In 1997, on the 20th anniversary of the first Star Wars movie, the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition was released in theaters. It was…different. The colors were different. The effects were different. Even some tiny but important plot points were altered from the original version.
Even since then, a subgroup of Star Wars fans has been on a quest—to see Star Wars as it appeared in the 1970s. The greatest obstacle to this quest is George Lucas, who believes the updated versions are closer to the original vision for the movie.
Recently, a group of five Star Wars fans calling themselves Team Negative 1, have released a version of the movie that’s based on a 1970s 35mm print of the original film. It’s out there on the internet “for those who know where to look,” says Movie Mezzanine. But it’s necessarily hard to find: distributing this copyrighted work is illegal.
The print from which the movie was made was meant to be destroyed. But somewhere in Spain in the 1970s this one escaped. Decades later, one of the Negative 1 team members bought it on eBay for $2,000. The team rigged up a system involving a projector and a high-resolution scanner to capture each frame of the film. After that, they went through it by hand to clean the dust and dirt from the images.
The result, which they call the “Silver Screen Edition,” has a feel distinct from any of today’s official Star Wars versions. The colors are more muted, and the contrast often lower. Looking at frames from the movie side by side is like looking at the same picture passed through different Instagram filters.
Team Negative 1 doesn’t necessarily think their version is better than any other. They just like having the option of watching the movie this way. And after an incredible amount of painstaking work, they can, despite what George Lucas might prefer.
Bonus finds: Alaska’s only WWII internment camp
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