The Blu-Ray release of the “Star Wars” films last week included roughly 40 minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes from the original trilogy. Many of those scenes or takes had long rumored to exist, but fans have had to wait for 30 years to finally see them.
And, for those who know every shot of the original trilogy by heart, it’s pretty surreal to watch those scenes. Many of the better-known ones – such as the ‘sandstorm’ sequence from “Return of the Jedi” – were first glimpsed on Lucasfilm’s 1998 “Star Wars: Behind The Magic” CD-ROM. Unfortunately, that CD-ROM often only included stills or, when video was provided, the quality was lackluster. The Blu-Ray release marks the first time that fans have been able to see any of those scenes in full and in a high-quality format.
There was nothing really ‘essential’ in the 40 minutes, but they were pretty cool to see just the same. With much of the footage, it was hard to gauge how good some of the scenes could have been if Lucas had finished them. As they were, many seem pretty ridiculous – but, then again, if you watched rough scenes of some of the classic moments in the original trilogy, they might look or sound pretty ridiculous too. For example, David Prowse’s voice as Darth Vader on-set sounded so timid that one had to wonder how anyone got out a quality ‘scared’ performance opposite him. It was also easy to see why, early on in the production of “Star Wars,” the U.K. crew grew nervous about the quality of the film that they were working on.
From “Return of the Jedi,” there was an interesting subplot with the commander of the Death Star that was entirely trimmed out. Also, there was a hilarious clip of a grandma-type woman flying an X-Wing fighter. One really has to wonder how she ever got cast.
The “Empire Strikes Back” sequences of note were the Wampa scenes inside the rebel base. The best part being a gag that C-3PO pulled on the invading Stormtroopers. An early Wampa attack on the rebel base was something that had long been rumored to exist and highly-anticipated. It wasn’t overly great as-is, but it was nice to finally see something that has long been discussed in “Star Wars” fandom.
From “A New Hope,” the notables bits appeared to be the Tatooine scenes with Luke’s friend Biggs, although the black-and-white alternate cantina footage was pretty cool. “Star Wars” in high-contrast black-and-white was really interesting to see.
One positive of the Special Edition of “Star Wars” in 1997 was that it restored a brief reunion scene between Luke and Biggs before the Death Star attack. While watching “Star Wars” as a child, I never realized that one of the pilots who dies during the final trench run was, in fact, Biggs. Knowing that he was Luke’s best friend from home lent the scene even more weight.
Adding more scenes with Biggs on Tatooine might have been overkill, as those scenes weren’t overly well written. Yet, if they had some John Williams music throw in and the editing was made a bit tighter, maybe those scenes could have been something special.