Friday, May 22, 2015
The Star Wars Film I'd Like To See
The film podcast The Projection Booth is a must-listen for me, and they've termed this month "maudit May." They have been discussing films so snakebitten or unfortunate that they cannot be seen, such as Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind, which the master never completed. Imagine my surprise when I saw that Star Wars is their film this week. Wasn't the world saturated with Star Wars, and DVD copies easy to find? After that initial thought, I remembered the reason: Star Wars cannot be seen in its original 1977 version, which George Lucas has kept under lock and key, and which he has even claimed no longer exists. (I call shenanigans on that one.) Instead we are stuck with constant revisions of the original film, which I can only see now with cheesy add-ons made with low-grade 1990s CGI. This great film now has a completely clunky, idiotic scene with Jabba the Hutt jammed in where Han is forced to step on Jabba's tail to account for the gratuitous retrofitting of a fake-looking CGI slug, in addition to all kinds of silly crap happening during the trip into Mos Eisley spaceport.
The new sequels make me mildly excited. You know what would make me truly elated? Seeing a restored, remastered, 70mm version of the 1977 original in stereo sound on the big screen. This would still technically be a "special edition" because the original, first release of the film in May of 1977 had multiple sound mixes, both mono and stereo. The stereo mix was a bit of a rush job, and Lucas actually preferred the mono mix because it was more refined. (Little known fact, the sound mix was still being put together just days before the film hit theaters.)
Seeing the original film with cleaned up sound fit for modern theater speakers in glorious 70mm would truly be something else. I saw the 1997 special edition at the now demolished Indian Hills theater in Omaha in 70mm on a towering, concave screen built for Cinerama. Despite the annoying additions to the film, it was one of the most amazing cinematic experiences of my life. Please Disney, get this right and give the people what they want: the movie they fell in love with (or at least the closest we can come to it) looking fantastic and sounding great in glorious analog film. There are a lot of people who will put cash on the barrelhead for this. If that isn't motivation enough, at least bring back one of the most culturally significant films ever made and stop allowing it to be suppressed in favor of a far inferior version.