‘The unaltered theatrical version of the Original Trilogy’… the few words that can send certain Star Wars fans into an angry tizz… often triggering some quite uninformed, somewhat ignorant, and wholly incorrect claims and statements over the years. Especially when there is talk about wanting to have the option to buy a high quality, official release, on a modern digital format.
A number of fans who do seemingly get quite angry, defensive, and hostile… are no doubt big proponents of the various Special Editions - which represent ‘George’s vision(s)’ - all four of these continuing visions, since 1997, and believe these are the only versions that should only be available? Perhaps seeing themselves as somehow defending George, and his latest vision(s)?
Sometimes, comments from certain fans are ostensibly said with malice, likely in an attempt to troll. Perhaps parroting others’ past comments in a bid to appear ‘knowledgeable’ - or maybe attempting to be ‘contrarian’… for the attention. Plus, there are some fans with a cultish pro-George / ‘George can do no wrong’ attitude, who struggle to believe, accept, or even question Lucas’ contradictory statements or erroneous claims - or even when caught out attempting to retcon and suppress Star Wars history.
Also, many of the somewhat uninformed & ill-judged claims made by certain fans could also genuinely be borne out of some confusion… likely due to George and Lucasfilm’s somewhat disingenuous statements over the years… and possibly also Lucasfilm not publicly commenting or responding to fan queries as to the availability of the unaltered classic cuts since 2006!
Below are just some of the comments often seen when the topic of the classic cuts of the Original Trilogy is mentioned online…
Along with these claims & statements are some hopefully concise, informative, and reasoned replies. Click on ‘Expand’ to see them. 👍
A dozen or so of the ‘Naysayer’s FAQ-style Guide’ for the oft-repeated claims, statements & comments (in no particular order)…
1: “The unaltered theatrical version of the Original Trilogy is on VHS, laserdisc, and DVD. Why are you complaining?”
We’re not complaining - we are simply asking for an official, high quality, modern release of these much-loved award-winning, iconic, and ground breaking films to be able to be viewed, experienced and enjoyed as they originally were… the films that underpin the entire Galaxy Far, Far Away.
2: “Duh! There was already a release of the unaltered theatrical version in 2006 on DVD!”
We know. We are responsible for that unaltered classic cut on DVD release happening - along with other fans campaigning for such a release at the time too.
To date, it is the only time the unaltered classic cuts have appeared on a digital home format, albeit in SD, and is riddled with DNR problems and other quality issues such as overly high levels of grain, gate weave (aka frame jitter), aliasing (aka jaggies), and also a 1993 sound mix - in compressed sound quality…
To say nothing of Lucasfilm choosing a master source meant for a 1993 laserdisc transfer, in an obsolete letterbox format (even for 2006), and Lucasfilm then trying to pass off the… “1993 laserdisc masters represented the best source for providing the original versions as DVD bonus material”… a claim we all know to be very far from being anywhere near true.
Even Lucasfilm VP Jim Ward is on record as stating… “It is state of the art, as of 1993, and that’s not as good as state of the art 2006.” - and that ignores the many issues with the actual quality of DVD itself, as chronicled in the following article…
More information on 2006 GOUT DVD ‘bonus disc’ release can be found in this insightful and informative article on here:-
Got GOUT? The 2006 Original Version DVD Bonus Feature Fiasco - at the ‘Saving Star Wars’ website.
3. “The negatives were permanently altered for the 1997 Special Edition - there can’t be an unaltered version release now!”
Yes, we are aware of the Lucasfilm Press Release from 2006 claiming just this. However, whilst the original negatives may be currently configured to the 1997 Special Edition cut… it completely ignores the fact that many other high quality sources still exist in their original ‘unaltered theatrical’ form… sources such as 3-color separation masters, interpositives, IB Technicolor prints, some great 70mm prints, other 2nd generation and 3rd generation back-ups and quality prints… available at, and to, Lucasfilm.
If fan-made Original Trilogy preservation projects, such TN1’s 4Kxx quality endeavours, using the limited 35mm prints available to them… can look as good and as detailed they do - even surpassing the quality of Lucasfilm’s previous releases… then surely Lucasfilm themselves are undoubtedly capable of producing their own high quality release of the unaltered theatrical versions for the Original Trilogy.
