Like any real Star Wars fan, I prefer the original theatrical versions of the classic trilogy over the "Special Editions" first introduced in 1997 and refurbished for DVD release in 2004. Like any real Star Wars fan, I was thrilled and astonished with the announcement that the unaltered originals would be issued on DVD for a limited time in September 2006, overturning George Lucas's former insistence that those "first drafts" no longer existed. Like any real Star Wars fan, I was crushed to learn that these holy grails of digital media would not be anamorphically enhanced for display on 16:9 televisions, falling short of the baseline industry standard followed for even the most worthless of widescreen movies on DVD nowadays.

This is how the non-anamorphic Star Wars DVDs will look on a widescreen TV: a low-def little box surrounded by inky blackness.

Now, I'm well established among the royal elite of George Lucas apologists, but y'know, this is just bullshit. Lucasfilm can't tell us the needed masters for anamorphic transfers are unavailable, or that process would require a prohibitively expensive restoration. I've downloaded bootleg DVDs of the original classic trilogy that fans have mastered from old laserdiscs, and those versions are freaking anamorphic. And they look pretty darn good. You can't tell me that a fan with a laserdisc player and a PC is more technologically capable than the staff at Skywalker Ranch. No, this isn't about source elements or restoration. It's about greed and spite. It's about milking one more cash grab in the twilight of a home video format on the verge of obsolescence. It's about branding these seminal works of cinema as mere "bonus feature" curiosities while having the gall to hawk "Han Shot First" T-shirts. It's about a filmmaker too stubbornly obsessed with revisionist tinkering to let anyone else delight in the raw unvarnished works that we all loved to begin with.

And the thing is, nobody but super-intense Star Wars fans and home theater buffs understands or even cares about all this. There are no news reports in the mainstream media about this travesty. Most people don't make a distinction between the original classic trilogy and the 2004 editions, and couldn't tell you the difference between anamorphic and non-anamorphic DVDs. You have to be a geek of two magnitudes to even be offended by this. And what little discourse there is surrounding this situation is riddled with misinformation. People accuse Star Wars fans of complaining just for the sake of complaining, of being big crybabies even after Lucas has given us what we've been asking for. These clueless morons think anamorphic enhancement constitutes an alteration to the original films -- if they make 'em all fancy and anamorphicized like we want, they wouldn't be unaltered anymore, would they? Such breathtaking ignorance.

Like any real Star Wars fan, I've got other avenues, legal or otherwise, for enjoying the original classic trilogy on my widescreen television. Like any real Star Wars fan, I'll hold out hope for a fittingly presented legitimate edition of these historic films, whether on DVD or some high-definition format, though those hopes are fading low.

Like any real Star Wars fan, I ain't buying this shit they're selling.

(Three days later...)

Ah, hell. Who am I trying to kid? After reading all the Internet reviews of the new DVDs, and everybody saying that they look better than the laserdiscs (which I own) and all the bootlegs derived therefrom, I just couldn't take it no more. The hell with moral outrage, the hell with what any real Star Wars fan ought to do. I bought the damn trilogy for, I believe, no exaggeration, the sixth time in my adult life.

I hit Circuit City to grab the lowest price in town, $14.99 a pop, along with the free bonus lithograph prints I had been coveting. I figure those lithographs are cool enough to be worth five bucks apiece, so let's say this ethically dubious purchase only set me back $30... from a certain point of view. And you know what? The DVDs ain't that bad. The color and contrast are really quite excellent. Sure, you get the unsightly banding and pixel jitters when you zoom the image to fit a widescreen display, but even still, this blows the doors off any bootleg of the Original Originals. If you squint your eyes a little and let yourself get lost in the story instead of fretting over A/V fidelity, it's actually kinda sorta awesome. These aren't the DVDs you're looking for, but at least they don't suck.

So forget what I said before, in some vain effort to resist my inevitable destiny. If you love the old-school Star Wars flicks, suck it up and buy these sumbitches. Drop your pants, bend over and let old Georgie-Boy ram this one right up your thermal exhaust port, good and hard. You'll be glad you did.

My journey to the dark side is complete.

Cinema