Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough, but I was talking about the 1977 Dolby Stereo mix. That stinks that all home video releases are either cropped or altered, but whatever. Star Wars is Star Wars.
I feel you. My holy grail is the 77 mono soundtrack and that was never on any home video release. The best quality version comes from a UK television broadcast (with some additional copies on film prints). Fortunately this site has enabled me to track down all the audio and rebuild all the video so I can watch whatever version I want. My next goal is to repeat that in HD.
My Star Wars audio holy grail is ALL of the original 77 soundtrack mixes. Choose the one you want to watch the movie with. The recent “Superman” 4k disc reveals how good original Dolby 6-track can be at home, despite using only lossy Dolby Digital. Of course “Superman” has split surrounds, which “Star Wars” does not. I’ve never seen it mentioned, but I do wonder if “Star Wars” used any dialog panning in the 6-track (same for ESB and ROTJ). In any case, as with “Superman” I would expect the stereo and surround effects to be considerably more aggressive on the 6-track than with Dolby Stereo. “Superman” makes it obvious that the Dolby engineers were very conservative with optical SVA Dolby Stereo at the time, due to concerns of playback in the vast majority of theaters at the time which had not yet been updated for Dolby Stereo, if they had any stereo capability at all. My understanding is that the Dolby Stereo mix was originally intended to be the one used for playback in monaural and non-Dolby theaters, with 11 of the exclusive first run theaters receiving Dolby SVA 35mm prints not being equipped for Dolby Stereo and possibly not for stereo at all. It was only after the success of “Star Wars” became obvious that the monaural mix was created for the general release 35mm prints planned later in the year.
I was long under the mistaken impression that I experienced “Star Wars” in 70mm Dolby 6-track during its initial release, because the theater where I saw it the first six or seven times in 1977-78 was fully equipped for 70mm Todd-AO 6-track, and I experienced MANY movies there later in 70mm Dolby 6-track. Among them was “Return of the Jedi” with the 70mm print stolen from the theater becoming national news. Apparently our 816 seat theater wasn’t considered worthy of a 70mm print by the studios in 1977. Columbia didn’t provide a 70mm print of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” for the theater that year either. I did see “Star Wars” once with the monaural soundtrack during the general release, at a shopping mall 4-plex. I found the dirty appearance and dull sound (both likely due to the theater’s equipment and handling of the print) to be rather disappointing after my previous grand experiences of “Star Wars” in 35mm Dolby Stereo on a 35 foot tall screen.
There’s also the issue of the possible 4-track magnetic on the cinemascope 35mm prints. It seems questionable whether that format was used on any domestic prints, or on any prints at all. Regardless I’m for including it if it is available. 4-track was obviously the source for the Dolby Stereo mix and it would be nice to have it with full 4 channel separation. I also don’t think any of our home theater equipment processes Dolby Stereo exactly the way cinema decoders did in the 1970s and 80s (or ever has), making it more difficult/impossible to recreate the 1977 Dolby Stereo (SVA) experience at home.
Ultimately, I’d just like to have the capability to recreate at home (to the extent possible) each of the ways the original trilogy movies were experienced during their original theatrical runs. “Star Wars” was the first to use Dolby 6-track, and one of the first to use Dolby Stereo at all. It will soon be 43 years since opening day.