DVD Review - Star Wars Original Trilogy
by Michele Christopher
This is a guest author submission by Dorkafork
A lot of you probably already own a copy of the Star Wars Original Trilogy, and you may be wondering if there's any point in buying yet another copy, namely the new limited release DVDs of the Original Trilogy. Though I have difficulty recommending it, it's still the best version that is and will be available for the foreseeable future. Even if you have a DVD backup of the laserdisc version. While that is good, it is also tragic, since the DVDs are not nearly as good as they could have or should have been.
She'll make point five past lightspeed...
What are on the DVDs? Each film is sold separately, no box set. Each comes with an Original Trilogy DVD, plus a decorative coaster that plays the Special Edition version if you put it in a DVD player. Each Original Trilogy DVD contains a demo of Lego Star Wars II for Xbox. And each begins with a quick animated title menu. That's it for special features. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, and the DVDs install PCFriendly if you put them in a computer drive.
This deal is getting worse all the time...
The film itself is a direct transfer of the 1995 Laserdisc release. As far as video quality is concerned, it is virtually indistinguishable from the Laserdiscs. This also means the DVDs have the exact same flaws as the '95 Laserdisc release. There are a few instances of telecine wobble that are noticeable. The DVDs are not anamorphic. In plain English, this means the video quality will suffer if you try to watch it on a widescreen TV. The worst flaw the DVDs have is the layer changes. This problem may vary depending on your DVD player, but probably not by a whole lot. What happens during the layer change is that there is a noticeable pause in the playback of the DVD. I've only noticed it in 4 places. The first is in Star Wars, right before the Millenium Falcon comes out of hyperspace near Alderaan, and is barely noticeable. The other 3 are all in the same place: a noticeable pause right before the end credits in each movie. This pause is probably the worst in Empire, with the slow buildup of the music leading to the more energetic Star Wars theme. It sounds like the first blaring horn has a hiccup. (Here's a recording.)
They told me they fixed it! It's not my fault!
The video quality itself is good, better than any other version I've seen, but it isn't nearly as good as it could have been. Although the original Laserdisc versions were "Remastered", this wasn't a "remastering" of the sort you find on modern-day DVDs. The video quality is a bit rough in places. The colors don't look quite as vibrant as they could have. There's quite a bit of dust and scratches visible throughout the movies. For the most part it isn't too bad, though it is more noticeable in scenes in space. Again, these are all flaws from the Laserdisc version. It is still slightly better than any Laserdisc-to-DVD transfer around, and depending on the Laserdisc player may give a slightly better picture than the Laserdiscs themselves. (You can do a comparison for yourself here. "GOUT" is the new release.) The main thing that differentiates the new release from other Laserdisc-to-DVD transfers is the sharpness of the picture. Other LD-to-DVD transfers tend to look blurry, there's some loss when the analog Laserdisc signal is captured, plus possible loss depending on the quality of the Laserdisc player. This sharpness does have minor drawbacks. Because the picture is so sharp, this makes the specks of dust and scratches more visible. It also gives some scenes a particularly grainy look. (For an example, look at Scene 6 in the previous link.) Ultimately I think this is a small price to pay for such a crisp picture.
Despite its flaws, it is still fantastic. In fact, if there's a silver lining to the flaws in the video, it's this: they are the types of flaws you'd see in the film projections of the movies. I felt like I was in a movie theater, and that I'd walk outside, get in a Chrysler Cordoba, and drive to the store to buy a mood ring and some Pac Man cereal.
The Original Trilogy DVDs will be available until Dec. 31.
P.S. Obligatory rant about George Lucas.
He's more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.
No, no better version of the Original Trilogy is going to be released. Not for next year's 30th Anniversary, not in HD-DVD, nothing. How do I know this? Besides Lucas' previous comments on the matter, the current release shows how little he cares about the movies we loved. It's a copy of the freaking Laserdiscs. This is supposedly because Lucas cut up the original footage to make the Special Editions. So there is no master film copy of the Original Trilogy in the Lucasfilm vaults. (Not much of an exaggeration.) Then there's another spit in the face: the fact that they upscaled the resolution for the European release (due to technical differences in the TVs), but did not upscale it so it would be an anamorphic release. Anamorphic is pretty much the standard for DVD releases. Daredevil, Gigli, and From Justin To Kelly all had anamorphic releases, but Star Wars did not. If that crime was not enough, if that ignominy was insufficient, here's the final insult Lucas had for the fans: The DVDs of the Original Trilogy are labeled "Bonus Disc". Not "Original Trilogy", not "Theatrical Release", but "Bonus Disc". "Bonus Disc". So when Lucas said "A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition]...", I tend to think that he still feels the same way. I think this was less an attempt to squeeze further cash from the wallets of Star Wars fans, and more an attempt to stop the irate hate mail he gets daily. From me. About how he shat all over a piece of film history.
Dorkafork is a Star Wars Geek who writes here