With all the excitement surrounding the release of The Force Awakens last year, it only makes sense that fans of the franchise are more desperate than ever to see the original trilogy as moviegoers saw it in theaters decades ago.
There have been plenty of attempts to restore the original version of the film in the past (some more successful than others), but last month, a cleaned-up, digitally restored copy of Star Wars finally made its way on to the Internet.
A group known as Team Negative1 spent thousands of dollars over the course of the past several years working on restoring the 35mm print that it acquired, and now the fruits of their labor are available to download. Of course, this isn’t exactly the most legal version of the movie, so you’ll have to do a little hunting if you want to find it.
Appropriately dubbed The Silver Screen Edition, this is the Star Wars that everyone saw in theaters in 1977, back before the title was changed to reflect that fact that it would be the first movie in a franchise.
In this version of the film, Han shoots first. It also lacks any of the computer generated additions that have snuck their way into every subsequent version of the movie, from the 2004 DVD release to the Blu-ray release a few years ago.
Even Petr “Harmy” Harmecek, the creator of the Despecialized Edition of the Star Wars saga, has nothing praise for The Silver Screen Edition:
“The Silver Screen version is, in my opinion, better than the current version of the Despecialized,” he tells Movie Mezzanine in an interview, “because it is 100% HD and 100% the original version.” But just because Harmy acknowledges that this restored version might be the high-water mark, it doesn’t mean his versions are obsolete.
“I can further restore those shots from the Silver Screen Edition, which were altered in any way in the Special Edition and then use them to replace the altered shots in the official release.”
Hopefully at some point in the future, Disney and Lucasfilm will take a long, hard look at the dedication of the fans and decide to release an official restored version of the 1977 print. Until then, these incredible passion projects will have to do.