More information on this subject can be found across these articles, here:-
Disney+ Should Offer the Star Wars Original Cuts — All of Them - an article at the ‘Wired’ website.
What We Want And How To Make It - an article at the ‘Star Wars Visual Comparisons’ website.
Got GOUT? The 2006 Original Version DVD Bonus Feature Fiasco - an article at the ‘Saving Star Wars’ website.
From Interpositives to Separation Masters: How Film Preservation Works - an in-depth article at the ‘Saving Star Wars’ website.
4: “There are Harmy Despecialized Editions and TN1’s 4KXX fan versions - I have those and am happy with them!”
We know - we’re the same community that these quality projects originated from (and many more fan endeavours besides). 😃
We’re very happy with them too! Still, as amazing as these preservation projects are - and they are truly amazing… not everyone is aware of them. Nor is everyone computer-savvy enough to get a hold of them. Online fans do make a up hefty percentage of Star Wars fandom - but we are by no means in the majority… both older and younger fans, people not online much, and indeed people who are online - yet simply aren’t aware of the existence or availability of these fan preservations… would all benefit from having an official version to be able to simply buy.
An official high quality release - whether on the store shelf, available to order online, or even to buy and experience on the Disney+ streaming service, should be readily available and accessible to everyone.
5. “George signed a deal with Disney when he sold Lucasfilm - so Disney can never release the unaltered theatrical cuts!”
There is no evidence to support this oft-spouted fan theory, rumour, conjecture, or for some fans… wishful thinking.
There is evidence to support no such supposed ‘deal’ actually existing. In fact there is a blanket straight-out denial of this - from the President of Lucasfilm themselves:-
‘Kennedy confirmed there is no actual agreement to keep the trilogy in its current form but when probed further about whether or not Lucas’ final cut of the original trilogy would be altered over time Kennedy assured that is something that will not happen’
^ an - article at the ‘Heroic Hollywood’ website.
Also, from the ‘Steele Wars Podcast’ interview with Kathleen Kennedy, conducted in a media line event for ‘The Last Jedi’ at Celebration 2017:-
Interviewer: “A lot has been said about the pass over to Disney, but Star Wars is film of changes… it has evolved over time. Uh, is there like, a contractual or a handshake agreement that the films are locked in their current form?”.
Kathleen Kennedy: “No, there is no-one actually locking us into anything. In fact, the beauty of this relationship with The Walt Disney Company is they have been absolutely fantastic at standing back and pretty much letting us do what we want.”
^ the above interview with Kathleen Kennedy can also be found on the ‘Steele Wars’ YouTube channel - (at 2 minutes 50 seconds).
6: “The unaltered theatrical cuts are NOT George’s vision! You guys are so entitled - George doesn’t owe you anything!”
Wanting such a release of the unaltered classic cuts is not about the ‘theatrical cut vs the various special editions’ or which is ‘the best’, ‘preferred’, ‘canon’, or ‘definitive’, or George’s continuing vision(s) - we are currently on George’s fifth vision. It is simply about giving the fans the opportunity to own and view any & all of the differing versions of the Original Trilogy - whilst also affording landmark film history to be once again enjoyed and experienced by everyone.
Plus, the way many of us see it… an artist shouldn’t be able to change what the audience remembers. We don’t think an artist has the right to arbitrarily change the experience of the film from what people saw. Once it is released to the audience, it belongs with the audience. To interpret and to remember.
Given the unaltered classic cuts were the only version of the Star Wars Trilogy available for some twenty years, we believe there should be a high quality version of these cuts available on a modern digital format, for the countless number of fans who would very much like to own and experience such a product once again… as they remember it. And also share with new and younger fans who may not be familiar this version of the films.
Not forgetting that it is this unaltered version of the Original Trilogy which underpins all of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Many of us also believe there should be a high quality, modern digital version, of the 1997 Special Edition available too - as this is the incarnation of the Original Trilogy many fans saw on the big screen for the first time, and also has its own place in Star Wars history. Something they too should be able to remember and experience once again - and something which was never released on DVD, or in HD, for home release.
7: “They are George’s films - and he can do with them what he wants!”
We disagree with this opinion - as does George Lucas himself…
^ George Lucas (in 2004): “Seriously, that’s why I’m a member of the Film Foundation (filmmakers for film preservation). A director should be able to change his films - but nobody else.”
