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How many pre-SE versions exist?

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Before I started to read this forum more than a decade ago I thought that Star Wars has 3(4) versions - an “original” version which was called just “Star Wars”, an “original” version called Episode 4 A New Hope, the 1997 special edition and the 2004 DVD (I am talking about time long before the 2011 Blu-rays).

However during the years so many new discoveries were done by various members of this forum, who had access to let’s call it “unofficial versions”, but I can’t find anywhere some thread which would contain all the information in one spot, so I’m trying to start one 😃

So the main question I hope somebody here will be able to answer is HOW MANY versions of Star Wars exist? Right now I mean only the firsts movie.

1977 - 2 types of prints were released, 35mm prints with stereo audio and 70mm prints with 4.2 audio. I think that people who examined the 70mm recording claim that both the stereo and the 6 channel mix have the same content, just mixed differently, and that the 70mm version is just a “blow up” of the 35mm negatives, so if I understand it correctly, “content-wise” the 35mm versions and the 70mm versions should be exactly the same, correct?

However somebody (none? negative1 ?) posted here pictures of different composites of the leaving Yavin 4 scene, one version had clouds and the second one didn’t if I remember correctly, I can’t find the pictures anymore. Also the closing credits were different, I think that John Williams’s name was separated from the orchestra? Does anybody here know what’s the connection, in other words can we say that e.g. the version with the cloudy composites has the Williams name and the orchestra name separated? In yet another words, are these 2 versions or 4 versions or “x” versions?

1978 - the 16mm version was released with the unique mono mix. However the “visual content” was the same, right?

1981 - the movie was retitled to A New Hope and has a new crawl, plus if I remember correctly a new starfield in the opening shot.

1985 - new home video release with a new sound mix (‘The tractor beam’), but the video should be the same? Just cropped to 4:3, right?

1993 - new mix and horrible DVNR but the same visual content

1997 - the famous special edition

2004 - the DVD version

2011 - the Blu-ray version.

Is that all? I remember also the canyon sequence and binary sunset were artificially darkened for some versions, also the color grading was different for the sunset scene, but I have no clue in which versions which changes were done.
Also wasn’t there at least one (or more) differently edited 8mm releases?
And the final question - what are the best sources for all the pre-1985 versions?
Thanks

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You’ve pretty much got it as far as I know. Although I think the mono mix was on some 35mm prints, not just 16mm, and was also released in 1977, shortly after the film premiered on 70mm, to theaters that weren’t set up for stereo or surround. I believe the mono mix was also used for airings of the film on TV/HBO. And yes, the 1985 home video version was identical visually to the 1981 prints (and was also released as a widescreen laserdisc and later VHS, so not just pan & scan), and the audio was almost identical to the 1977 stereo mix with the exception of the 3PO line that was added in from the mono mix. I’m not sure about those different composites and credits you’re talking about, never heard about that. Someone else will have to chime in.

And yes there were a few 8mm home releases, but they were not the complete film. Just selected scenes.

As for sources for the pre-1985 versions, well it’s mostly film reels. The 1981 version was released on a few VHS tapes and laserdiscs (I think all fullscreen) with the original audio during the brief period after its release but before the new mix was put out in 1985. And since the 1985 and 1993 releases were the same except for the audio, this was the version seen on all home releases until the SE. But Star Wars exactly as it existed in 1977, with both the original crawl and audio mix, has never been seen on home video in any form or quality, sadly enough. The GOUT DVD that had the original crawl had the 1993 mix and the early VHS/LD releases with the 77 mix still had the ANH crawl.

So that just leaves film reels as the only pure sources for the original theatrical version. If you want to see it today, though, you can of course get the SSE (most authentic) or Despecialized (best quality) if you haven’t already. That’s clearly your best bet, sure beats hunting down old laserdidscs and VHS tapes, but you probably know that if you’re on this site.

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I tracked down several vintage HBO recordings in the past decade. It was a fold down of the stereo mix.

And the mono mix played theatrically. There were not a lot of theaters equipped for Dolby Stereo in 1977, and compatibility with mono gear was a technical issue not solved until much later. Nobody knew if Dolby would catch on, (other formats such as Sound 360 and Megasound have faded into obscurity) and Ben Burtt himself has said the mono mix was the one they took the most time on thinking it would be the definitive mix down the line.

The complete film was available on Super 8 in the UK and Europe in stereo.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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 (Edited)

SilverWook said:

I tracked down several vintage HBO recordings in the past decade. It was a fold down of the stereo mix.

Do you know what the source of the mono mix in Despecialized is then? I thought I recalled someone saying it was captured from OTA broadcasts, and I know I’ve read that the reason George considered the mono mix “final” is because that was the version intended to be played on TV, as well as in most theaters.

The complete film was available on Super 8 in the UK and Europe in stereo.

That’s very interesting, I did not know that. I thought all official/commercial 8mm releases were just snippets of the film, silent and black & white. Do you happen to have a source on this? Not that I don’t believe you, I’d just like to read more about it.

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Print variations in '77 Star Wars (msycamore) Yavin 4 discussion
http://originaltrilogy.com/topic/Print-variations-in-77-Star-Wars/id/14705
Credits & Leaders Thread
http://originaltrilogy.com/topic/Credits-and-Leaders-Thread/id/12960
Language variations to the opening crawl and credits would expand your list. German, French, Russian, etc.
http://fd.noneinc.com/Glitch/starwars-tantiveorangeerrors/starwars-tantiveorangeerrors.html
Is a feature which can be used to identify variations. The fact that prior to 1997 they appear in some version, are lessened in others and do not appear in another group, shows there could possibly have been different ‘masters’ for prints vs home media releases.

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Thanks none, unfortunately many if not most of the pics are gone already 😦 I want to prepare some video(s) comparing all the versions, so now at least I know which sources I should check

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SilverWook said:

IIRC, the mono Despecialized uses came from Jaxxon’s 16mm print, which also was the basis of Puggo Grande. There was a PAL tv recording of the mono known to exist prior to that.

No, it’s the PAL OTA version (Belbucus). I think hairy_hen tweaked the levels and maybe the fanfare, but other than that it’s vanilla.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)