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1997 Special Edition Musings

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How many of you actually saw the SE in theaters 12 years ago? Thoughts/Memories?

What do you think of the color scheme introduced by the YCM Labratories restoration? Does anyone have details of what exactly was done?

I'm one of the few that really enjoys this version. I prefer the originals by all means, but have a certain nostalgia for the SE mainly because I saw it first.

Also, I've grown tired of having to watch it on fading VHS with the lovely 5.1 track downmixed to 2.0 surround.

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford

My review blog: thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com

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captainsolo said:

I prefer the originals by all means, but have a certain nostalgia for the SE mainly because I saw it first.

*faints*

Nah, just kidding.  Not your fault you saw the SE first.  My biggest memories of seeing the SE in the theaters was waiting for hours in line on opening night for ANH (first and only time I've done that) and falling asleep during Jedi (I blame work).

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I saw the SE's in the theatre when they came out.  I was only 12, and I thought they were really great at the time.  I had seen the original trilogy on vhs many times before that, and was already very familiar with the films, so the changes were kind of startling, but they didn't bother me.  I had no conception that they were ever meant to replace the originals--they were an interesting alternate, which for a while I actually preferred.

I didn't sour on the SE's until the '04 dvd's came out.  Having a fairly keen ear for sound, and a good memory of the various nuances of the soundtracks, everything about the terrible ANH remix grated on me, and I don't just mean the obvious things like missing music.  There's something "off" about the whole thing, which is hard to describe but definitely there.  Much of the movie sounds as if it's been EQ'd towards the low end, giving it a muffled and distorted sound--you can especially hear this in the opening Star Destroyer flyby and the first stormtrooper shootout.  Most of the Star Destroyer bass is supposed to be a 40 hz effect, but the '04 plays that down and emphasises a 60 hz tone in the mains to an unreasonable degree, while the strong higher frequencies that characterise the '97 mix in particular are practically unheard.  Add that to missing laser blast sounds, background effects mixed far too loud, sometimes to the point of overpowering things that should be more prominently heard, wildly fluctuating quality of dialogue (announcements on the Death Star intercom actually being too clear, while people speaking onscreen are muffled), weird extra hissing and static added to the lightsaber duel, the music in general being too quiet--the result is an abomination, one that is practically unlistenable.

This actually bugs me far more than any of the picture defects, although the underexposure, crushed blacks, oversaturation, hideous blue cast, and wrong lightsaber colours make it look terrible as well.  The '04 mixes of Empire and Jedi don't have these problems--they sound completely fine, except for the terrible redubbing of Boba Fett, and a few other little things.  Some explosions are pumped up in volume, but not in a bad way.

Going back to the '97 SE versions instead of the '04, particularly for the first film, I find I can just watch it without getting too upset.  Sure, I don't like the cgi inserts, Greedo should never shoot, and Luke should never scream as he falls (thank goodness they had the sense to later remove that!), but I'm tired of being upset about them, I guess.  They're there, whatever.  The original versions of the films are infinitely better, and I nearly always choose to watch them.  But I can see the '97 once in a while and enjoy that, too.  It has a very good sound mix that, while different, still sounds like the original for the most part.  No idea why the dvd version is so butchered in comparison.

Aside from that one time in the theatres, I've never heard the '97 mixes in 5.1, only on stereo vhs.  I didn't know anything about the technical aspects of sound then, surround or dynamics or LFE or any of those things, so I don't remember how the presentation would have differed from the stereo.  I would dearly love to have the 5.1 versions, but since I never owned a laserdisc player, there has never been a chance of that.  Darth Editous has mentioned that he's thinking about transferring them from the laserdiscs at some point (the first one at least), which would be very cool.

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I saw them in the cinema, I would have been 7 when I saw them, I was already an insanely big SW fan from the OT on VHS, but I don't really remember how I thought they compared at the time. It was more seeing SW on the big screen that was awesome.

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I actually enjoyed the SE in the theaters.  I was a bit disappointed that some of the matte lines weren't fixed, etc.  But it was fun.  The best part was going and seeing Star Wars with a gaggle of friends.

Of course, we all viewed the SE's as novelty items that were a fun new take on the movies.  We didn't think the SE's had become the official version.  Now I feel guilty for having the SE's.

