I just watched these versions.
This is going to be controversial, but I think that you best get the feeling of the original movies by watching the pre-1993 movies. They were lifted directly off of finished prints, so the colors are right and there is grain where it should be. The sound and music and effects aren't mixed any differently unlike 1993. The picture is really, really sharp because the whole movie didn't undergo a smearing process (like 1993 versions).
I said pan-and-scan (obviously widescreen would be ideal) because the resolution of VHS/LD isn't great and you can actually watch the actor's performances and see this beautiful lighting and color up close.
The biggest difference I noticed besides the sound (which is actually mixed quite a bit different) is that there is a lot of contrast in the picture. There are shadows and areas of hard light. This "hard light", hard contrast look typical of movies back then was washed out of all of the newer versions, which look sanitized and wishy-washy.
To be fair, they do this with most remasterings of old movies too. But I love the sharp, high contrast, hard light look. And if you look at screenshots from theatrical prints of the originals, they will show you the same thing.
I don't know- I just got the feeling that I was watching the actual movie as it was, far stronger with these editions.
Excellent post---- and I understand 100% where you are coming from.
I actually get off watching the 1982 VHS original 1st release----it probably does not match the 1991/92 version for contrast ratio and colour balance(I do have the widescreen 1991/92 tapes----but so much image information is lost due to the presense of the black bars)
But all the imperfections------dirt,scratches,sprocket tears,bobbles,gate hairs(all part of the theatrical experience) of a release print are captured in these pre-THX VHS/laserdisc transfers.
Such a shame that VHS could not capture the dynamic range and latitude of film------ having said that ----- the quality of release prints would vary depending on the caliber of theater you saw the film in-----and also at what point you saw it:
The 1982 reissue had a trailer for the next film, which was initially titled Revenge of the Jedi. Now that was cool. I still remember the 18 frame segment of the never- used sandstorm scene. I saw this at the Bellevue Theater, in Upper Montclair. I also saw it at the old Jerry Lewis Cinema in Union. It was here that I noted that the print was pink. I couldn't believe a film of this recent vintage had already started to fade. This gave me my first hint at just how bad DeLuxe labs were. By the way, the Bellevue has been cut into a multi screen and the Jerry Lewis Cinema has been wiped off the face of the earth. Is there no respect left for the movie palaces of our youth?
The worst was Deluxe Color. They turn pink the quickest. I ran a three year old Deluxe print of "Star Wars" in 1980. There was very little color other than pink.