Help me score the original Star Wars Trilogy on DVD.
September 8, 2011 8:39 AM   Subscribe

[StarWarsFilter] For my friends' wedding, I am trying to get them a copy of the unremastered, original Star Wars Trilogy (Hope/Empire/Jedi.) Is there somewhere I can get it that isn't Amazon?

So, as far as I can tell, this is the unremastered version. It is the Laserdisc masters, rather than the film, but that seems to be as good as it gets on DVD right now. It's also $125, which is about twice as much as I'd want to spend -- this wouldn't be their only present -- on three DVDs for movies they already own in the inferior, remastered versions.

Most of the places that turn up on Google Product Search are closed, out of stock or scammy. The Best Buy website says they have it in Best Buys all over NYC for $40, but knowing the way they stock things, this is bullshit. So, before I start making the rounds, does anyone know of a good internet for these DVDs?

(NB: As this is a wedding present, I don't want to buy them used.)
posted by griphus to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Be aware that the original versions in that box set are letterboxed into a 4:3 frame, so while they are the original versions, they are presented in a less-than-ideal format (in addition to your note about the master source).
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:50 AM on September 8, 2011

Yeah, I wouldn't pay $125 for them.

Honestly, the quest for the "original versions" is pretty much a lost cause at this point. I hold out hope that at some point after Lucas's death, someone will restore one of the extant film prints of the originals and re-release that, but as long as he's still alive he'll do anything he can to bury the original versions.
posted by Oktober at 8:52 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

(NB: As this is a wedding present, I don't want to buy them used.)

I would reconsider this. I would l
posted by supercres at 8:52 AM on September 8, 2011

ove to get the original versions any way that I could. Finding them used conjures images of you scouring flea markets and eBay for a gift you know your friends will love.
posted by supercres at 8:53 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm seconding supercres. Used in this circumstance is not a bad thing.

My husband would give just about anything for the original trilogy on DVD. We have the original VHS set and he holds on to it like it's gold even though we haven't had a VCR for years and will probably never buy another one. At this point I think he'd be happy with a street corner bootleg version as long as it was on DVD and wasn't the abomination remastered version.

Especially since you say this isn't their only gift, used is a totally viable option.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:04 AM on September 8, 2011

Okay, y'all are right. I am totally welcome to any used sources.
posted by griphus at 9:07 AM on September 8, 2011

A brand-new copy is a thing you bought.

A used copy means you quested through time and space and hunted to track down this most precious artifact for them.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:08 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

see if you can find the laser-disc sourced stuff. I think that may be right up your alley
posted by zombieApoc at 9:12 AM on September 8, 2011

I would even go so far as to suggest that if you were to find, ahem, a less-than-legitimate source for the films somewhere in the wilds of the internet, then go to the trouble of authoring them a custom DVD (maybe with some kind of personalized menus) they would probably think that was super-awesome, too.

I'm told this is the sort of thing usenet is good for. At least that's what my friend said.
posted by pts at 9:12 AM on September 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

It might not be any less work, but it's probably doable to find the VHS copies of the original releases and make DVD's out of them.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:22 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I hear there's an excellent fan-done edit called "A New Hope Revisited" or something like that, that takes what's good from the remasters but gets rid of the ridiculous parts and takes a lot of footage from the laserdiscs. I definitely wouldn't condone getting it though because it's probably totally illegal, but it sounds really excellent.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:25 AM on September 8, 2011

Actually, scratch that. I happen to have widescreen copies of the original, unaltered trilogy on my hard drive. They're in .avi format, and if you're interested I'm sure we could find a way to get them to you. All told it's about 6GB worth of material.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:27 AM on September 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

You should also give them a copy of The People vs. George Lucas as a bonus, if they don't already have it.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:32 AM on September 8, 2011

First of all, the official DVDs are for shit, and the new set coming out on Blu-ray is arguably worse. Second, the best quality versions you can get apart from the LD-sourced set have a caveat, in that they're not at all official because they're re-edited by fans, and require you to download large files (several GB at least) semi-legally. However, they're very well done, and most if not all come in a format you can burn onto DVD-Rs (although they may have to be dual-layer), complete with artwork for both covers and discs. There are two that are pretty well-regarded by the most Comic Book Guy-est of Star Wars nerds.