Thinking back on it though, the SE's still weren't as fun as seeing them for the first time in the theaters in '77, '80 and '83.

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hairy_hen said:

I saw the SE's in the theatre when they came out.  I was only 12, and I thought they were really great at the time.  I had seen the original trilogy on vhs many times before that, and was already very familiar with the films, so the changes were kind of startling, but they didn't bother me.  I had no conception that they were ever meant to replace the originals--they were an interesting alternate, which for a while I actually preferred.

My story about the SE is similar, though I was 13.  I liked the idea and didn't mind any of the changes except Luke's pansy scream and Greedo if I really thought about it.  What's funny is I spent most of the time admiring the edges of the screen since it was my first time seeing it letterboxed!  For a while I even considered the SEs a worthy replacement for the originals (if you see my Faces boxed VHS set, say "hi" for me).  Time and this board pointed out that the were going to be a total replacement, and a shoddy one at that thanks to the DVDs.

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 (Edited)

The YCM color scheme is actually very accuate to the original prints. Lucas wanted the colors to look exactly as they had in 1977, but all the prints had faded--except the Technicolor prints. Technicolor is dye-transfer, not photo-chemical. Since Technicolor prints are hard to find in good condition (I believe they were only made in 1977), Lucas leant them his own personal 1977 Technicolor dye-transfer print, which looked the same as it had when he put it in storage twenty years earlier, saying he wanted the film to look like that. Consequently, the YCM timers used this as their reference. So the 1997 SE, barring deliberate changes in some instances (notably the R2-D2 canyon scene), is the best guide to the color scheme of the original film.

Unfortunately for us, however, it is largely lost--when the 1997 SE was put on home video it got a weird pink tint in the telecine. So if you saw it in theatres you had a faithful reproduction of the original prints, but everyone that saw it on video, in 1997 and 2000--meaning every release that wasn't the theatrical 1997 release--has seen something more useless than any other release as far as color reference goes. When Lucas put the films out on DVD, well, you know what happened with the colors there, and its unlikely that the 1997SE will ever be officially released ever again, and prints from it have all been recalled from circulation (and supposedly destroyed--this, unfortunately, may not be exaggeration, although they probably held on to some of the masters), so all that color restoration is effectively lost for all time.

The only rescue mission I can think of is if someone can get a print from the black market, which is not completely out of the question, but highly unlikely; if LFL in the future maybe puts it out as a bonus feature like the GOUT I would believe that, maybe, but if this is the case they are likely to either just use branching technology (i.e. 95% of the film will be the 2004SE color scheme) or have the individual alternate scene to view as a novelty, or simply port the video master used for the 1997 Laserdisk like they did with the GOUT, which would still have all the pink tint color issues, in either case not really doing much for us.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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Sluggo said:

The best part was going and seeing Star Wars with a gaggle of friends.

...in the same theater where we'd first seen it as kids.

However, in practice you must take into account the “fuckwit factor”. Just talk to Darth Mallwalker…
-Moth3r

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zombie84 said:

The YCM color scheme is actually very accuate to the original prints. Lucas wanted the colors to look exactly as they had in 1977, but all the prints had faded--except the Technicolor prints. Technicolor is dye-transfer, not photo-chemical. Since Technicolor prints are hard to find in good condition (I believe they were only made in 1977), Lucas leant them his own personal 1977 Technicolor dye-transfer print, which looked the same as it had when he put it in storage twenty years earlier, saying he wanted the film to look like that. Consequently, the YCM timers used this as their reference. So the 1997 SE, barring deliberate changes in some instances (notably the R2-D2 canyon scene), is the best guide to the color scheme of the original film.

Unfortunately for us, however, it is largely lost--when the 1997 SE was put on home video it got a weird pink tint in the telecine. So if you saw it in theatres you had a faithful reproduction of the original prints, but everyone that saw it on video, in 1997 and 2000--meaning every release that wasn't the theatrical 1997 release--has seen something more useless than any other release as far as color reference goes. When Lucas put the films out on DVD, well, you know what happened with the colors there, and its unlikely that the 1997SE will ever be officially released ever again, and prints from it have all been recalled from circulation (and supposedly destroyed--this, unfortunately, may not be exaggeration, although they probably held on to some of the masters), so all that color restoration is effectively lost for all time.

