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Tonight's feature is a guest feature, but it's on a subject very near and dear to my heart - the release of the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD.  You see, when Greedo shot first, it broke my heart.

Oh, I'm all for updating the look of a film, maybe throwing in a few better effects here and there and giving it the spit an polish.  It's not a huge thing, and if it keeps the over inflated egos of megalomaniac directors in check, then it can't be all bad.  But when the intent of a character is altered, the story changed, that is...unsettling.

It's still not earth shattering of course, and director's cuts of films can be a great way to see into the mind of the greats and not-so-greats.  But when a director decides to shelve the original film, never to be released in the way you and I first saw it, then I have a serious issue.

Yes, these films are the work of George Lucas.  But contrary to popular opinion, they aren't his any more.  Oh, the copyright is, as any poor sap who crossed the line can tell you.  But when I paid my $3 (or whatever the hell it was way back in 1979), and you paid yours, and the millions of others paid theirs, making George a fantastically wealthy man, able to chase his wildest dreams, we bought those films.  And as the people that have given him a life unimaginable, we deserve to have those films in all their original glory, with the ugly little warts and flawed characters we loved.

Let's ignore that aspect for a moment though, since not everyone will agree.  Instead, let's focus on history - film history.  These films, along with others like E.T., are not just a part of film history, they ARE film history.  They represent a time and place in American culture, and show generations to come what we were thinking, feeling and believing at that moment.

When you update those films, fixing the errors and worse, altering the characters to suit a modern time, you destroy a piece of that history.  I don't want Citizen Kane updated to match current cultural whims, and I certainly don't want my only choice on DVD of the original series to be the 'updated' versions.  Perhaps George, even after all the money and fame, still lacks the self confidence to believe his original work was right the first time.  Perhaps he's too much of a perfectionist to know when to leave something alone.  I don't care if he wants to tweak to his little hearts content, but at least allow me to own the original movie I love.

Enough of my babbling - I'll let Kevin tell it to you in a much nicer, more articulate way.

Several months ago, – a website dedicated to informing the web savvy world about upcoming digital audio and video releases – reported on a story that claims that George Lucas never plans to release the original cuts of the first Star Wars trilogy on DVD. As far as Lucas was concerned, the original cuts no longer exist because they do not represent the films as he envisioned them in his head. Now, thanks to the technology he has helped develop, he is finally able to revisit his classic trilogy and alter them to his true vision. We saw the first round of changes in 1997 with the theatrical release of his Special Edition Star Wars Trilogy. And, once he finishes Episode III, he plans to go back and make a second round of changes. This final "Ultimate Edition", as many refer to it, will represent his “true” vision. In fact, Lucas has even gone so far as to say that he no longer has prints of the original cut of the film.

In the first week of November 2003, Lucas partially recanted on his earlier statement. Now, he says that a version of the Star Wars trilogy will be released on DVD in September 2004. 

However, the information released by the folks at Lucasfilm, Ltd. (LFL), did not specify which version of the trilogy would be released on DVD. Obviously, since this DVD release is planned to occur before the theatrical release of Star Wars Episode III, it will not be his “Ultimate Edition”. He clearly does not have the time between now and then to focus on making the changes that he has previously indicated would be a part of the Ultimate Edition (UE). What we have now is the chance for the DVD release to be either the 1977/1980/1983 Original Edition (OE) or the 1997 Special Edition (SE). 

Where am I going with this?

As you can imagine, there has been a massive outcry against Lucas’ plans. There has been much discussion about this topic on sites such as Ain't it Cool News and, among many others. One website has even sprung up in the hopes of convincing Lucas that he needs to release the original cuts of the trilogy on DVD. This site,, is an online petition and message board where fans of the original edition of the trilogy can go and sign the petition and take part in discussions about these movies, the newer prequel movies, or any other topic that may be mulling in their head. 

As of November 14, 2003, the petition has amassed over 45,000 signatures from around the world. Visitors to the site and regular contributors to the forum have made a concerted effort to spread word about this site so it can collect as many signatures as possible. Many Star Wars fan sites as well as DVD/Home Theater sites have added banners or buttons to their homepages in support of Video Store Magazine writer Enrique Rivero wrote an article about the site after he interviewed site administrator Jay Sylvester. The July issue of CPU magazine has also run a promo for this site on its pages. One of the regular forum posters wrote an article that was published by his local newspaper - the Hamilton (Ont.) Spectator. 

As hard as has tried, the overwhelming feeling is that the site still hasn't reached the masses. Web article readership, while very large, is still limited, especially considering that the sites on which has been featured tend to be focused towards either fans of Star Wars or DVD collectors. Unless you know where to look, what to look for, or get lucky with a search engine, you may never find the online articles or even the site.

In an effort to reach beyond just the home theater and Star Wars market, I asked Michael if he would help us out and he agreed. is now looking to all of you for support. Being Star Wars fans like many of you are sure to be, or just being film fans or believers in the sanctity of history, I am hoping to gain your support.

All I ask is that you visit and sign the petition that is linked to the homepage. It will take you only about a minute. Soon after you sign it, a confirmation e-mail will be sent to the address you provide. Please make sure to follow the instructions contained in the e-mail. We are trying to ensure that only those people who want to sign the petition actually do sign it. We don’t want people to be signed up by someone else and not know about it.

I also ask that you send word about the site to anybody in your address book who may share the same conviction about the DVD release of one of the greatest film series in history. The little bit of time spent on this process is a small price to pay for preserving a piece of film history on DVD. 

Those who have already signed the petition are movie fans, plain and simple. Many of us grew up watching the original Star Wars movies in theaters or on VHS. We bought the toys, we wore the clothing, we dressed up as Star Wars characters for Halloween. If we were parents of these kids back then, we were likely guilty of contributing to this obsession in some way, shape, or form. Now, many of us who were children of the 1970s and 80s are growing up and having our own families and we would like to be able to share these films that were such an important part of our life as we remember them. Not as Lucas would like us to remember them. Our VHS copies are getting old and suffering from magnetic fallout or, at any time, could fall victim to an overzealous VCR. If we ruin these VHS copies, we have nothing. All we want is to have a copy of our movies on a "safe" media like DVD so we can have them forever. 

We understand that it is Lucas’ right to do with his films whatever he wants. We are not denying him this right. Make your Ultimate Edition, Mr. Lucas. We will watch it, no doubt. But, please, just give us DVDs of the versions that we grew to love and that existed as the only known versions for nearly 20 years before you started on the first round of edits.

As a closing note, a few years ago, the American Film Institute released their Top 100 films list. At number 15 is a film called Star Wars. If you read the official list on the AFI website, you will notice that the name Star Wars is followed by “(1977)” not “(1997)”. 

Kevin Apgar 
Film Enthusiast 
Star Wars (1977) fan 


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