Blu Ray Harvest: Horror Beyond Imagination
September 14, 2011

As the entire galaxy knows, this week finally sees the release of the Star Wars Saga on Blu Ray DVD. This initial announcement was met with excitement from the fan community, but soon led to some trepidation when we started to wonder just which versions of these oft tinkered with tales we were going to get. As the months wore on, and more details emerged, it became clear that the space madness that Mr. Lucas had apparently been exposed to sometime in the early 90s was wrapping itself around what little storytelling juice he had left and destroying it completely. While I understand and accept that these DVDs will sell by the Imperial Cruiserload, there has been more mockery and bitchiness for this round than ever before. I think most of that fury has to do with the changes and additions, but I’d like to tell you why I’M not going to be spending my heard earned sheckles on these new, shiny drink coasters.

Cliché that it is, I HAVE owned these films on every single format but Beta for the last 20 some years. Hell, I even owned that huge Lasedisc boxed set with hardcover book from ’93, the one that cost $300.00 when it was first released. I dragged that sucker all over the country with me on all my moves, as it was the only way to get pure, unadulterated Star Wars as we all knew and loved it. I remember being insanely excited that it had the theatrical trailers for the trilogy, and made a special VHS burn of them just to pop in whenever I felt like. See, before I get to my rant, I need to point out something very sad, but telling about myself and my relationship to that place far, far away. When I was at Best Buy the other day and saw the cardboard stand up of Threepio holding a sign saying ‘The Complete Saga’ coming to Blu Ray, my first instinct was to give that droid the finger (MY Threepio? One of my favorite characters from those movies?? Why??), and then tell him, “Yeah, but, see, it ISN’T the complete saga, is it? Because those AREN’T the films I grew up with and loved for so long”. And all of this nonsense, and (I’m sorry to say this and offend all the New Trilogy fans) the fact I always have to clarify just which part of the saga I love when I talk to people to distance myself from the complete awfulness of Episodes 1-3, has made me start to walk away from Star Wars.

It’ll never leave me as a thing, as a love, but I’ve realized that there are so many other obsessions of mine that haven’t let me down the way Star Wars has that I tend to give my attention, and more importantly my money, to them instead. So, I admit, the lure of extras and that purported to be amazing documentary is what got me to shell out for the trilogy when it hit DVD in 2004. I also have the 2007 editions, with the original versions as the ‘flip sides’, and most of the time, if I DO want to watch the Star Wars Saga (’77-’83, ‘natch) I put the latter in, because even though the quality isn’t as crisp and clean, they’re MY Star Wars movies, full stop. When I do try and watch the 2004 discs, I appreciate all over again just how terribly they’ve been tampered with. So, I don’t need to hit on any of the obvious points already being lampooned allover the ‘net about the new releases. They either bother you, or they don’t. You either ‘get’ why they’re a travesty, or you accept them. And May the Force Be With You, Amen.

So, all that said, there’s a very simple way I could have been lured to pick these things up, warts and all. It’s what I was getting to earlier, what really burns me up about these releases: the extras. Or should I say, the lack of extras. Most of us come from the VHS Generation, when that’s all we got and we were lucky to get it. Once in a while, a special VHS release came out as a stand alone, as in the Star Wars classic making ofs FINALLY being included with the Blu Rays (I had burned my copies to DVD long ago on my own, thanks George). But to actually get trailers and deleted scenes and commercials and such, that took the small but vocal Laserdic community to support, which led logically to DVDs. We’re living in the Wonderland of DVD, where anything and everything that ever aired, was filmed, got released or shown once on the ABC Sunday Night Movie is making it’s way to our shelves. And that is a good thing, a GREAT thing, it’s what gets us giddy about new release news, what makes us hopeful about long overdue films getting their place in the sun with all the bells and whistles.

Which brings me back to the Star Wars Blu Rays. Has anyone out there read the list of extras? OK, the big news that almost had me way back when we saw that Luke on Tatooine clip, are the deleted scenes. Up til now, we’ve had to rely on grainy footage from that computer game back in 1999, or on set pics from old issues of Starlog. I don’t know how many there are, but even a few are gold when it comes to these films. Hell, I could pick up Steel Magnolias and probably get an hour’s worth, why shouldn’t I for one of the biggest pop culture happenings in history? Well, it’s a good question, because if we go back to that list of extras, what else do we have? A documentary about the 501st? A documentary that chronicles how Star Wars has seeped into different comedy projects over the years? Star Wars Tech, a 45 minute piece that talks to scientists about the weapons and gadgetry….(zzzzzzzz……..) wha? Huh?? Oh , sorry, I nodded off there because I got bored shitless by just listing the filler they’re blessing us with. Oh, and I should add, we ONLY get this fried gold by buying the entire saga. So even if we’re repulsed by the newer films, we’re being forced to accept them into our homes.

