For me it’s more that I remember the distinct impression that something had changed the first time I saw it in general release in 1978. I remember at that time questioning whether I really remembered Luke missing the previous 6 or 7 times I saw the movie (first run)? Of course at that time I was under the impression that movies were carved in stone and never changed once they were released. As I previously described I don’t believe there was any difference in the length of the scene. A change in the length would require alteration to the music. I simply believe that 141 frames that may have originally shown Luke missing in the 35 first run 35mm prints, were replaced with a different 141 frames that don’t show Luke missing in all other prints. No change in time or music.
70mm is the only way I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980. I saw it only twice at AMC’s Midland Theater in Kansas City. The next time I saw it was on home video in 1984, and I do remember being a little confused by the additional shot of the rebel fleet flying away from the camera at the beginning of the scene. I prefer the original flow of the scene starting with the camera passing though the fleet front to back, and ending with the fleet flying past and away from the camera. The second shot of the fleet passing the camera at the beginning of the scene just serves as an unnecessary interruption to the flow for me. I’m also a bit biased toward what John William’s scored. I’m not much of a fan of cutting and pasting music to fit later edits.
That being said I would love to see (and hear) both of the 1980 original release versions preserved and made available to the public.
And the idea they would tinker with the OT to digitally replace Alec Guiness seems a bit far fetched.
I believe many would have thought digitally replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen to seem a bit far fetched, until it happened.
Probably not next, but at some point I expect Sir Alec Guinness’s performances to be digitally replaced with an appropriately aged Ewan McGreggor, bringing them closer to Lucas’s original vision.
Am I the only one who thinks (and has always thought) that “One more pass” sounds like a distinctively female dub replacement for actor Denis Lawson’s voice.
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.
I wonder if you’re thinking of a trailer for the movie? Sometimes they put things in trailers but not the movie. For example when a Tie Fighter rises up to confront Jyn and has her in its sights as she’s on the parapet outside of a tower on Scarif.
Or maybe you’re thinking of the fact that it takes Luke a (seemingly) long time to uncoil the rope?
I’m quite sure the answer to the first item is no. All of the (known) trailers are available and none contain this. I certainly agree that trailers often contain additional footage or alternate takes. I’m also quite sure I never saw a trailer for Star Wars before seeing it the first time. I had never been to that theater or any other where Star Wars was first shown, and had only ever been to the movies 2 or 3 times before that. I heard about it by word of mouth, and was invited to go with neighbors to see it.
Again, watch the specific shots I pointed out at 1:49 and 1:55 very carefully. They give the clues to what should be between them. Then listen to the music very carefully. I believe the music very clearly tells the story as well. I believe the changes (inserts) were frame for frame replacements (141 replacing 141), so there was no change to the music or timing necessary.
I have carefully listened and compared the audio recording of the 70mm presentation at New Jersey’s Triplex Paramus during its initial run (link below). I’m quite sure that the frames with Luke’s missed attempt were not present here. The audio well matches the blaster shots in the inserts that replaced it, with no sound that would match a missed grappling attempt (or reeling the line back into the belt). This is why I think if anything, the alteration was made before the eight first-run 70mm prints were struck, leaving only the thirty-five first-run 35mm prints as possibly containing the full missed attempt shot.
http://www.wideanglecloseup.com/starwarsaudio.html (The chasm scene is near the end of Part2.)
Again, I certainly consider it possible that the combination of the music for the scene combined with what is seen around these 5 7/8 seconds is so suggestive that it has lead many of us to believe that Luke missed, even though we never saw it that way. However, I think it is more likely that some of us actually saw it, and even more likely it was that way when Williams scored it.
Another possibility is that Lucas convinced Fox to send this 141 frame replacement to the theaters shortly after the premier, with instructions for the theaters to make the edits. That kind of alteration was certainly done with 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. However, I think it unlikely that Fox would have done this in 1977. This was a first run exclusive, not a roadshow presentation like 2001, and I doubt Fox would have been anxious to participate in that kind of alteration to what had just become their greatly unexpected super-hit. Lucas of course was tinkering at every opportunity (as evidenced by the changes in the monaural soundtrack for the general release he and Ben Burtt made a month later).
I’d be very interested to know the aspect ratios of all these versions.
You may already be aware, but the 35mm releases were 2.39:1 (actually 2.394285714285714:1). That is a result of the SMPTE standard for projection apertures from October 1971 to August 1993. For the 70mm (which was blown up from the 35mm original) it was 2.2:1 (2.197701149425287:1), losing a small slice of the left and right from the 35mm image. What was actually projected in individual theaters likely varied from these standards.
The original video releases for all formats (VHS, BetaMax, CED VideoDisc, & LaserDisc) were all 4:3 pan & scan. After that it gets more complicated.