At the time of above conversation George Lucas had already made changes to directors Irvin Kershner’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’, and Richard Marquand’s ‘Return Of The Jedi’ - and would also make go on to make further additional changes to both films.
Neither The Empire Strikes Back or Return Of The Jedi are available as their respective directors intended, or indeed made, on a modern and quality digital format.
As said previously (in Category No. 6)… The way we see it, an artist shouldn’t be able to change what the audience remembers. We don’t think an artist has the right to arbitrarily change the experience of the film from what people saw. Once it is released to the audience, it belongs with the audiences. To interpret and to remember.
Given the unaltered classic cuts were the only version of the Star Wars Trilogy available for some twenty years, we believe there should be a high quality version of these cuts available on a modern digital format, for the countless number of fans who would very much like to own and experience such a product once again, as they remember it. And also share with new and younger fans who may not be familiar this version of the films.
8: “I respect George - and he doesn’t want anyone to see these unaltered versions anymore - so you guys are wrong!”
We respect George too. After all, he is the visionary creator of the Star Wars universe.
However, when George says this…
^ from How the Grinch Stole Star Wars - an article on the ‘Save Star Wars’ website.
George Lucas: “…What ends up being important in my mind is what the DVD version is going to look like, because that’s what everybody is going to remember. The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won’t last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movies that anyone will remember will be the DVD [of the Special Edition].”
We find that above statement from George to be very disconcerting - it is, in effect, an effort to wilfully suppress and eradicate landmark film history - as well as inadvertently denigrating audience’s memories and experiences from the unaltered version that existed for some twenty years. To say nothing of these being the original version of the three films upon which the entire Star Wars universe was built on.
And yet, in stark contrast to the above statement from George…
The Film Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1990 by director Martin Scorcese dedicated to protecting and preserving motion picture history - of which George Lucas is a board member.
The quotes below are taken from a video of George Lucas talking about the Film-Foundation - and the importance of preserving movies. Click on the Film-Foundation link above and then on the George Lucas image icon to watch the actual video:-
George Lucas: “The idea of film history, the idea of preserving films, which are so important to our heritage and culture, and which are part of what I think are a very significant art form, especially going into the future, I think is paramount. The reality that we face which is half the films before 1950 have been lost and we’ll never see them again… is a tragedy. And it saddens me every time I think about the fact that I’ve seen stills, I’ve heard stories about certain movies and I’ll never, ever be able to see them. Because they’re gone now. And I think preserving films - in terms of the legacy for the future - is probably the most important thing we can do.”
^ We completely agree with this - and so would like to see the unaltered theatrical version of the Original Trilogy to have an official, high quality release, on a modern digital format… so everyone can view and experience them once again.
9: “You guys all hate George Lucas!" & "You want to burn him to the ground and want to take everything away from him!”
No. Not at all. Just no. Regarding George… whilst many of us are somewhat disappointed and frustrated he wishes to not release a high quality format of the unaltered theatrical versions of the Original Trilogy - we appreciate that without his vision, character & determination there would be no Star Wars at all. So it is very much incorrect to say fans asking for such a release are a bunch of Lucas-haters. Nobody at all is wishing George any harm, ill-will, or “want to take everything away from him” - whatever that means.
Quite how the above, plus talking about others’ contributions to what makes Star Wars great, George making the various Special Editions, and fans also wanting a high quality official release of unaltered cuts… equates to… “You want to burn him (Lucas) to the ground and want to take everything away from him” is lost on us. Though such toxic hyperbole, hate-based projection, and untrue claims… seemingly occurs far more… when the contributions of people other than George are praised in the history of the OT.
There have been quite a few contradictory claims / re-writing of history / mis-remembering of facts on the history and development of Star Wars over the years from George… and chronicling the intriguing factual history of The Galaxy Far Far Away isn’t a criticism of the man himself - more a striving for a genuine, accurate, and authentic record on the evolution of Star Wars.
Attempting to highlight that intriguing and factual account of The Galaxy Far Far Away is not a ‘bashing Lucas’ exercise or unfounded criticism of the man himself - a philanthropist who has generously given much of his fortune away to charities, educational endeavours and good causes. The same determined genius and visionary who put both his own personal health and money at risk in bringing us these three classic films and the universe within…
To paraphrase Irvin Kershner, quoted whilst directing Empire Strikes Back… ‘fight for what you love - not because you hate’.