So, am I being petty? Am I being a ‘whiny fanboy’ about this? If you think so, start bopping around the internet and doing some digging. Believe me, you won’t have to go far. Why, just last week someone unearthed an amazing clip that I’d certainly never seen before, from the UK series Jim’ll Fix It, of Mark Hamill having a picnic on Dagobah with a kid that won a contest. It was weird, kind of brilliant, and something you will NEVER be given on a Lucasfilm release. I could go on, but spend a few minutes on You Tube and have a look round, there are insane amounts of Star Wars goodies to be savored. Talk show appearances by the cast on the Mike Douglas Show, literally WEEKS after the phenomenon exploded; Kenner commercials galore; Hamill and Ford facing off against Jane Pauly on the Today Show as Empire is about to be released; Burger Chef and Burger King commercials; the cast at the Academy Awards; Carrie Fisher on SNL, the list goes on and on. These are the things true die hard Star Wars fans cherish, those hazy years between that first experience and Empire, when the world revolved around Luke and Vader, and it seemed to permeate every corner of our existence. And please, no one try and tell me these could be rights issues. Lucasfilm has more money than Europe, with a few days and dollars work it could all be tied up.

I have a friend that used to do some work for a studio in their archive department, and for years he used to beg his higher ups to seriously consider releasing some of the more obscure titles in their library, that there was an audience out there for them. His pleas always fell on deaf ears, but it seems Warner Brothers has caught on with their burn to order site, getting dozens of movies and specials out to market after their solitary airings. This is rare, most of the time when it comes to cult or lesser known films, the studio doesn’t want to go the extra mile at all, they just want to get it out. I had an experience a few years back, when I’d met with Universal about getting Flash Gordon re released on DVD after so many years in moratorium. I had gotten hold of a making of mini doc, and offered it to them for inclusion. The woman in charge told me, “well, we really don’t know where this came from, so we may not have the rights”. A making of doc on the set of Flash Gordon back in 1980 and shown to exhibitors round the world most assuredly belonged to them, but she basically didn’t want to do the paperwork and research to sign off on it, and so the release was bare bones.

My point is, this is LUCASFILM we’re talking about. Seriously, where is this stuff? And I’ll go even further, where is the Holiday Special? I know, I know, Lucas says he’d like to destroy every copy, but do YOU know any place else the main actors lent their voices to their animated counterparts? Further, any other place that has ever produced their animated counterparts? Or the only other place they all appeared as their characters, other than the original trilogy? I mean, hell, if you want to throw Bea Arthur and the Jefferson Starship in the bin and JUST give us the stuff with the original cast and the cartoon, we’ll take it! I find it bizarre and beyond frustrating that every time we get a new batch of releases we get shafted, and each time we think, “well, maybe next time they’ll give us everything”, and they never do. I listed a bunch of pop culture relics earlier, things that surrounded the original releases, but just imagine what else Lucas has in his archives. You know those snippets of screen tests we’ve seen on line and in the 2004 doc? Wouldn’t you love to have those, uncut? I know a  guy who turned his hobby of collecting into a job with Lucasfilm, and he had scoured the globe for these promotional 7” singles that told the story of Star Wars, that got sent out to radio stations. They were a fascinating bit of memorabilia that few people ever knew about, and after a decade, he’d only found 3 of the 6 parts he needed. Just the sort of thing I’d love to have as an extra on a Blu Ray set of DVDs.

So, thanks for the memories George, they’re unforgettable. I’ll still watch my ‘classic’ DVDs and pick up the odd figure or two, but I have to draw my line in the sand. I know you don’t care, but I have better luck and more fun trying to find what you won’t give us on my own. It’s a lot less frustrating, and a lot cheaper. I keep thinking in the back of my mind, “he’ll come to his senses, he’ll give it all to us eventually”. But I’m now convinced that he never will. So, to those of you who will forgive and forget, enjoy the Blu Ray hoopla and releases. I know what Star Wars was, what it meant to me, and how it should be treated, and I’ll just put together my own box set illegally. It’s what Han would have done, back when he knew how to shoot.