-1977 limited release: 35mm optical stereo, 70mm magnetic stereo
-1977 wide release with new credits and FX shots: 35mm optical stereo, 70mm magnetic stereo, 35mm magnetic stereo, 35mm mono
I was aware of the audio changes for the 35mm monaural prints, but what were the credits and FX shot changes between these two? I wasn’t aware that there were supposed to have been any.
I am another who clearly remembers Luke missing with his first attempt of the grappling hook in the Death Star chasm. (My memory is that he made good contact on the first attempt, but the hook didn’t catch, so not an air shot.) I originally saw Star Wars at the Glenwood Theatre in Overland Park, KS, from a first-week engagement 35mm Dolby Stereo print. I think I saw it seven times there before I saw it anywhere else. I have recently reviewed this scene both on the Blu-ray Disc and the YouTube video linked below. I’ll refer to the times in the YouTube video as reference of some things I’ve picked up on. Maybe this will give a new perspective on this.
At 1:49: It appears Luke is preparing to throw the grappling hook. This is super quick and can easily be missed, or probably interpreted differently. Watch it a few times and closely watch the movement of his hand, body, face and eyes; and the grappling hook appearing for just an instant. I think the biggest clue is that he looks up intently at his aim point.
At 1:55: Luke begins unspooling the grappling hook line from the stormtrooper utility belt he is wearing. It is quickly clear that he does not already have a loop pulled from the belt at this point, although he was already unreeling and looping it previously.
Between these two we have 5 7/8 seconds (141 frames) of four shots which I believe are inserts.
- (13 frames) 0.54 seconds of Luke behind Leia as she fires twice. (a great continuity match for Leia from the previous shot, but not for Luke).
- (12 frames) 0.5 second with the shots missing the stormtrooper and him firing back.
- (31 frames) 1.29 seconds of the shots missing and Leia firing a single shot back.
- (85 frames) 3.54 seconds of a wide shot of the chasm with Luke still unspooling line.
Now watch it again paying careful attention to the music. Then go back to about 1:40 or earlier and listen again without watching (eyes closed if necessary). At 1:50 I hear from the music exactly when Luke makes his first throw. At 1:56 I hear exactly when he begins his second attempt (the start of the second unspooling). That gives him about 5 seconds to reel the line back into the utility belt after he misses, before starting to unreel it again.
This leaves me with two possible theories to explain this. (My opinion is that the first is more likely, and the second likely accounts for others remembering the same thing even though they didn’t see a print from the original engagement.)
A portion, if not all, of the 35 exclusive first-run 35mm Dolby Stereo prints were struck with the 5 7/8 seconds of Luke missing and reeling the line back in. The alteration with the inserts replacing those 5 7/8 seconds was likely made prior to the striking of the 8 70mm Dolby 6-track exclusive first-run prints. It was almost certainly made prior to striking any additional prints, including the 35mm monaural prints. The prints containing the original 5 7/8 seconds were likely never seen again after being returned to the studio. (I think this would fit in perfectly with the George Lucas who never can stop tinkering and never considers his work a finished product for very long, with the changes made between the 70mm and 35mm prints of ESB as an example.)
The combination of the music for the scene combined with what is seen around these 5 7/8 seconds is so suggestive that it has lead many of us to believe that Luke missed, even though we never saw it that way.
John Williams’ music seems so perfectly tailored to, and suggestive of Luke making two grappling attempts that I find it extremely difficult to believe it was any other way when he scored the scene. I think it likely at some point after Williams’ score was complete, Lucas must have decided to cover up the failed attempt. Just my speculation at this point, but I think it may have been to better match the final battle. My understanding is that Luke was intended to have a failed trench run before Marcia Lucas edited it to the form seen in the final movie (apparently and thankfully before it was scored), and George may have decided (just after the last minute) that he wanted Luke’s grappling attempt in the chasm to mirror that change. As the scene is now, it seems like Luke is unspooling enough line to reach the Falcon, or maybe even Yavin. I’d love to see the original assembly again, the one Williams scored. I say again because I do believe I saw it back in 1977.
I did once read the Alan Dean Foster novel, so it is possible that influenced my memory. However, I don’t have a history of remembering false things about movies I’ve seen. The only other thing I clearly remembered different between Star Wars in the theater in 1977 and when I first saw it again later (on CED Video Disc), is that there was no “Episode IV A New Hope” in 1977, which of course ended up being verified. For the Empire Strikes Back I remembered the hologram for one of the Star Destroyer captains conferring with Vader disappearing immediately after an asteroid is shown striking the bridge. That of course was never visible in the pan and scan home video releases and I was always disapointed it wasn’t there, probably one of the reasons I’m an original aspect ratio advocate.