Lucasfilm to release “Star Wars: Unaltered” DVDs in September

Lucasfilm Ltd. announced May 4 that the original 1977, 1980, and 1983 theatrical versions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi will be released as bonus features on two-DVD sets of the individual titles this Fall. The main feature on each set will be the 2004 special edition of the same film.

This marks the first time that the unaltered versions will be released on DVD, and the first time that the 2004 editions will be released as separate DVDs rather than as a trilogy set.

“See the title crawl to Star Wars before it was known as Episode IV,” states the Lucasfilm press release—a change which even pre-dated the Special Edition changes.

Due to the costs involved in enhancing the films for widescreen 16×9 televisions, the unaltered versions will be presented in a non-anamorphic, widescreen format. For modern 16×9 television screens, this means there will be a black border around the entire image – not just the top and bottom.

The 2004 editions will be presented in anamorphic widescreen, a higher quality process that utilizes more screen resolution for the actual picture.

“The negatives of the (original) movies were permanently altered for the creation of the Special Editions (in 1997 and 2004), and existing prints of the first versions are in poor condition,” said Lynn Hale, a representative of Lucasfilm’s publicity department.

“Since these (versions of the) movies do not represent George (Lucas)’s artistic vision, we could not put the extraordinary time and resources into this project as we did the Special Editions. The 1993 Laserdisc masters represented the best source for providing the original versions as DVD bonus material. Although these are non-anamorphic versions, they do preserve the original widescreen composition of the movies,” she said.

The unaltered versions will feature a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack, while the 2004 editions include a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround soundtrack.

The limited edition DVDs will hit stores in the US on September 12 and will be available only until December 31.