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Original Theatrical Versions of 'Star Wars' Trilogy Coming to DVD

4 May, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The original theatrical versions of the three earliest “Star Wars” films are finally coming to DVD Sept. 12, two years after diehard fans blasted Lucasfilm Ltd. for releasing only the digitally modified “Special Edition” versions of the celebrated trilogy in a boxed collection.

This time, the three films will be available individually and appear on DVD exactly as they did in their initial theatrical runs — Star Wars in 1977, The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and Return of the Jedi in 1983.

Each release, distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, will be a two-disc set that also includes the digitally tweaked 2004 edition. The DVDs will only be available through Dec. 31.

Lucasfilm said the decision to revisit the trilogy came about “in response to overwhelming demand.”

“See the title crawl to Star Wars before it was known as Episode IV — A New Hope; see the pioneering, if dated, motion-control model work on the attack on the Death Star; groove to 'Lapti Nek' or the Ewok celebration song like you did when you were a kid; and, yes, see Han Solo shoot first,” according to Lucasfilm.

The most publicized change is the notorious cantina shootout between Han Solo and Greedo in 1977's Star Wars.

In the new DVD, Han Solo will be shown shooting first, just as he did in the original theatrical edit. He quietly unholsters his gun under the table while Greedo threatens him, and shoots the bounty hunter dead.

When George Lucas tweaked the film for a new theatrical run in 1997, marking its 20th anniversary, he extended the scene to show Greedo firing first and missing.

Fans objected, claiming the change took some of the edge off the Solo character, so for the film's 2004 DVD debut Lucas tinkered with the scene yet again, this time making it appear Solo and Greedo fired simultaneously.

Jim Ward, president of LucasArts and SVP of Lucasfilm, said over the years, “a truly countless number of fans have told us that they would love to see and own the original version that they remember experiencing in theaters. We turned to the Lucasfilm Archives to search exhaustively for source material that could be presented on DVD.”

Sources said the transfers won't be as clean or vivid as the digitally modified versions.

Geoff Kleinman, editor in chief of the Web zine DVDtalk.com, expects strong sales from fans who have been waiting for years for the original theatrical versions to come out on DVD.

Lucas, he said, “seems to be able to put his fans through pain and misery and have them come out the other end buying more product. There's only one Star Wars, and anytime that appears on a shiny disc there will be people who will buy it.”

Additional reporting by Jessica Wolf

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