10: “The Original Trilogy was filmed in the 70’s & 80’s and are not even in HD - they look awful! The new Special Editions releases all look amazing and are in so much better quality - and in 4K!”
Sorry - the claim that because ‘the films were made in the 70’s and 80’s so are not even in HD and look awful!’ is simply not true.
The Original Trilogy was shot on 35mm film. 35mm film has a resolution of approximately 5.6K — equivalent to an image of about 5,600 × 3,620 pixels. The finite resolution of film will fluctuate based on the type of film and the film’s processing methods. More information on this can be found at the FilmFlix site - here (and many other trustworthy sources of information online).
After all, the various Special Edition releases (in 1997, 2004, 2011 and 2019) are all from, or based on, the original 35mm film negatives / prints used for the filming the Original Trilogy movies at the time.
This video on the Original Trilogy also both illuminates and gives answers to this common mistake in thinking films shot in 35mm from ‘long ago’ were ‘not even in HD’, or somehow look poor when compared to modern releases. It was released shortly before the 2019 Special Editions (aka the ‘Maclunkey’) version appeared on Disney+ - yet is still relevant to the topic:-
Star Wars 4K77 “That Wasn’t Filmed in HD!”
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg6wNw_uRu4 - a 25 minute video from the RetroBlasting youtube channel.
This follow-up video, of sorts, is also well worth a discerning watch - in regards to the unaltered theatrical cuts - its unique place in Star Wars history, and also the love & reverence it has from countless fans of the classic Original Trilogy…
‘Star Wars: Going Home to Stay’:-
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ihf2pVjpzJI - a 15 minute video from the RetroBlasting youtube channel.
11: “Nobody wants to see the bad special effects of the 70’s and 80’s in the Original Trilogy!”
We see nothing wrong in attempting to preserve the original, award-winning and pioneering work of the many artisans, sound technicians, craftsmen (& craftswomen), and special effects artists… to do justice to their priceless contributions, which should remain available for all to see, experience, and be inspired by…
List of Academy Awards for The Original Trilogy & The Lost Art Of Star Wars
^ both these quality articles / sources of information are from the Star Wars Visual Comparisons website.
Tonally, many of the Special Edition effects inserted into the Original Trilogy are also noticeably different to the unaltered original films, in both look and feel.
Many of Special Edition inserts also look more ‘dated’ than many of the original effects and have themselves been replaced in later Special Edition releases…
^ from https://twitter.com/starwarsviscomp/status/950411778973995008
Or introducing visual effects errors into the Special Editions releases - this time for the 2004 SE DVD release…
…from Return Of The Jedi; with Vader’s lightsaber now being a different reddish-orange colour to what is seen moments before.
To say nothing of the 2011 Special Edition blu ray release somehow looking like this…
…is this somehow meant to be an improvement in image quality over the original unaltered theatrical cut? No. No, it isn’t.
Nor this bizarre blue colouring introduced for the 1997 Special Edition release…
More example of these errors, introductions of mistakes, and sub-standard quality control for the various Special Editions can be found in the insightful ‘Can’t Even Get the Special Edition Right’ article on the ‘Saving Star Wars’ website.
12: “Stop crying about the Special Edition alterations! It is only a few special effects that have changed - and not the story!”
Sorry, that is not true - at all. For example… since the 1997 Special Editions, through to the 2019 SE ‘Maclunkey’ releases…
^ ‘Never forget that the Death Star has been in clear site of Yavin IV from the beginning of the battle since 1997 and this is how the Special Edition should have ended.':-
Disney+ Should Offer the Star Wars Original Cuts—All of Them - article at Wired (scroll down to the ‘The Game Breaker’ section).
all credit to doubleofive - for both finding and highlighting that uncorrected oversight - in all four versions of the Special Edition films - and also for the article itself.
Needless to say there are many other changes to the story too - some are slight alterations, whereas others are quite profound in their impact on the story changes. Whilst ‘your mileage may vary’ depending on your point of view, these are still changes to the story…
the addition of the “Noooooooo!” line of dialogue for Vader in Return Of The Jedi…
13: “You guys are still banging this drum? Hardly anyone wants the unaltered theatrical versions!”
Yes, we are still proudly banging the drum 😃. Admittedly, we having been doing this for a long while - yet we’re obviously not going anywhere. We get that the franchise has changed mightily since we started this, in ways we couldn’t have possibly imagined… but high quality, unaltered, theatrical versions from '77, '80, and '83 are still absent from our world.
