Fans Reconstruct Authentic Version of Star Wars, As It Was Shown in Theaters in 1977

I watched Star Wars for the first time in 1977 at the ten­der age of four. And like a lot of peo­ple in my gen­er­a­tion and younger, that first time was a major, for­ma­tive expe­ri­ence in my life. I got all the toys. I fan­ta­sized about being Han Solo. And dur­ing the sum­mer of ’83, I blew my allowance by watch­ing Return of the Jedi every day for a week in the the­ater. George Lucas’ epic space opera is the rea­son why I spent a life­time watch­ing, mak­ing and writ­ing about movies. And if you asked any movie crit­ic, fan or film­mak­er who grew up in the ‘80s, they will prob­a­bly tell you a sim­i­lar sto­ry.

Over the years though, Lucas suc­cumbed to the dark side of the Force. His pre­quel tril­o­gy, start­ing with tru­ly god awful The Phan­tom Men­ace (1999), is as visu­al­ly over­stuffed as it is cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly inert. (Some­where, there’s a dis­ser­ta­tion to be writ­ten about how wide­spread feel­ings of betray­al from the pre­quels psy­chi­cal­ly pre­pared Amer­i­ca for the anx­i­ety and dis­ap­point­ments of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion.)

Worse, fans who want to con­sole them­selves by watch­ing Star Wars as they remem­ber see­ing it back in the ‘80s are out of luck. Lucas has been qui­et­ly butcher­ing the orig­i­nal movies by adding CGI, sound effects and even whole char­ac­ters – like (gag) Jar Jar Binks — to suc­ces­sive spe­cial edi­tion updates. The prob­lem is these updat­ed ver­sions feel bifur­cat­ed. It’s as if two dif­fer­ent movies with two dif­fer­ent aes­thet­ics were clum­si­ly stitched togeth­er. Lucas’ spare, mus­cu­lar com­po­si­tions in the orig­i­nal movie sit uneasi­ly next to its car­toony, over-wrought addi­tions. Yet this Franken­stein ver­sion is the one that Lucas insists you watch. The orig­i­nal cut is just plain not for sale. Lucas even refused to give the Nation­al Film Reg­istry the 1977 cut of Star Wars for future preser­va­tion. “It’s like this is the movie I want­ed it to be,” said Lucas in an inter­view in 2004, “and I’m sor­ry if you saw half a com­plet­ed film and fell in love with it, but I want it to be the way I want it to be.”

Thank­ful­ly, hard­core Star Wars fans are telling Lucas, respect­ful­ly, to go cram it. As Rose Eveleth in The Atlantic reports, a ded­i­cat­ed online com­mu­ni­ty has set out to cre­ate a “despe­cial­ized” edi­tion of Star Wars that strips away all of Lucas’s dig­i­tal non­sense and restores the movie to its orig­i­nal 1977 state. The de fac­to leader of this move­ment is Petr Harmy, a 25-year-old guy from the Czech Repub­lic who with the help of a legion of tech­ni­cal­ly savvy film nerds has pieced togeth­er footage from exist­ing prints and old­er DVD releas­es to cre­ate the Despe­cial­ized Edi­tion v. 2.5. (Direc­tions on where you can locate it are here.) Above Harmy talks in detail about how he accom­plished this feat. And below you can see some side-by-side com­par­isons. More can be found on Petr Harmy’s page. Final­ly, in the com­ments sec­tion below, Harmy also points us toward pages with Despe­cial­ized stills for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.




Via The Atlantic

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How Star Wars Bor­rowed From Aki­ra Kurosawa’s Great Samu­rai Films

Frei­heit, George Lucas’ Short Stu­dent Film About a Fatal Run from Com­mu­nism (1966)

Watch the Very First Trail­ers for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi (1976–83)

Joseph Camp­bell and Bill Moy­ers Break Down Star Wars as an Epic, Uni­ver­sal Myth

Hun­dreds of Fans Col­lec­tive­ly Remade Star Wars; Now They Remake The Empire Strikes Back

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing one new draw­ing of a vice pres­i­dent with an octo­pus on his head dai­ly. 

by | Permalink | Comments (15) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (15)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.