May 1982 to September 2011
After only a very short life, the version of the original Star Wars film that most people grew up with outside of theatres and cinemas - is no more. This is a brief breakdown of the rise and fall of this very important format from a US/UK point of view.
With the release of the Blu Ray version of Star Wars, the DVD versions have been gradually leaving the shelves and we are told that they are no longer being made. One of those DVD versions that was available in the US is the Fullscreen/Pan and Scan - but sadly no more....
From the original release in May 1977 to the first version that we could actually play in our own homes in 1982 was a very long 5 years. All of these releases were Fullscreen/Pan and Scan and no other version was available. The US NTSC LaserDisc and CED discs were time compressed to under two hours to meet the constraints of the formats, the UK VHS releases ran 4% faster so were a few minutes shorter so the US NTSC VHS/Betamax tapes were the nearest way to get the theatrical Star Wars experience. This was supposed to be a rental only release but $120 bought you your own copy!!
Other VHS/Betamax releases followed as did a re-release of the original LaserDisc but nothing really changed until the second brand new LaserDisc was released in 1985 which was not time compressed. Later that year, a brand new audio mix was released with "Digitally Mastered" Sound was made available on the 1985 VHS release as well as subsequent US and US VHS releases.
This new audio mix came out at a turning point for the Fullscreen/Pan and Scan format. In 1986 and 1989, Japan and then the US got their Widescreen releases and put the first nail in the Fullscreen/Pan and Scan coffin. In 1989 there was one final LaserDisc release with the new audio but this was back to the time compressed format of the first release.
1993 saw yet another (THX) re-master of video and sound released on Widescreen LaserDisc but we had to wait a year in the UK and another year in the US for a Fullscreen/Pan and Scan VHS only release. This was the famous "One last time......." release. We all thought that was the last time we would ever see Star Wars and we were proven to be half right as this was the last time we could buy and own the film in its "original" form.
In 1997, the 20th Anniversary year of Star Wars, the films were treated to a clean up, another re-mastering, the inclusion of deleted scenes and lots of CGI graphics. These were released in Fullscreen/Pan and Scan as VHS only, later that year and re-released in 2000 for one final time for the VHS format.
For the UK, Fullscreen/Pan and Scan died with that release but when the rest of the world finally got Widescreen DVD's in 2004 - albeit even more modified - the US also got Fullscreen/Pan and Scan versions. The 2006 release with a "Bonus" 1993 widescreen version disc was the final Fullscreen/Pan and Scan released and it is this version that has recently stopped production.
As we all know, Star Wars has never stayed the same and has been changing from Day One. Three different audio mixes were available in 1977 and Episode IV - A New Hope was added in 1981. Consequently, the home releases were no different and there are differences in the numerous avalable releases. Even as far back as 1982 with the first LaserDisc and VHS/Betamax releases there were different FOX logo's as well as versions of the same scenes. A few differences are shown below...
1982 LaserDisc FOX logo
1982 US VHS FOX logo
1982 LaserDisc crawl
1982 UK VHS crawl
1982 US VHS first scene
1982 UK VHS first scene
1995 US Faces VHS first scene
1982 LaserDisc Bantha-macrobinocular scene
1982 US VHS Bantha-macrobinocular scene
1982 LaserDisc missing stormtrooper
1995 US Faces VHS with stormtrooper
1982 LaserDisc entering the Death Star
1982 US VHS entering the Death Star
1995 US Faces VHS entering the Death Star
1982 UK VHS final scene
1995 US Faces VHS final scene
1995 UK THX VHS final scene (yes this is from the Fullscreen tape!!)
My suggestion is make sure that your LaserDisc and VHS players still work OK. Also, get the DVD's while you can before they start demanding silly prices on certain auction sites. My (2006) copy is on the way so my collection of this one film is complete.
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