|Star Wars at home: the original US |
VHS version from 1982
Every time you bought the film in what you confidently believed to be the ultimate, definitive edition, Lucasfilm would release another one.
That was the rule of thumb for a long time, but later it became clear that a rider had been added, which was this:
While George Lucas was happy to release all kinds of enhanced deluxe versions of the film, he was never again going to release the movie as seen by the original audiences in 1977-78.
Star Wars before VCRs
Only in that pre-VCR age could Star Wars, released in May, still be running in some US cinemas fourteen months later, after which it was immediately re-issued. It's impossible for that to happen now. Twenty-eight years later, for example, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith would be released in May and come out on DVD on October 31.
In 1977, the only way of showing Star Wars at home – or at least, decent chunks of it – was to buy the Super 8 movie versions. I've written about those releases here. The idea of owning a complete film on videotape was a good few years off, but by 1979, Star Wars was helping fuel the demand for the technology. The TV documentary The Making of Star Wars was released on tape that year, and I remember it being promoted quite heavily in the UK as a reason for buying one of the expensive new machines.
1982: Star Wars on VHS, Beta and laserdisc
These were the days when rental made up the vast majority of the videotape market, and it would be several more years before Star Wars was available to own at a price which most fans might be able to afford. Many people did acquire the film in 1982, but by taping it off-air when it was first shown on TV.
The film was re-issued on video in 1985, and this release was significant, because it featured a new stereo sound mix by Ben Burtt. This mix became the basis for every subsequent release until 1993.
|The back of the 1980s Star Wars VHS in the UK|
|The front of the 1992 widescreen|
release of Star Wars in the UK
The UK saw another VHS release of the original trilogy in 1994, in widescreen and full-screen versions,this time with much nicer covers and a line on the box reading: “New digital PAL masters approved by Lucasfilm for improved picture and sound quality.”
The films were back on video only a year later, this time with a remixed THX soundtrack. And this time, they were marketed with a unique twist – this would be the last time to own them in their original form. George Lucas had already begun tinkering with the movies for a Special Edition release.
The best Star Wars video release: the Executor boxed set
|Surely the best home video release of Star Wars: the |
UK's Executor boxed set of VHS tapes from 1995
The Star Wars Special Edition on VHS
Throughout the years of the home video boom, a new generation had grown up who had only seen Star Wars on the small screen. This fact was rather nicely exploited in this trailer for the theatrical release of the Special Editions. Star Wars would never be quite the same experience on home video that it had been on the big screen, but the arrival of DVDs and Blu-ray, along with bigger TVs and better sound systems, was closing the gap between the cinema experience and home entertainment. We should have been able to finally enjoy the 1977 film in high quality at home, except for one thing: George Lucas wouldn't release it.
We'll consider that contentious issue in another post about the frustrating history of the film on 21st century formats.