Since 1997, George Lucas has been hell bent on ruining the original Star Wars trilogy. Every new release — in theatres, on DVD and on Blu-Ray — comes with more added garbage than the last. This fan-made version of the original trilogy is the best version of Star Wars you can watch.
Between adding a silly Jabba the Hutt scene to the first movie, putting an absurd musical number in Return of the Jedi, and Greedo shooting first (a change so convtroversial it has its own Wikipedia page), it's like Lucasfilm is trolling us. I mean come on — what does a big CGI alien walking in front of the shot possibly add to the movie? At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jar Jar Binks in the the 4K release of Return of the Jedi.
Unfortunately, you can't buy the original version of the movie anymore, and it was never released in very high quality. The closest you can get is buying the laserdisc versions for over $200 on eBay (and if you don't do that, you'll have to break out those old VHS tapes from your closet).
But, with the help of many dedicated fans and video editors, an originaltrilogy.com forum user named Harmy decided to recreate the original, unaltered trilogy in high definition. He calls it the Despecialized Edition, and it's the version of Star Wars we've all been clamoring for the last 20 years.
What the Despecialized Edition Does
The Despecialized Edition is a "fan preservation", aiming not to create a new version of the movie, but to restore the original trilogy exactly as it was in the 70s and 80s — little flaws and all. To recreate the original 1977 version of A New Hope, for example, he used clips from:
- The 2011 Blu-Ray edition
- An HDTV broadcast of the 2004 Special Edition DVD
- A low quality version of the original trilogy from the special features of the 2006 DVD, affectionately called George's Original Unaltered Trilogy (or the "GOUT")
- Various scans of 70mm and 35mm film prints and still images from the films
With the help of many other originaltrilogy.com members, Harmy took bits and pieces of the above sources and edited them together with the Blu-Ray footage to recreate the theatrical version of the movie — in 720p HD. Watch the video above to see how it was put together — it really is fascinating.
Not all of the Special Edition changes are bad, of course. (I rather liked the redone CGI space battles.) But there is no doubt that this is the best version of the film you can get today. The colour correction alone puts it so far ahead of the Blu-Ray that it's the only version I'll watch.
You can see a full list of Harmy's changes, with screenshots and descriptions, in this Google+ album. You can also read more on the Despecialized Edition's forum post at originaltrilogy.com, as wells as the threads for Empire Strikes Back's Despecialized Edition and Return of the Jedi's Despecialized Edition.
How to Find and Download the Despecialized Edition
Since this is an unofficial community project, the only way you can get it is...well, "unofficially". The legality of this project is up in the air, and while some have made a Fair Use argument in the name of preservation, Harmy doesn't offer the movie as a simple one-click download. You'll have to do a bit of legwork to download and watch it. The creators also request that you legally own a copy of the Star Wars Blu-Rays, so that even if you aren't on the most solid legal ground, you're on solid moral ground.
TehPARADOX.com is the most "official" place to download the Despecialized Edition, though obtaining it is a fairly complex process using a program called JDownloader. I have not been able to get this method to work properly, so while you can try it using these instructions, know that you may not have very much luck.
By far the easiest way to obtain the movie — albeit a little shadier — is through BitTorrent. Just visit your favourite BitTorrent search engine (like torrentz.eu) and search for "star wars despecialized edition". You'll probably find quite a few options. Remember to use a VPN or proxy to keep yourself anonymous when you download.
I know that seems like a lot of hassle, but trust me: once you've watched the Despecialized Editions, you'll never go back.