Tuesday, May 20, 2014

rant of the day

     It's a forgone conclusion for most Gen-Xers that everyone born after 1977 has seen the single most important movie that defines the mythology of their lives -- Star Wars (1977).

This is just not the case. In fact, there seems to be throngs of people walking the Earth at this very moment who only regard the original film and its subsequent franchise with nothing more than a vague notion.

Obviously, there isn't a person alive on this planet (at least in the Western hemisphere) who hasn't heard of it, but ask someone uninitiated about certain details and you'll quickly find yourself in self-imposed nerdville in less than twelve parsecs.

Ever since The Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm for 4 billion dollars in early 2013, a new hope quickly began circulating amongst die hard Star Wars purists that the original trilogy (1977 - 1983) may finally see the light of day in all its high definition glory.

above left: Joseph Campbell; above right: Akira Kurosawa

Long before the words: "Episode IV" and "A New Hope" were added to the opening crawl and the term "Special Editions" became derogatory, there was a movie that mined the philosophical teachings of Joseph Campbell and the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa called simply Star Wars. Aside from a few highly sought after Japanese LaserDiscs (ported over and relegated to bonus discs on one official U.S. DVD release), the film and it's two classic sequels in their theatrical forms have never been appropriately restored.

George Lucas himself has vehemently stuck to an obviously false claim that the original elements of his space saga were in such bad shape that they didn't warrant the jump to hyper space in terms of an anamorphic DVD or Blu-ray release. We have all the Essanay and Mutual Chaplin shorts (dating back to 1914) beautifully preserved (and soon to be released on Blu-ray) but nobody sat the original film cans of Star Wars in a cool, dry place?

The skewed logic seemed to be that with advancements in technology, more changes were possible and inevitable. Imagine every two or three years a new release of Casablanca (1942) or Gone with the Wind (1939) featuring new characters, or different dialog and settings ad nauseam. Ted Turner was very nearly lynched for sacrilegiously colorizing Casablanca (among other timeless classics) in the late '80s. Thankfully, those abominations are mostly extinct today.

When the original Star Wars trilogy was finally released on the Blu-ray format in the late Summer of 2011, it was naturally these never-ceasing augmented versions with even new ponderous tinkerings (like Alec Guinness' weird churdle as he scares off the Sand People and the total removal of at least two original actors from very integral scenes). Still, for most of us, it was the reason we bought into the high definition craze in the first place. Star Wars is what Blu-ray players and flatscreen panels were made for. Right?

Lucas seemed adamant in denying his most sincere fans what they pleaded for all along -- unaltered versions of the films they grew up quoting and reliving almost every day to some degree, in the best picture and sound quality possible.

Lucas the pathological
He even went as far as to childishly mock his own devotees and gentle critics by brandishing a satirical "Han Shot First" t-shirt; designed only to remind George that people still remember the original versions he kept needlessly modifying (defending his dubious and reprehensible actions by stating he always intended them to look and sound that way) all along.

For anyone unfamiliar, Han shot Greedo first in the Mos Eisley Cantina, but this was inexplicably altered in later versions on home video to make Han (the roguish space pirate) seem less like a...well, roguish space pirate.

Like a petulant child who had been denied certain freedoms by the studio, Lucas probably felt that once his franchise was an unprecedented success, it was his sole right to do with it whatever he pleased. Strangely, in an act of transference, his own fans replaced those interfering studio heads he battled not so long ago, and he'd be damned if he ever gave into anyone else's creative interference (or insistence) ever again.

It was apparent that Lucas was suffering from some form of severe pathological behavior. A filthy rich pathological no less who enjoyed telling the people who made him rich to take a hike. After all, George was simply asserting his place as lord of the manor, and reminding everyone who continued to purchase his films over and over with each new release on every format (scraps from the master's table) that they were his commoners.

Now it would appear that Disney may have indefinite plans to give nerds across the galaxy what they never dreamed possible. Star Wars, the original theatrical versions, on Blu-ray. Unaltered.

To that, I only have this final thought to say...


Dan Dorman

PS: George...kiss my grits.

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