.
Now this is not the first time that something like this has appeared. There was the fan-made “Despecialized Edition” in which an editor painstaking re-edited the original trilogy to create hi-def versions of the first three Star Wars films without all the special edition changes. Lucasfilm itself released the non-special edition version of the trilogy over a decade ago on DVD, but it was the transfer from the original Laserdisc release, a non-high-def, and non-anamorphic widescreen version, which is hardly the best screen condition for maximum technical enjoyment of a movie like Star Wars.
That brings us to this new effort. The team, who call themselves Team Negative 1, posted what they’ve labelled as the “Silver Screen Theatrical Version” on a message board last month, and it’s been quietly making the rounds for the last couple of weeks. No, it’s not legal, but a lot of people have been asking for this for years. This is Han shooting first, no superfluous Jabba cameo, and heck, it’s not even called “Episode IV – A New Hope.”
So why not release the original version of the original trilogy. According to Lucas:
“The special edition, that’s the one I wanted out there. The other movie, it’s on VHS, if anybody wants it. … I’m not going to spend the, we’re talking millions of dollars here, the money and the time to refurbish that, because to me, it doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I’m sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it to be. I’m the one who has to take responsibility for it. I’m the one who has to have everybody throw rocks at me all the time, so at least if they’re going to throw rocks at me, they’re going to throw rocks at me for something I love rather than something I think is not very good, or at least something I think is not finished.”
Many have wondered since Star Wars was bought by Disney if the House of Mouse might see the light, and release the original version, but there’s some question over how much money is to be made catering to the originalist market, so this may be as close as we get to ever having Star Wars as it was originally seen.
Below are videos that look at the painstaking process that Team Negative 1 undertook in order to restore the print, as well as a video that compares the TN1 print to the Blu-ray version of Star Wars now available. To learn more, you can also read can interview with Team Negative 1 over at TheStarWarsTrilogy.com.