‘Untouched is impossible: the story of Star Wars in film’:-
Star Wars: A New Hope has been re-released, re-edited, and updated more times… - a 2010 article
https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2010/05/star-wars (2 pages)
"Last week saw the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and along with it came discussions about the best way to watch the film and what we can expect from future re-releases. Michael Kaminski wrote the exhaustively researched and illuminating book The Secret History of Star Wars, so he knows damn near everything there is to know about the film stock used to shoot the film. George Lucas famously said that the original film “doesn’t exist” anymore, but is that accurate?
How exactly does Star Wars exist now? What are the challenges and possibilities involved in re-releasing a perfected original cut? How do the bootlegs stack up? Let’s find out.
Many prints exist…
We asked Kaminksi about the master copy of the original Star Wars. What does it look like now? “The term ‘master copy’ is slightly vague, because there are various kinds of print masters of different generations,” he told Ars. The original negative is conformed to the 1997 Special Edition, meaning the physical copy has been cut and edited with CGI “improvements.” With sections of the film being too damaged to work with, parts of that print were taken from other sources. “You never throw away your original negative, so I must assume that any pieces or shots that were removed are in storage somewhere at Lucasfilm or Fox,” he explained.
Kaminski points out that a duplication of the original negative—commonly printed for the sake of protection—doesn’t seem to exist for Star Wars. Something better was created, though: separation masters. “These are special silver-based copies that do not fade, and in theory should be almost identical in quality to the original negative itself, so even if the negative was destroyed you still have a perfect copy (which is the point of making the separation master).” Duplicates from these prints were used to replace damaged sections of the negative during the restoration before the release of the Special Edition.
That’s not all, however. “There are also Interpositives and master prints. Interpositives (and Internegatives) are the color-corrected masters that theatrical prints are duplicated from, and were used in the past to make the home video telecines from 1985-1995.” Another common practice is keeping print masters, which are high-quality, fine-grain prints kept in the eventuality that no other higher-quality copies or masters are available.
What this tells us is that Lucas wasn’t lying—the original copy of Star Wars is, in fact, gone. What exists in its place is a composite film that has been restored and spliced together with Special Edition scenes and sections from other, later prints. There exist enough film copies and back-ups to re-create the film, however, so nothing is impossible in terms of a more classical high definition re-release."
Is there hope for a definitive release of the original films?
Kaminski says that he’s fairly sure Lucas is done with large, sweeping changes, but we should expect a CGI Yoda in Episode 1 instead of the physical effect shot on the set. The inevitable Blu-ray copy of the movies will likely be safe from further meddling.
The thing he stresses is that a perfect, uncut version is possible with the film left from the edits, and there is money to be made there. “It’s certainly possible to do a new, high-quality transfer from original 35mm material. You could totally restore the original films from their original negatives for a few million dollars, and the 2004 release sold $100 million in a single day, so that pricetag is meaningless.”
We’re not asking for much, here. “Even films like Revenge of the Nerds have new transfers from 35mm prints. It costs nothing, and there are fine-grain masters and Interpositives that would only require mild clean-up to be presentable, even if the transfers were grainier and a bit damaged.”
Kaminski is not convinced that we’ll get a classic version of Star Wars on a high definition format, at least not for a while. “I’ve been trying to organize a letter writing campaign to Lucasfilm and get websites to promote the importance of having the original versions in high quality,” he said. “I really don’t have any need to pay money for another release of the films unless the originals are restored and available, and I don’t want to sound like a disgruntled fanboy. I just don’t think the 2004 master is something I would pay money for again; I would rather just watch the bootlegs of the original versions.”
What George Lucas does love is money, however, and the hunger and enthusiasm for the non-fussed-over releases is going to be impossible to ignore. “Which is a great—but callous—business practice on their part, because you get people to buy the same thing over and over again.”
Why is this important?
The story of Star Wars is the story of film, and of how we keep our past to share with the future. George Lucas does have the legal right to change and adjust his own work any way he’d like, but Star Wars existed in a very specific way for its original theatrical run. Those memories, and those scenes, have a very real value and meaning to fans. This isn’t just a science fiction film anymore—it’s an important piece of culture.
Star Wars is always going to be an ephemeral thing, changing and shifting as the film adapts to the technology of the time. As the film gets older, digital copies will become more important, but fans are always going to yearn for a version of the film that may exist mostly in their imaginations. Every time George Lucas or a fan takes another crack at the film, it’s a new interpretation of the past, and as the film ages and our viewing technology changes, it will continue to look different from how each of us remembers it."
A 2014/2017 article from ‘ARS Technica’, a sort-of update on the above subject, can be found here:-