Star Wars theatrical release on DVD

11th July 2009 – 2.40 pm

Blue Harvest, the Star Wars parody episode of Family Guy was on TV recently and, having enjoyed it so much before, I feel compelled to watch it. Once again it is a brilliant and humorous reminder of how great the original Star Wars film is, such is the warmth and reverence Family Guy shows it along with all the of fabulous light-hearted comedy injected in to the episode. Seeing the programme makes me want to watch the original films again, but I have lent my Star Wars DVDs to my young nephew. They are also the updated and tweaked films, revised by Lucas with his ham-fisted approach to CGI, and I wince at many of the terrible changes.

I have known for a while that the theatrical releases of the Star Wars films have been available on DVD, ostensibly included as an 'extra' in special releases of the revised films. Essentially, you cannot buy the theatrical releases without getting Lucas's supposed vision of what Star Wars should be. As I understand it, these theatrical versions are just a repackaged release of the laserdisc version, with no updates to the video or audio and so I rejected them as worth buying. But getting the itch to watch Star Wars again I know that what I want is to watch what I remember as Star Wars, not a bastardised version, so I get on-line and order the theatrical release DVDs.

I think I should offer a couple of quick disclaimers. I don't much care that I am giving Lucas more money, it's not like he can use his fortune to massively change the original films or create a new trilogy to massage his ego, as he's done both of those already. I also doubt my additional twenty quid is the push he requires to make a Yoda spin-off series, as he can do anything he wants anyway. And I am not trying to influence anyone in to thinking that the prequel trilogy or revised versions of the films have ruined my childhood or the memory of Star Wars. I am sure many children and adults enjoy the new versions and films and that's great. Personally, it's not for me, and that's the only reason I am interested in the theatrical releases.

When I pop the Star Wars DVD in the player I get the familiar thrill of the John Williams theme and scrolling text, soon replaced by the freighter being attacked by an imposing Star Destroyer, and I am thrown from space to Tatooine with the droids. I am once again utterly enthralled by the space opera, loving the interplay between Threepio and Artoo, Tarkin and Vader, the introduction of the characters and the wonders of interplanetary space travel. Even better, I am not distracted by moments that I don't remember, no silly slapstick action in the background, no gratuitous CGI shots of creatures' saliva-flecked mouths filling the screen, no unnecessary additional scenes of foreshadowing later films. I am merely treated to one of the most memorable and exciting films I saw when growing up.

All I heard about the quality of the transfer is true. The video is terribly grainy and, as it is not an anamorphic transfer, stretching the picture to fill my screen cuts off half the subtitles for alien creatures. The audio is a basic stereo mix. But the quality is in the story and action, not the transfer, and although the grainy video can be distracting in quiet moments it is quickly forgiven for the film being thoroughly enjoyable. Everything is as I remember it and I am never distracted by stupid background action of no value or being asked to appreciate CGI for the sake of it being CGI.

At least, everything is as I want to remember it. I have been conditioned, as have many others, by the revised version of Han shooting Greedo and the chant that 'Han shoots first!' that my memory of the original scene was not as I recalled it at all. To say that I remember Han shooting first is to propagate the misunderstanding, as there is no 'first' when Greedo doesn't even shoot. Han shoots Greedo, that there can be any embellishment to that simple statement shows just how misguided Lucas was to change that scene.

I watch all three films with increasing glee. Despite the obvious decline in quality that comes with Return of the Jedi I find my memories are returning to their proper state, the questions and uncertainties insidiously inserted in to my consciousness by the various revisions can now be removed, the films reverted to the original editions. I don't mind that there are revised versions of the films or that people enjoy them, I am merely happy that the theatrical versions are still available to be enjoyed if that's how people want to watch them. And despite the poor quality of the transfer I urge anyone who remembers and loves the original films to buy these DVDs, because the joy of watching the Star Wars films as they were once shown in the cinema is thoroughly worth it.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.