The only rescue mission I can think of is if someone can get a print from the black market, which is not completely out of the question, but highly unlikely; if LFL in the future maybe puts it out as a bonus feature like the GOUT I would believe that, maybe, but if this is the case they are likely to either just use branching technology (i.e. 95% of the film will be the 2004SE color scheme) or have the individual alternate scene to view as a novelty, or simply port the video master used for the 1997 Laserdisk like they did with the GOUT, which would still have all the pink tint color issues, in either case not really doing much for us.

This is the kind stuff I have been trying to find out for years. I remember the film as being really vibrant in the theater, but the VHS leaves much to be desired. The idea is there, but the colors look off especially with that darn pink tint. There are some who claim that the original 70mm blowups of the OT looked great in the early 90's and that the 97SE paled in comparison. Any ideas?

There have got to be prints of the 97SE laying around in storage-it was a mass rerelease, and I just can't see them all being destroyed. Would it be that hard to track some of them down? What I wouldn't give for the trilogy in 35mm prints from 97. Again its a Blade Runner type situation. The 97SE compares to the 1992 Director's Cut of BR. Thus when the eventual boxset isreleased all Fox/Lucasfilm has to do is go back to the 97 print and correctly master it. WB did that for BR along with the theatrical cut, international cut, and even the friggin workprint!

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford

My review blog: thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com

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The SE were my first foray into Star Wars. I enjoyed ANH and ROTJ in theaters and became a huge Star Wars fan because of them. They taught me about sequels and trilogies. The funny thing was when I got a VHS set of the films shortly after, I was surprised that the Jabba scene wasn't on it. That was when I learned they got changed. I can't remember anything else about it  since, as I said, it was my first SW exposure (I was 9), except maybe a clip or two from Muppet Babies.

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In response to this thread, I am making a detailed article on the matter. Expect to see the completed piece in a few days. While I'm here, does anyone know any magazine sources that covered the restoration of the film? I know American Cinematographer did, but I thought I remembered Sound and Vision or Home Theatre Magazine, or something along those lines had a piece on the technical terms of the 1997 restoration.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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Steve Hoffman, famous mixing engineer, was lucky enough to see a privately-owned 70mm print of the original Star Wars last year.  His comments suggest that this version is the best the film has ever looked or sounded.  http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/archive/index.php/t-141011.html

Here are some 70mm film scans--they'll give an idea of what he might have seen.  Some are degraded but most look pretty good.  Note the natural colour scheme and great image detail (and lack of horrid blue-cast).  http://www.jedi1.net/default.aspx

Interestingly, Hoffman says that the picture quality of the '97 version wasn't nearly as good as what he saw, and that the audio, too, is inferior.  Having now heard the 5.1 mix of the '97 ANH, I can confirm that it does not have as much dynamic range or as good of sound quality as the 1993 mix, which is largely derived from the 70mm soundtrack.  This has nothing to do with the fidelity limitations of 384 kbps AC3 versus uncompressed PCM; it is due to the quality of the elements used.  The '97 version has noise/hissing during dialogue, particularly noticeable in the beginning of the movie, though it clears up later on.  I suppose its less dynamic nature is probably due to concerns about the quality of the sound elements if turned up too loud.  Given that, I can understand why they wanted to remix the movie for the '04 dvd . . . but they completely botched the opportunity to make a really good-sounding version.  I'd far rather listen to the slightly degraded but still mostly authentic-sounding 1997 version than the muffled, distorted, flat-out wrong 2004 mix.

Note that while it is less dynamic than the 70mm version, the SE mix still has higher peaks than the 35mm mix.  The LFE channel is used rather conservatively, only coming on strong in a few places, some of which coincide with alterations to the special effects.  By contrast the '04 version has very strong LFE in several scenes, though some instances of 1993 bass are not present in either.

The sound elements of Empire and Jedi were in better shape, and the dvd versions are largely unchanged from their '97 incarnations except for specific things here and there.

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Zombie, another fine article, as always. Thanks!

You know of the rebellion against the Empire?

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That was great.  I had been looking forward to reading that for several days now.  Thanks!

There is no lingerie in space...

