.: The Problem
In 1997, George Lucas refilmed, re-edited and redid many scenes for the Star Wars trilogy in a "Special Edition." Since then, Lucas has refused to have the original versions of the films be seen in high quality. All 35mm prints of the original versions have been recalled from circulation and confiscated, and the originals are no longer aired on television nor screened for special events. Lucas has stated that he would like the original versions to disappear, and that once the existing VHS and Laserdisc releases deteriorate he hopes no one will even remember the originals existed, except as "rough drafts" of the Special Editions. Not only is this robbing the world of a very important part of its cinematic and cultural heritage, but it is engaging in the re-writing of history. The original theatrical versions of these films deserve to be continued to be released and preserved in as high a quality as possible.
.: Why Does this Website Matter?
The Star Wars trilogy not only comprises three very good films, but it comprises three milestones of cinema history. Major motion pictures are preserved because they provide a window into the society and technology of the time in which they were made. Star Wars (the film and the trilogy) was in both respects a pop cultural landmark, and therefore its preservation should be accorded the same importance as for other culturally significant artifacts.The American Film Institute ranked 1977's Star Wars as the 13th most important American film ever made, for example, and the Library of Congress archived a print in 1989. George Lucas' open desire that it disappear, and his actions in pursuit of that goal, therefore represents a profound destruction of an important historical artifact. This has caught the attention of media professionals and movie makers. Director James Cameron has described it as a "revision of history" and "disturbing." Unfortunately, there is no obvious legal solution. What is clear is that the original films remain unavailable. They do not remain unavailable because of legal red tape, insufficient resources or studio neglect--they remain unavailable because of one man's desire to eliminate them. This should not be taken lightly. This is a serious issue in cinematic preservation.
This website is designed to inform people of the aspects surrounding this issue, and also act as a form of protest. Here you will find information on the Star Wars 35mm materials surviving, the philosophical and social issues revolving around the preservation of cultural heritage, and the history of cinema preservation and restoration. Let Lucasfilm know that the original theatrical Star Wars films are important and don't deserve to be buried in time.
.: What Can I do?
Write to Lucasfilm and let them know that people will not accept such disregard for such important films. Link to us, post about the issue, get people talking and don't let it die. There are media contacts listed in the resources section. Read our resources and editorials and inform yourself of exactly what has happened. New readers or those with specific questions in mind might want to browse the FAQ to start.
Update: 9-29-2011, 12:15am
The Libary of Congress and the National Film Registry, despite claiming to have archived prints of 1977's Star Wars and it's sequels, have not in fact done so. Lucas, who helped create the NFR, refuses to allow them to preserve the cultural heritage that is their mission.
The 2006 Limited Edition DVD which contained a bonus disc featuring the original theatrical editions (taken from a 1993 Laserdisc master) has become out of print. Until now, this was the only way to officially purchase the original versions in any format. The 2004 Special Edition is also no longer being sold, in what is surely a calculated move.
The Oscar-winning effects whiz who worked on Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi complains changes to the films unnecessary. On the Special Editions he says: "They're shit." In other news, a couple Blu Ray boycott campaigns have sprung up.
Only days after the Blu Ray changes leak, the world has reacted very negatively--but unlike 1997 and 2004, even the moderates seem to have had enough, and major media reports on the controversy. Various articles linked, plus a personal thought from myself on the matter.
Only a couple days ago, there was a wide leak of the 2011 Blu Rays. The same crushed blacks, miscoloured lightsabers and weird colours from 2004. New changes? Replaced shots, Vader says "NOOooo!" and Obi Wan goes "WOOoooOO!" Pics and video inside.
In an interview worthy of applaus, Spielberg says he will never alter one of his older films digitally, saying he regrets doing so for E.T. He says he wants people to appreciate films in their historical context, and that Lucas won't "let sleeping dogs lie."
Empires Strikes Back was preserved in Library of Congress' National Film Registry this year, perhaps providing a source for when the film becomes public domain. In related news, there has been a rebel screening of a 35mm print of the original version in Texas this November.
CNET recently paid tribute to the 35th anniversary of Industrial Light and Magic. But because the Special Edition is the only version of Star Wars offered, their entry for the film and its history-making visual effects illustrates ILMs work using the Special Edition.
This site is currently under construction and some pages may be unavailable or incomplete. Be sure to check back every week or two for updates.