Original ‘Star Wars’ Print Is Discovered and Restored by Anonymous Group
Back in 1997, George Lucas re-released the original Star Wars trilogy in digitally altered “special editions,” and asserted that these were the only “true” editions of the classic films. The original, unaltered versions became rare — you can find them on VHS, and they are included on a DVD release (though the transfer is poor), and there are some original 35mm prints floating around, but fans have been desperate for Lucasfilm to restore and re-release the unaltered versions on Blu-ray. While we wait for something that may never come, one anonymous group has uncovered an original 35mm print and cleaned it up.
Unfortunately, you’ll never see this version in the theater or on Blu-ray, as the distribution of the complete restoration is, obviously, illegal. But you can check out these preview videos from the group, which operates under the name Negative One. The videos show the difference between the cleaned-up 35mm print and the Blu-ray release:
George Lucas has long maintained that the digitally-altered re-release of the Star Wars trilogy is the truest version, and when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, fans hoped that the studio would release the original, untainted versions on Blu-ray. That hasn’t happened, and as Slashfilm points out, Lucasfilm claimed that all of their original negatives for the trilogy had been permanently altered to reflect Lucas’ Special Edition.
But that’s not entirely true, since Negative One acquired a negative of a Spanish print from a seller on eBay. Movie Mezzanine has an interview with the team that goes into more detail about the restoration process, and there may still be some hope for a re-release of the unaltered trilogy: The site says that Disney may have commissioned a 4K restoration, as there’s reportedly a promo reel that features restored footage that doesn’t match Lucas’ Special Edition.