As a child of the 1970s, the original Star Wars trilogy1Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi was—and remains—one of my favorite movie series of all time.
Unfortunately, George Lucas has made it virtually impossible to watch the original unedited versions of the films.2Unedited versions exist on LaserDisc and DVD, but they are low quality transfers. From 1997 onwards, only modified versions have been available—with newly-added CGI effects, deleted scenes that add nothing to the story, changes to sound effects, and even replacement of characters, such as some of those in the cantina in the original Star Wars. He called these releases Special Editions…but to fans of the originals, they weren’t so special.
Enter one Petr Harmy and an army of volunteers. Using multiple sources, Harmy and the others pieced together all three original films, doing away with the edits, correcting colors, upscaling imagery, and replacing sound effects. This 20-minute video explains the process, and contains a number of before-and-after comparison shots.
The end result is something called Harmy’s Star Wars Trilogy Despecialized3Because these versions remove the Special Editions’ changes—get it? Editions: Amazingly high quality versions of the theatrical releases of all three original movies. As a very brief example, here’s one still (click for a much larger version) from Star Wars:
The movies are not at Blu-Ray (1920×1080) resolution, but they’re very well done 720p (1280×720) versions which look amazingly nice even when scaled to fill the screen of my 27″ iMac. And most importantly, all the cruft added on through the years is gone. No bogus CGI. No replaced characters. No weird sound effects. Oh, and (spoiler alert!) Han shoots first.
So how can you get these Despecialized versions for yourself? That’s a bit tricky…