If you’ll pardon the mixing of Lucasfilm metaphors, the original, un-Special Edition-ed cuts of Star Wars are the Holy Grail for sci-fi fans everywhere. George Lucas has led us to believe through the years, especially following the 2004 release of the original trilogy on DVD, that the only way to see the theatrical cuts was on VHS tape, or as a rough and crappy special feature on one of the now-out-of-print DVD releases. However, a group of folks have found a Spanish print of the original film, have spent the time to clean it up, scanned it in 4K and have shared their results with the world.
The above video and the two below show the differences between images in three particular scenes from A New Hope. In all three cases, you can see that the Blu-ray version is much more saturated with color, and to be fair, a lot nicer looking (they had Lucasfilm money to play with, of course). However, you can also see some of the fine film grain and get a better look at what a cleaned-up version of the theatrical cut would look like.
The first clip (above) is of Luke and Uncle Owen buying the droids from the Jawas. You can see how much the film has faded but it still looks pretty nice. (You’ll have to bear with the sound; my guess is they had to layer the soundtrack in weird ways to avoid copyright infringement on YouTube.)
The second clip is of the fateful scene in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Note how the Blu-ray version is almost cartoonishly colorful compared to the dusty original. Plus, I really miss that werewolf guy who was removed and changed for the Special Edition.
And finally, a shot of our heroes inside the Death Star, and again you can see that the colors feel a lot more real and lived-in with the found film, despite the darker colors in the Blu-ray. The lights behind 3PO especially feel a bit more ’70s in the film.
Now, while it’s great that these people have found an original film print, there’s very little they can legally do with it. They don’t own the rights to either sell it or exhibit it and I’d imagine any attempt to do so would lead to an immediate injunction. They also have to be careful because if they officially contact 20th Century Fox (who still own the rights to A New Hope “in perpetuity” according to their original contract with Lucasfilm) about it, they could easily have the print seized, given that the print was supposed to either be sent back to Fox or destroyed following its Spanish exhibition.
So we’re in a weird place as fans, but it is nice to know an actual film print exists and all of them haven’t been taken, destroyed, or altered to the Special Edition. While I have nothing against the newer versions, really, as a fan of film preservation, it’d be nice to have both versions side by side just for the sake of completionism.
What’re your thoughts on these prints? Let us know in the comments below!
Image: Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!