Dear Mr. Ward,
I recently found out that the “original” versions of the Star Wars Trilogy will be released on DVD on September 12th. My initial excitement was dashed, however, when I found out that the films will not be presented in the anamorphic format.
I’ve read the response that Lynne Hale has sent to those concerned about this issue, and I must admit, I’m a bit puzzled by it. She stated that “We want you to be aware that we have no plans – now or in the future – to restore the earlier versions”. Star Wars fans such as myself, never asked that the original movies be “restored” or “remastered” or even “cleaned”, for that matter. All we asked for, was a new anamorphic transfer of the films for DVD, which is not the same thing as a “restoration”.
Star Wars fans are among the most sophisticated film enthusiasts on earth, due in no small part to the very high standards that George Lucas himself set with his THX program. To present these films in a non-anamorphic format, which will not display properly on today’s 16:9 televisions, quite frankly, smacks of laziness. All films released on DVD in 2006, no matter how obscure, are presented in the 16:9 format, if that is how the movie was originally filmed. Why? Because most new television sets have a screen ratio of 16:9.
To say that “we could not put the extraordinary time and resources” into the DVD transfers of these films is insulting. Star Wars fans are some of the most loyal on the planet, and have purchased multiple releases of the Star Wars Trilogy over the years, spending hundreds of dollars - without complaint - all because we were just thrilled to have the latest and the best editions of our favorite films. To now present these films on DVD from the 1993 Laserdisc masters, is simply unacceptable. Are the "powers that be" even aware that there were problems with the 1993 Laserdisc masters that had to be corrected for the 1995 Laserdisc release? For instance, with Return Of The Jedi, there was a hair hanging in the gate during the first shot in the film, which was "fixed" by removing several top scan lines. Finally, the problem was correctly fixed by removing the hair and restoring the missing scan lines for the 1995 Laserdisc release. Which version should we expect to appear on DVD? The version with the hair? The version with the missing scan lines? Or the corrected 1995 version?
Ms. Hale also stated that “The negatives of the movies were permanently altered for the creation of the Special Editions, and existing prints of the first versions are in poor condition”. That is patently false. It is common knowledge that George Lucas himself owns a British Technicolor print of Star Wars, that is in pristine condition. As a matter of fact, it was used as color reference when the films were restored for the Special Editions in 1997. Also, I highly doubt that there are NO existing prints of original versions of The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi that would be suitable for a new DVD transfer.
I know that this is just one of many letters you will receive about this matter. I hope that all of these letters will convince you to reconsider this project, and release these films in the 16:9 anamorphic format, thus giving the films, and the fans, the respect they deserve.