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Jason "Plastic Soul" Lenzi
A successful television producer and voice-over artist, pop culture fanatic Jason Lenzi established Bif Bang Pow! in 2005, channeling his boundless enthusiasm as a fan and collector into the creation of the company’s highly-desired toy lines. His enthusiasm has proven contagious, earning BBP! unanimous praise from the toy community and leading to creative partnerships with the likes of comics giant Alex Ross and rock icon Scott Ian. BBP! has so far released action figures and bobble heads for 'Flash Gordon', 'The Big Lebowski', 'The Twilight Zone', 'Dexter', 'LOST', HBO's 'Eastbound and Down' and 'The Venture Brothers'. When he's not chasing down new licenses, producing and narrating various TV series, or reading every music magazine on the shelves, he's obsessively playing Beatles: Rock Band until he gets every song right.
Read other articles by Jason "Plastic Soul" Lenzi.

 

 

 

23 Comments »

  • CantinaDan says:

    Good blog, Jason. Thanks for recapping all that. Lucasfilm just needs to sit on its hands already. But “reign it in” does not compute for those folks.

  • elvis8batman says:

    Perfect post if ever there was one!!

    I was, and I guess a big Star Wars fan, loved growing up with the original trilogy, and was so eager for the prequels……. then when they came out, it was like walking in on your best friends nailing the love of your life.

    But like you I thought, well these suck and I don’t need to concern myself with them, as I’ll always have the originals. But as we know, the originals are an embarrassment as far as old Georgie boy is concerned, so he messes about with them till they no longer feel the same and we don’t want to know anymore.

    I have the original films on VHS, (original Ewok tune at the end of Jedi, no Jabba in A New Hope) and those versions cleaned up, are all I want on DVD or Blue Ray. Maybe one day, when dear old George is no longer with us, Fox will give us the originals cleaned up and untampered with and real fans will be able to pick them up, sit back and again enjoy watching Star Wars.

  • Howard the Duck says:

    All I can say is that I just borrowed your closing statement as my new AFi signature. Well said, brother!

  • demoncat says:

    well said for i had the same thoughts about the blue ray and all the star wars stuff like the cast doing the mike show and carrie fisher on snl. that could be included on these discs. and are not including finaly the holiday special but Lucas will never ever let that thing if he does nothing else ever even finishes tweaking the saga will never let the holiday special even just the animated parts which is the first time fans get to see Boba fett. be on dvd or included on what ever new technology star wars lands on.

  • Shellhead says:

    Wow. You couldn’t cut that sense of entitlement with a lightsaber!
    They’re his movies, and he can release (or not release) whatever he wants. Don’t worry, his kids will be milking it long after George is gone, and you’ll probably get everything you’re asking for eventually (including the holiday special).
    BTW you lost all credibility with that “I’ll just put it together illegally” line.

    • “Sense of entitlement”?? Really?? Normally I wouldn’t bother defending myself against comments like yours, but you’re way off the mark. I was pretty clear throughout the article that I feel that if the Blu Rays and their changes are what you want, go right ahead and lap them up. I don’t, and won’t be paying for them. If the only version of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ available was a colorized version, I’d rather hang onto a dusty VHS copy. But more importantly, the article was bemoaning the lack of supplemental materials, NOT focusing on the altered versions of the films, which seems to be where your dig comes from. (But frankly, I am sick to death of the excuse “they’re his films, he can do what he wants”, as if it’s giving a pass to the idiotic story and style changes being made. By your logic, if he took all other versions off the market and replaced the footage with Claymation, you’d be fine with it. Which could happen, by the way). As for my comment at the bottom, it was meant to be taken lightly and sarcastically, but making the point that to get the materials I’m craving, I have to be more creative than a billionaire is with his own films.

      • Batty says:

        But you still did start your article by bringing up that these versions are not truly Star Wars by going so far as to say “You either ‘get’ why they’re a travesty, or you accept them.” It did not read as a neutral “some people will like the, so people will hate them”, but rather if you do accept them, you are accepting a travesty, and you’re wrong.