Also, Lucasfilm is indeed on record as acknowledging the enormous demand for an official release of the unaltered classic cuts…
^ the above quotes from Lucasfilm’s announcement are somewhat illuminating on this matter - and with many more fans also wanting to see and experience them since Lucasfilm’s statement…
“the biggest question we’ve ever gotten from Star Wars fans is, ‘When are you going to release the originals?’”
the “overwhelming demand” for the unaltered theatrical version.
the "long awaited release of original theatrical incarnations of the classic Star Wars trilogy.”
“over the years a truly countless number of fans have told us they would love to see and own the original version that they remember experiencing in the theatres.”
14: “You guys should accept the Special Editions are canon - the unaltered theatrical versions are not - and move on!”
This is not about ‘canon’ or ‘definitive’ versions… it is about having a choice, about the preservation of landmark movies, and being able to once again view and experience these much-loved Star Wars films.
The unaltered theatrical version could easily be released as part of the ‘Vintage Collection’ up on Disney+ - and it would have no bearing on the Special Editions being the ‘official’ or ‘default’ version, or being George’s ‘vision’.
Even a physical media official release of the unaltered Original Trilogy could easily and clearly be labelled as ‘non-canon’, ‘Legends’ or ‘Essential Legends’ etc - like countless other official Star Wars content over time is now re-labelled, re-released, and re-sold.
For some of us, George’ evolution of the Special Editions was essentially “patching” the movies like you patch a video game. Such patches are supposed to be free, especially if they’re considered essential for the game to be “complete”. We certainly shouldn’t have been led to believe each of these were the completed versions - charged full price for each “incomplete” version - then some time later informed the previous patch was “incomplete” - that another full price patch was coming, and another, then another.
Yet this is not about the ‘theatrical cut vs the various special editions’ or which is ‘the best’, ‘preferred’, ‘canon’, or ‘definitive’, or George’s continuing vision(s). It is simply about giving the fans the opportunity to own and view any & all of the differing versions of the Original Trilogy - whilst also affording landmark film history to be once again enjoyed and experienced by everyone.
An official high quality release of the unaltered theatrical versions from '77, '80, and '83… is still absent from our world. Yet they can easily be a part of it once more - and we feel it is important to highlight they always could have been - despite some disingenuous and debunked claims to the contrary… from both George and Lucasfilm over the years.
Has anyone on here came across any other uninformed or ignorant claims why us “fans are so very much in the wrong…” to want the option to buy and experience a modern, high quality, official release of the unaltered theatrical cuts of the Original Trilogy?
If so, let’s hear 'em - as well as your own replies, answers, and suggestions too… 👍
For the many fans wanting to have an official release of the unaltered theatrical version of the Original Trilogy films…
❗ #ReleaseTheOriginalTrilogy | OriginalTrilogy•com’s enduring goal | How YOU can help… ❗
^ The OT•com supporting the #ReleaseTheOriginalTrilogy campaign - the call for an official release of the unaltered theatrical version of the three classic Star Wars films films - and what YOU can do to help restore them to the galaxy. MTFBWY… Always.
Disney+ Should Offer the Star Wars Original Cuts — All of Them - article at the ‘Wired’ website, by doubleofive.
What We Want And How To Make It - a sequel to the above article, at the ‘Star Wars Visual Comparisons’ site, by doubleofive.
These OriginalTrilogy•com information and discussion threads may also be of some interest:-
• I’ll never understand the attitude of people who oppose the release of the unaltered Original Trilogy
• Some useful OriginalTrilogy.com threads re the non-release of the unaltered theatrical OT films | How you can help…
• An OriginalTrilogy.com Timeline | a history of the site | the why & how it came to be…
• George Lucas: Star Wars Creator, Unreliable Narrator & Time Travelling Revisionist…
• Posting on the OriginalTrilogy•com…
• The ‘Other websites / communities supposed issues with OT•com - or the unaltered OT films…’ section of the OT Discussion Index.
Also, massive thanks to Servii, Darth Kermit, SparkySywer, Anchorhead, and many others for some of the info used in this thread.
Last Updated: 8th December, 2021 - more categories were added to the list.
“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here?”
“Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?” - Oddball, of The Awkward Squad