George Lucas first realized the awful power of director’s cuts in 1977, while preparing a director’s cut of THX 1138 in the wake of Star Wars’ massive success.
He told Warner Brothers to destroy their prints of the 1971 theatrical version. They complied. Only later did Lucas realize that in doing so, Warner Bros. had destroyed all surviving prints of the 1971 version.
This was the impetus for the Star Wars Special Editions 20 years later. It was, in practice, a warning to future generations not to let that sort of cultural erasure happen, even if a work of art’s own creator gave it his blessing. A concrete illustration of the perils of the very thing he warned the US Congress about in 1988.
Lucas created Darth Sidious, after all; he’s perfectly capable of saying one thing and meaning another. “Reverse psychology,” in the words of Princess Yuki from The Hidden Fortress.
This intentional will toward hypocrisy informs many of the worst SE changes. It explains why Lucas added the Emperor’s scream to Luke’s fall in ESB in 1997 and then removed it. It explains why he put Anakin’s much-maligned NOOOOO in one of the most powerful scenes of ROTJ. It explains why he added CGI to a TV airing of Raiders of the Lost Ark to replace a shot that he himself originally approved.
And of course, like Darth Sidious, Lucas also masterminded both sides of the debate.
SaveStarWars.com and The Secret History of Star Wars, allegedly created by “Michael Kaminski,” are actually the offspring of George Lucas.
His alter ego is named for Steven Spielberg’s longtime cameraman, Janusz Kaminski, and the British heraldic order of St. Michael & St. George.
And what’s behind the screen name zombie? A dead man, reanimated: the George Lucas of the 1970s.
It is, indeed, a very clever chess game.
“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”