        If this wasn’t the point of your article, then you really shouldn’t have started it off this way and just gone into the extras portion. You really can’t say Shellhead’s off the mark when your first three paragraphs are about the movies of your childhood being lost.

        • Fair point, Batty, but again, I’m not saying these films are ‘lost’, that my childhood has been raped, but that I simply don’t accept these versions as the films I love. I’m saying I’ll take the original versions. And YES, I do feel all those things, because this column is my opinion. If people think I’m wrong to critique the new versions as I do, fine. I certainly thought my comments were mild compared to the bile making it’s way round the internet, but truly, I feel much, much stronger now about the meager extras than anything else.

  • stewbacca says:

    Im waiting more for the complete seasons of Ewoks and Droids– not some splice together movie trilogy versions of them– but unedited together with the original theme songs..

  • gl666 says:

    In all fairness, I probably have more money than Europe now. Maybe hardcore Star Wars fans are too touchy?

  • Brett says:

    Personally, I like the changes Lucas has made, especially adding Hayden Christiansen at the end of Jedi and I saw the original Star Wars in 1977 and ROTJ the day it came out in theatres so I’m a fan from way back.

    I enjoyed the prequels very, very much and feel they enhance the story immensely. Long after this generation is dust in the wind, people will be watching the Star Wars movies as one big story — Episodes 1-6. To have kept the original old man Anakin at the end of Jedi makes no sense in the big picture. You can try and reason out that Anakin aged under the helmet but it stands to reason that when he turns back to the good side in Jedi, his appearance should be as it was when he was there last — because he has been restored. Still, fans of the original cringe at the thought of it.

    I tried to watch the old versions some time ago and seeing old Anakin at the end of Jedi just throws it all off. The video quality is terrible and it looks like a cheesy 70′s movie — which is ok if you like cheesy 70′s movies, which obviously many do. Thing is, Star Wars is going to outlive all the people who think Lucas raped their childhood.

    Keeping the originals the way they were is very small picture thinking, because future generations aren’t going to have the patience or interest to sit through the high quality of the prequels then have to watch the old, antique originals to see the conclusion of the story unfold.

    I know kids of today who can’t sit through the original Star Wars as it was because they think its dated, slow and boring. They don’t think like the original fans do, that its a part of history and should remain as it was. Many of the new Star Wars fans of today — who are fans of the prequels — want to see a synergy and flow throughout all six films. Because it IS one big story and that’s the way future generations will see it and that is the way George Lucas as the artist/author wants to present it.

    Some artists believe a work is never finished until they are dead and George just so happens to be one of those kinds of artists. The world doesn’t always respond the way we would like. It’s tragic that you take this so personally, especially since it’s not like George Lucas had the stormtroopers come to your house and destroyed all your old VHS/Laserdisc versions. You can still watch them, in all their dated glory.

    Me? I’ll buy these new versions because I feel the changes enhance the overall experience. Futhermore, I think he didn’t change enough. With the next release, I hope George Lucas erases all the Ewoks out of Jedi and replaces them with Wookies. Now that would be a change even the original fans would have a difficult time finding fault with.

    • Hey Brett, thanks for the comments! Just wanted to clarify, I don’t mean to seem that I take it ‘so personally’, I guess I’m just disappointed that with groovy new technology we don’t get lots of goodies for a definitive set of extras. Separately, I have to say, I disagree with just about everything you wrote, BUT it was very well thought out, passionate and made some very valid points, and for that I commend you, sir! Enjoy Star Wars Friday!

  • Brett says:

    I like that we can agree to disagree, at least on changing the films. Because as I said above, I feel he didn’t change enough. There’s much more I feel he can change to make them even better.

    That said, I do agree with you on the extras. I’m very disappointed myself. One extra I’ve been wanting to see for over twenty years is the other ‘endings’ to ROTJ. I remember when ROTJ came out and I don’t recall whether I was watching an interview with Carrie Fisher or Mark Hamill and when asked about the ending, they said they didn’t know how it was going to end because Lucas filmed three different endings, one of them had Luke turning to the dark side. I remember that distinctly because at the time, Star Wars was supposed to be 9 movies. If Luke went to the dark side, there was your hook for the next three films.

