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Fans Recut Star Wars to Original Theatrical Print

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

George Lucas is often quoted as saying that due to the limitations of the technology of the time, the original 1977 release of Star Wars really wasn’t the way he envisioned it. And when the technology caught up, he was able to add elements to make it closer to what he originally envisioned when he wrote it. Trouble is, the way George Lucas liked the original Star Wars isn’t the way passionate fans like it. And they’ve taken the extreme step of rebuilding the original trilogy theatrical releases, getting rid of the high tech additions, but keeping the high definition goodness.


I remember watching the original release in theaters as a kid. I was gobsmacked as it took me light years away from my troubles, and put me in a laser-packed dog fight. It was as if I was in the back seat of Luke’s star fighter fighting the Empire right along with him. But I was a kid and didn’t see any of the mistakes (like the masks in the Cantina scene). Later, I didn’t really care about the problems that made Lucas’ skin crawl. I just plain loved the movie. And when it came out on videotape, you know I had saved my pennies to buy it (and at $99, it wasn’t cheap).
But when George Lucas re-released a special edition of the original trilogy in the mid-90s, before he made the prequels, I was equally gobsmacked. And not in a good way. Sure, there were larger set pieces that were digitally added, and he fixed some issues here and there. But I HATED that Greedo shot first. I didn’t care for the dinosaur like creatures that Stormtroopers rode, as if George had paid a visit to the set of his best friend Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and decided to borrow a few designs. And it kept getting worse with one re-release after another. Remember Solo running around the corner and seeing hundreds just waiting for him instead of four or five? UGH. And Lucas refused to release the original versions on Blu-ray, and I refused to buy it that way.

“Star Wars: Despecialized Edition” is a fan edit project with the goal to reconstruct the original theatrical releases of the Star Wars original trilogy (Episodes IV, V, & VI) at a quality comparable to the high-definition medium of our time.

So when I heard about this recut of the original Star Wars in an attempt to create a digital version that was closer to the original release, I got excited. Course, it’s not the first time a fan had taken his computer and DVD collection to make a Star Wars cut that was more to his liking. There was the Phantom Edit …. where a fan minimized the impact of Jar Jar and cut a good 20 minutes out of the film, making the pace a lot better. Then there was Topher Grace, an actor and Star Wars fan who cut together all three prequels into a streamlined 2 hour film that friends say is light years better than the originals.

But nobody had tried to tackle the original Star Wars. And to make it closer to the 1977 theatrical release is no small task. In the video below the editors talk about the worldwide effort to scour various versions from film reels to laser discs to Blu-rays, and then using computer magic to cobble together the original, then to remaster and color correct it to make a workable image (because let’s face it, 37 years is a long time for a film image) that also got rid of the extra digital elements. Some are sandwiched together.

Fans even created their own telecine with a digital camera to capture an original print. Some reworked CGI was replaced with the original motion control dogfights, and some were just slight removals of anti-aliasing from terrible upscaling. And they called it?Star Wars: Despecialized Edition.

You can bet that Disney will pounce quickly and ruthlessly, much like the Empire itself, in order to get rid of this fan labor of love, or at least to drive it off the mainstream interwebs. Because with rumored plans of their own to re-release the original trilogy on Blu-ray, they’ll take no chances to protect their $5 billion investment. But in the meantime, if you can find it, you can enjoy it if you can find it. Start at the link below.

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