If you bought the "Star Wars Trilogy" DVD box two years ago -- and if you're any kind of "Star Wars" fan, then of course you did -- you should know that George Lucas thinks you're a sucker.
Because that is the only explanation for the new "Star Wars" DVDs, individual two-disc sets that repackage the three feature discs from the box with the first-time-ever release of the original theatrical edition of the title in question -- without any of the alterations introduced by Lucas and his revisionist elves over the past 25 years.
That means no "Episode IV: A New Hope" tag at the beginning of "Star
Wars;" no image of Hayden Christensen standing alongside Alec Guinness and Yoda at the end of "Jedi," and -- perhaps most importantly, the restoration of the original dialogue between Darth Vader and the Emperor in the middle of "Empire," written and performed for an audience that didn't already know the movie's big final revelation.
Sounds good so far, doesn't it? But here's the thing: The original versions are being authored from composite video masters created for a deluxe laserdisc boxed set more than a decade ago. That means no enhanced widescreen, no discrete audio. In a world of 16:9 image and 5.1 sound, these films arrive in 4:3 and 2.0. Compared to the revised editions, the original versions of the trilogy will look, and sound, as though they came out the back end of a Bantha.
Lucasfilm is claiming that these masters are the best available, and it's probably technically true -- but only because Lucasfilm hasn't bothered to create better ones in the ensuing years.
Famously, the company has also declared the original versions of the films "no longer exist", a claim which now appears patently ridiculous:
Surely, now that they magically exist again, better masters will be created in a year or so, just in time for the series' 30th anniversary -- and just in time to be released on whatever high-definition format wins the current battle for consumers' affection.
And here's the thing: If you really do love the "Star Wars" movies, you're going to buy these new releases the moment you can get your hands on them, because they're the original versions of films you hold dear. And next year, when the HD discs arrive with full 1080p video and Dolby Digital audio, you'll curse yourself for believing Lucas' latest line.
And you'll buy them all over again.
STUDIO:20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE:Sept. 12
PRICE: $29.98 each
DVD EXTRAS:French and Spanish audio dubs, English subtitles; audio
commentaries; DVD-ROM content, videogame demo.