As vogon_poet mentioned, there is a version of the films edited by fans called "Star Wars: Revisited," but as of now, only "A New Hope" is available. It's truly amazing, since the main editor (named adywan) has not only fixed the problems (of which there are many) from the Special Editions and DVDs, but also added in cool stuff of his/her own like more ships in the Death Star battle and special effects that match up with "Return of the Jedi" and the prequels. There's a "Purist" version for those kinds of folks as well. ESB is expected next year and ROTJ around 2015 (yes, really).

The other version that is getting good reviews is the "Harmy's De-Specialized Versions." If you're a completist, this is the one to have, since it's all 3 movies of the original trilogy, with a lot of the fixes like those done for the "Revisited" fan-edit, and is sourced from HDTV files.

Of course, as I mentioned above, you can't buy them, as that is very illegal and strongly discouraged by the editors. They're fairly easy to find via a Google search, usually downloadable on BitTorrent and Usenet, but I don't know if you're comfortable with those avenues. Otherwise, your best bet would be to get the DVDs that include the low-rez LD versions.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:03 AM on September 8, 2011 [7 favorites]

Have you considered THE MOST AWESOME ROUTE EVER?

Buy them a Laserdisc Player from eBay (cheap cheap cheap)

and the Original Laserdisc editions?

Total cost? Less than $150.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:11 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not an expert on the various versions floating around, but I have IV, V, and VI on DVD—the so-called "enhanced" versions of whatever—and they came with what are called the original versions as second special features disks. I can look up more about what exactly it is I have when I'm home next, if you're interested, but I can at least say that (1) the right person shoots first and (2) there are none of the enhanced explosions, CGI creatures, &c. I don't think this set is being produced anymore, but you might still be able to find it used.
posted by divisjm at 11:25 AM on September 8, 2011

"or whatever," not "of whatever." (Just for clarity's sake.)
posted by divisjm at 11:27 AM on September 8, 2011

The Best Buy website says they have it in Best Buys all over NYC for $40, but knowing the way they stock things, this is bullshit.

Just call an individual store first. Most will confirm their stock with you and some will even hold smaller items. Seems worth a try.

(I got my Star Wars originals at thrift stories for <$3. But they're on VHS, anyway.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:14 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I too have what divisjim has I think.

The "original theatrical versions" are terribad. Like cam-copied bad. The picture is terrible and the sound is stereo.
posted by phritosan at 1:37 PM on September 8, 2011

The original theatrical releases of the films are not actually that hard to find. For instance, you can find multiple copies of the first film on Amazon, and the second and third films aren't hard to find, either.

The trouble is this: in 1997, when George Lucas "improved" the movie, the original print was destroyed. That means that the best source for the film is now a rip of the old laserdisc. That's why many (like phritosan above) think that it's horrible quality.

However, it's your best bet. Maybe the best thing to do would be to get some used copies for $6 each (since they're that cheap) and check them out yourself to see if it's passable.
posted by koeselitz at 1:55 PM on September 8, 2011

On quick perusal, it doesn't appear to be on usenet, but there *is* a "Definitive (LD) Edition" that once was circulated - DVD conversion from the laserdisc.

Having watched the (PAL?) LD version vs. the VHS version (NTSC), the LD version was quite a bit sharper. Over the passage of years and PAL vs. 1920x1200 DVD playback with VLC, I can't pick a winner, but the conversion looks reasonable - but yeah, like someone mentioned upthread, it's hard letterboxed in 4:3 so can be hard to be made to look well on widescreen. It's not truly HD but it looks a bit nicer than SD.
posted by porpoise at 8:04 PM on September 8, 2011

Wow, I had no idea those boxed sets actually had the double-disc versions of the original trilogy. Dammit.

I agree with koeselitz's suggestion of just getting the individual movies used via Amazon's third party sellers... They can be had for a little over $20 each after shipping. I don't know about $6, but frankly I'm surprised they're even readily available for $20, as I'd think they'd be pretty hot right now. I've thought about getting them myself, as I'm not sure I can get myself to buy these blu-rays (sigh).

Whatever route you take, make sure you know if you're getting the "widescreen" (gold bars on front) or "full screen" (blue bars). And the widescreen might actually be better appreciated on an old 4x3 TV.

As for Lucas destroying the original prints, that's a source of much debate. Even if they weren't, the question is when they'd ever be released in a high-def format.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:26 AM on September 9, 2011

So uh, did you ever find this? I was packing up the place for a move, and I think I may have what you're looking for. I'll send you a memail in case you've stopped checking these answers...
posted by Grither at 4:44 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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