Fans restore original 'Star Wars' for online release

A group of die-hards spent years cleaning a 35mm film print and published it online without George Lucas' later alterations -- or any permission.

If you saw the original 1977 "Star Wars" in theaters or grew up watching it on videotape or laserdisc, you may know every moment by heart.

When filmmaker George Lucas began revising scenes in 1997 in what became known as "Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope," some die-hard fans vowed to learn lightsaber skills to one day exact revenge.

Luckily, you don't need to go to the dark side to get back those precious original moments. A group of ambitious fans who call themselves Team Negative One decided to restore and release the original version online.

Fans can already legally buy Episodes IV, V and VI on DVD and Blu-ray, but those are actually the special editions that Lucas altered. If you don't mind scratches and poor sound quality, the unrestored versions of the films from laserdisc were made available as bonus material on a 2006 DVD release.

But in this new version made by fans calling themselves Team Negative One, each frame has been painstakingly restored from a 35mm theatrical print of "Star Wars." The high-def print was released on a movie message board in January, under the name "Silver Screen Theatrical Version," according to Movie Mezzanine blog.

This restored version shows scenes that die-hard fans care about deeply, like Han Solo shooting Greedo first. But what also is most impressive are Team Negative One's videos showing how they managed to transform the 35mm print into a version comparable to, and in some cases, better than the official Blu-ray release.

Unlike the fan-made "Star Wars Despecialized" edition which is made using multiple sources including the laserdisc, Blu-ray, 16mm print transfer and various audio dubs, this "Silver Screen Theatrical Version" from Team Negative One is from the 35mm theatrical print of "Star Wars."

"Why did it take over three years to complete?" YouTube user The Star Wars Trilogy wrote in its video description. "This is why. Manual cleanup alone took an average of one minute per frame. Star Wars has around 174,000 frames."

Clearly, this fan release of the film is not legal and will most likely be shut down by Disney and Lucasfilm lawyers soon. But it does make the point that if fans are willing to put in the time and effort to restore the version of "Star Wars" they want in their collections, why should it not be sold officially? Your move, Disney.

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