Many fans have hoped and dreamed that the 1977 theatrical cut of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope would eventually arrive on Blu-ray alongside the original trilogy sequels Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. It seems we may be closer to that happening if one wily director is to be believed. According to John Landis, good friend of George Lucas and the man behind such classics as Animal House and The Blues Brothers, Disney is gearing up to release the unaltered versions of the first three Star Wars movies very soon.
While many films get a 'director's cut', the case of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope and its sequels is out of the norm. Ever since the first film's May, 1977 release, director George Lucas has been tinkering with it. Even during its original theatrical run and subsequent theatrical re-releases in the late 70s and early 80s. But it wasn't until 1997, when the original trilogy got a theatrical Special Edition re-release, that fans lost their minds. At the time, CGI was still in its infancy stages. Despite that, George Lucas decided to go back in and add some much unwanted scenes and computer generalized characters to all three movies.
Maybe fans wouldn't have complained so much if the original unaltered versions were made readily available. But they weren't. George Lucas called these new edits the true versions, making it incredibly hard to see the untouched classics as they were originally released. And more changes have been made with the 2004 DVD release of the film, and the 2011 Blu-ray releases. George Lucas has refused to make hi-def versions of the original cuts available to fans. He came close. In 2006, he did release the 'unaltered' versions of the 1977, 1980 and 1983 cuts of the movies as a limited edition DVD bonus disc. However, as most tech savvy fans know, those were laser disc transfers. They were non-anamorphic. While they were presented in letterbox, they were not formatted for widescreen TVs.
It was rumored last year that George Lucas was on the verge of giving in. Timed to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans were allegedly going to get the original unaltered theatrical cuts on Blu-ray. But that didn't happen. And a lot of fans gave up hope. But now along comes John Landis, who seems to know more than anyone else about this matter. During a Q&A session with the iconic filmmaker, Empire tweeted out that Disney is finally going to release the theatrical cuts. George Lucas is said to have mentioned it the last time the two directors spoke.
There are no details beyond John Landis' remakes during this Q&A. Though the director seems like a worthy source, nothing has been officially confirmed. It doesn't seem that John Landis has any reason to lie about this. We also must note that Empire doesn't specifically state Blu-ray. Perhaps a theatrical re-release is being planned. We have heard that all 6 Star Wars movies are being shown as a marathon at AMC theaters on the eve of The Force Awakens' theatrical debut. It must also be pointed out that there is a rights issue. 20th Century Fox owns the rights to distribute the first 6 movies until 2020. At that time, the movies will revert back to Disney. Except for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Fox will retain the rights to distribute the first film for ever. Or until China completely buys out the studio and sells it to the highest bidder. Unless Fox and Disney strike a deal, there is zero chance of the first three Blu-rays arriving unaltered from Disney. But deals are what Hollywood is built upon, so it's not out of the question.
20th Century Fox has already announced that it is releasing new Blu-ray steelbook versions of the entire series this November, timed to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If the original unaltered theatrical cuts were going to be a part of that set, we'd have definitely heard about it by now. It would have been huge news. With those on the way, though, it seems unlikely that Fox and Disney would strike a deal allowing Disney to release competing sets. Which again goes back to the notion that perhaps these unaltered films are getting ready for theatrical distribution this December.
Another thing that must be factored into this rumor is the fact that the 2011 Blu-ray editions of all six movies are considered the 'proper' versions. They fall into the franchise timeline, and are considered canon. And they all contain various cuts and additions. It's unlikely that Disney would want to promote something that doesn't technically follow the canon continuity. Perhaps they will arrive as bonus features not unlike on the 2006 DVDs. Until there is any official word from the studios, we won't know what is being planned. Does John Landis know what he's talking about? Only time will tell.