An Original 35mm Print Of 'Star Wars' Found, Cleaned Up, Scanned And It's Gorgeous

If there's one thing that Star Wars fans want more than anything, other than to see Star Wars: Episode VIII right now, it's untainted versions of the original trilogy without any of the Special Edition additions that came with the re-release of the movies in 1997. Those have pretty much been the only versions available on home video for years now, with the exception of a DVD release that included the original cuts, but there wasn't much care taken with those versions.

Some dedicated and resourceful fans have created their own versions, with Harmy's Despecialized Edition release being the most famous and widely (though illegally) distributed online. Now another group of fans have taken the time and money to scan a newly found original print of Star Wars, and they've uploaded some footage online with a comparison to the Blu-Ray release that is available to buy. Once you see the differences, you'll want the Star Wars original cut even more. Check it out.

Here are some of the examples of Star Wars: The Silver Screen Edition from the group called Team Negative1:

You may remember that George Lucas said that the Special Edition was the only version of Star Wars that the filmmaker wanted people to see from then on. Back in 2004, Lucas told The Today Show:

The special edition, that's the one I wanted out there. The other movie, it's on VHS, if anybody wants it. ... I'm not going to spend the—we're talking millions of dollars here, the money and the time to refurbish that, because to me, it doesn't really exist anymore. It's like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I'm sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it.

Previously, Lucasfilm made us believe that the original negatives of Star Wars that they had in their possession were permanently altered for the Special Edition releases of the movies, making restoration essentially impossible. And yet, here we are, with the team able to track down a negative of the original cut of Star Wars thanks to an eBay seller who had a Spanish print that was only somewhat faded.

Finding any print of the original Star Wars is rare, because back in those days, after films played in theaters, the prints were destroyed. Any prints that survive today are from dumpster divers and sneaky people who found or kept them instead of getting rid of them.

Movie Mezzanine recently caught up with the team who stumbled upon this treasure and were intent on sharing it with the world. One of the anonymous team members who calls himself Mr. Black explains how they started and improved their process of scanning the film and restoring it for people to see:

You would have the digital camera right up against the lens of the projector. and you'd take a picture, and then advance a frame, and then take another picture. [But now] We've got 4K scans coming off a 35mm projector, in real time. So if a reel is 20 minutes, it takes 20 minutes to capture.

Along with the scan, they had to clean up the damage to the print, making sure to take the time to carefully go through each frame, removing every speck of dirt and scratch that was on the print. The goal wasn't to make the most perfect looking version, but rather one that feels like a print from 1977. It might not look as crisp or clean as the Blu-ray release, but that's the idea.

It's been a long process that they've mostly funded themselves and took years to complete. Sadly, it's also unofficial and basically illegal, so there's no legitimate way for you to see this. But if you were to look around the right channels online, you could probably find it.

Movie Mezzanine points out there there may be an official 4K restoration of Star Wars that has been commissioned by Disney and completed by Reliance Media works. Apparently a promotional reel from the company has some cleaned up footage from Star Wars that is completely different from the Blu-ray release, which has some believing that an official release of the non-Special Edition version may actually be on the way.

For a much more extensive look at the new restored scan of Star Wars, including more from Team Negative1 and some discussion about some of the other fan-made restorations that have been made, check out Movie Mezzanine's fantastic full article over here.