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don't exist... then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks... and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming... Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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That was a good read.  I also liked your piece on the idea of putting a stop motion Jabba into Star Wars over Declan Mulholland.  The idea that Lucas was contemplating a Special Edition of sorts for his 1981 re-release of Star Wars with the re-worked Jabba is a bit chilling.

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Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.  I'd never heard that before!  Thanks for enlightening me.

There is no lingerie in space...

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don't exist... then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks... and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming... Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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I could not wait to see them as I had missed out on the originals in the cinemas here. I really wanted to experience the Star Destroyer flying over the audience in the beginning of New Hope.  My dad used to go on about that.  I watched the SE version of episode IV with him which was a nice experience.

I was helluva disappointed by the freakish Jabba in IV and Greedo shooting first...I was perplexed by some of the changes, like the Sarlacc tongue. Funny, if I think what I hated the most about the SE, it would be the Sarlacc tongue. Made the Sarlacc less of a bloated dirty giant parasite and more into a generic alien. Well to me anyway.

I remember being surprised that they could not edit out Lukes hand injury from being there before he actually gets shot.

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I remember being totally blown away by the scope of STAR WARS on the big screen. But even at that age (12) all it really did was make me long to see the original originals on the big screen. Something still to this day I have never been able to do.

"The only decision made here today was one of cowardice. They’ve placed the burden of this war on the shoulders of one man and thus appointed a dictator. No honest man pines for supreme authority. All good men know of their own fallibility." -what Mace Windu should have said in Episode II-

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Stampede said:

I was helluva disappointed by the freakish Jabba in IV and Greedo shooting first...I was perplexed by some of the changes, like the Sarlacc tongue. Funny, if I think what I hated the most about the SE, it would be the Sarlacc tongue. Made the Sarlacc less of a bloated dirty giant parasite and more into a generic alien. Well to me anyway.

 

Yeah, that Sarlaac change is messed up.  I see the reason for the change: A big hole in the ground isn't very menacing.  Still.. is a beak the answer?  It just didn't work for me.

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Sluggo said:

Stampede said:

I was helluva disappointed by the freakish Jabba in IV and Greedo shooting first...I was perplexed by some of the changes, like the Sarlacc tongue. Funny, if I think what I hated the most about the SE, it would be the Sarlacc tongue. Made the Sarlacc less of a bloated dirty giant parasite and more into a generic alien. Well to me anyway.

 

Yeah, that Sarlaac change is messed up.  I see the reason for the change: A big hole in the ground isn't very menacing.  Still.. is a beak the answer?  It just didn't work for me.

 

I see your point but the reasons I found it menacing or freakish to me is that it looked like some kind of giant sore on the face of the desert, a disgusting flesh covered hole lined with teeth. I mean, the look on Lukes face when he stares down at it, you could just imagine the smell of rot and death the probably wafted out of it. Plus the mystery regarding what it would look like if it was unearthed. I got the impression that it was fat and bloated under the sand from all the people Jabba had thrown to it, not to mention any unfortunate banthas or travellers that may have discovered this ant lion from hell.

The beak just ruined all of that for me...added too much of a sympathetic animal factor to it. 

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I have never been able to make my mind up on the beak change. The tentacles seem more realistic and menacing, but the beak does seem to be a bit much.

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford

My review blog: thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com

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 (Edited)

Indeed, I would have had no problem with just extra tentacles. Tentacles are freaky, just look at octupi, squid, jellyfish, cthulhu...etc.

Granted squids and such have beaks, but they always had them, I grew up with them, God did not add them later with shoddy CGI.

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I wasn't a huge Star Wars fan back then.  Mostly I was just interested in seeing ANH for the CG Jabba and the upgraded Death Star dogfight.  ANH was my fave of the three and I figured I could check the other ones out on video.

Overall, not bad.  I mostly geeked out over seeing ANH in a theater as opposed to TV.  Felt like I got my money's worth at the time but as the years wore on, reality sorta had to set in a little bit.  "CG Jabba looks like crap, Luke isn't supposed to scream as he falls down the pit on Bespin, do we really need to see Coruscant's celebrations" and so forth.

Of course, the SE was only the tip of the iceberg of crappy movies that would unspool that summer...

All I really want is each film as it was originally seen and heard in theaters; no fixes, corrections, "improvements" or modifications necessary.