|This is the Jabba you should never have seen.|
I've been longing to see the original 1977 theatrical release ever since George Lucas slapped Part IV: A New Hope before the crawl for the 1981re-release. Part IV, what was that, we wondered around the junior high school lunch table. We felt a little cheated that four years earlier, we'd walked in on the middle of the story. We didn't know this was just the first of George Lucas's tinkerings. By the mid 2000's, he'd made edits so that Han doesn't shoot first, thrown in a bunch of new aliens, added digital Jabbas to unused footage, and re-shot battle sequences.
Countless touch-ups later, the movie is now more the lynchpin of Lucasfilm mind games and pawn of Lucas's megalomania than it is a piece of filmed entertainment. Consider that Lucas refuses to let the original releases of the trilogy be viewed or released. He recalls 35mm prints of the original whenever they come up, and says the originals are but 'drafts' of the movies now available and 'enhanced' through his digital re-editing. All well and good, except...
The original Star Wars is a monumental achievement. It's probably the most sophisticated piece of pre-digital special effects work ever put to film. With 1970's technology - basically plastic and rubber - Lucas created an entire world of spaceships and aliens, and with each sequel he upped the bar. I have no idea why Lucas is ashamed of these movies. You, sir, kicked ass. These are seminal works of American history.
But he refuses to let anyone see these movies - his best work - in their original, un-tampered versions. It's baffling. Lucas should be proud of these masterpieces. He should be hosting retrospectives and receiving awards, not hiding them away from some churlish sense of shame.
Enter the 'De-specialized' version, created by a team of dedicated graphic wizards around the world. These are some serious restorationists and digital ninjas themselves, cobbling together a 1977 'original' from what Disney/Lucasfilm has dumped on the world - a travesty of poor color correction and technical flaws - and those few original prints not yet under his control.
Here: this video gives a great sense of the amount of work involved, and the variety of source materials used:
Pretty cool? Pretty cool.
Okay, yeah, I know. The past is gone. The Har Mar Cinema, where I watched the original, was gutted in a renovation in the 90's, then turned into a Cub Foods fifteen years later. I no longer fit into my Superman underoos. You can't go back to Tatooine. The restoration will never be the original.
But I could indulge my inner ten-year old and watch a grey-market release of Lucas's masterpiece. If only it were legal, I'd do it... right... now...
For more information on the legacy of Lucas's tinkerings, visit SaveStarWars.com