Finally, the wait is over for the original STAR WARS trilogy on DVD, as the impressive four-disc set arrives in stores Sept. 21 (Fox Home Ent., $69.98). Purists, of course, have been up in arms for two years after George Lucas revealed that he had no intention of making the theatrical versions of A NEW HOPE, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI available on DVD. Plus, as everyone is aware by now, there have been more digital revisions beyond the 97 special editions, which should stir even more controversy among them an improved CG model of Jabba the Hutt and a smoother Han/Greedo fight in A NEW HOPE but with the same result; and the insertion of actor Hayden Christiansen as Anakin Skywalker during the Force ghost scene at the end of JEDI.
Even so, the digital cleanup by Lowry Digital working from the original negatives is to be commended. The desert and snow scenes, in particular, are very sharp and clear, thanks to the removal of more than 10 million pieces of dirt. The level of detail throughout is amazing. Plus we now have the films remixed for the first time in Dolby Digital 5.1, though there have been some reports of some audio mixing errors on A NEW HOPE, such as channel flipping of John Williams famous score.
As with PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES, there are three menu sets for each movie themed to the various planets, for those who like a different boot up experience.
Disc four, meanwhile, contains the following bonus features:
* Audio commentary from Lucas, actress Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren. EMPIRE director Irvin Kershner joins the team for a discussion of the second movie.
* Empire of Dreams: The Story of the STAR WARS Trilogy, a 151-minute doc by Kevin Burns, who was given complete access to the Lucasfilm archives. Naturally most of the time is devoted to A NEW HOPE, taking you back to 77 to relive the struggle and phenomenon.
* "The Characters of STAR WARS, which describes each character and offers never-before-seen footage of Kurt Russell trying out as Han, Cindy Williams as Leia and William Katt as Luke.
* The Birth of the Lightsaber explains how they rotoscoped it in and reveals rare shots of video rehearsals.
* The Force is With Them: The Legacy of STAR WARS offers insights by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, James Cameron and Ridley Scott and how STAR WARS impacted their work.