    All that was moot of course when Marvel Comics released their summer movie special which adaptated the film and gave away the ending before the movie was out. To this day, I don’t know if he really did film three different endings or they were just saying that. BUT, if there were alternate endings to ROTJ, I have wanted to see them for years. So everytime Lucas re-releases these things, I am ALWAYS disappointed in the extras. So for that, I share your pain. ;)

    • Oh WOW!! I just got chills as I read that, I seem to have VERY hazy recall of the same thing, either I witnessed it or saw it in print somewhere. Very cool to be reminded of that. Again, I don’t agree with your opening statement and feeling that they can’t be improved enough, but I should let it be known that I do, in fact, own the original Star Trek series on Blu Ray DVD, all cleaned up and beautiful, which gives you the choice of watching the episodes with the original effects or shiny new ones. And I must admit, I think the new stuff is amazing, like a whole new way to watch the show, I dig it. However, I must also point out the obvious: that I have the option to watch them either way. That’s a nice luxury.

  • Shellhead says:

    I love Star Wars, but I liked a lot of what he did in the Special Editions. Did he go too far in a few areas? I would say probably. Han should shoot first and Anakin should be old at the end of Jedi. And I liked the yub,yub song better than what replaced it.
    But things change and we need to be able to change with them or we’re going to turn into those old geezers talking about “back in my date, we didn’t have all this new nonsense” that we used to make fun of when we were kids.
    I run a Star Wars club and the kids (teens) LOVE the original trilogy. Whenever I show the older versions of the OT, they complain about how the effects “suck” and everything looks “fake.” And you know what? They’re right. The original VHS original just look BAD. The DVD versions are a step up and the BluRay will be another step up from that. Vader yelling “NOOOOOOO” at the end of Jedi sucks IMO, but the next generation will probably LOVE it.
    In a way, you’re complaint is akin to saying land lines are so much better than cell phones because that’s what you had as a kid.
    Nobody raped your childhood. You still have the memories, don’t you? You just come across too angst filled about this, especially in the first half of your article.
    Besides, as I mentioned before, Lucas’ kids are gonna milk the hell out of SW when Papa George is gone and you’ll probably get all the versions you want.

  • Krypton1976 says:

    This Blue Ray version of these films should have been the definitive collection of the Saga. The Blue Ray versions of these movies should have had the following:

    - Both the original and special edition versions of these films.
    - All the documentaries from the DVD release
    - Documentaries, extra features, deleted scenes, we haven’t seen released as incentive to buy this set.

    Since we’re not getting that, I’ll just hold on to my DVD set and not buy the Blue Ray, thank you very much.

    • Sledgehama says:

      Absolutey agree with you Krypton1976! With the level of technology available in terms of home video now, there’s no reason whatsoever that they can’t have seamless branching versions of the original release and then whatever new edition Mr Lucas sees fit. That way everyone would be happy – George can continue to tinker away as he sees fit and the die-hard fans can have the original cuts they remember and love.

      Deep inside, I still hold out hope that one day there will be a Star Wars release that rivals the level of extras we had on the Lord of the Rings Extended editions or the Blade Runner Blu-ray set. Still, we have Star Wars Begins, Building Empire and Returning to Jedi documentaries on YouTube – wish they’d put those on the discs!

  • craig starsky says:

    There are many schools of thought on this whole CGI Star Wars renaissance;some fans are overjoyed; some are angry; some are scared; and some fall somewhere in the cracks. I am one of those. I had the most wonderful memories from 1977-81 when I was a teenager costuming Han Solo, and the rest of my friends as their faves..Vader, Luke, Leia. We had fun running around the mall, giving free publicity to the theaters and I wouldn’t change any of it -not even for the keys to the Lucasfilm archives with a blank check for anything I wanted. My memories are, and will remain, untouchable by ANY CGI-doctored footage, story changes,and anything else that slitheres into the collective consciousness passing itself of as “Star Wars.” Buy it on Blu-Ray or don’t..I have the sneaking suspicion George won’t care either way.

  • Troy says:

    There’s good news to one of your points, at least. The cartoon segment from the holiday special IS on the Blu-ray release (and in its entirety). It’s in the Boba Fett prototype armor section of the Archives under “First Look.”

  • Chris says:

    Excellent insight! I couldn’t agree more.

  • [...] and all of extras left OFF of what they described the “definitive” set.   Here is the blog that Jason wrote about that: http://www.actionfigureinsider.com/blog/jasonlenzi/blu-ray-harvest-horror-beyond-imagination/ [...]

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