This review was written by Darth Hasbro
Published on November 29, 2000
Star Wars Trilogy Laserdisc Review
The laserdisc box set for this review was supplied by www.cdjapan.co.jp. Two days after the official release it arrived via EMS courier from Japan, wrapped in bubble wrap and tissue paper and packed in a very sturdy "pizza" style box.
The packaging is basically a larger version of the VHS set, the outer slip case holds the three covers, each of which consists of 2 discs. The cover art is even more magnificent as it is larger, however has anyone noticed the ESB Bespin Leia on the ANH cover?
Unfortunately all the text and chapter stops are in Japanese, if anyone out there can translate the chapter stops I'd be very appreciative.
The laserdiscs were played on a Denon LA-2300A LD player, viewed on Panasonic 68cm television. The Dolby Digital (DD) 5.1 track was outed via a Sony RF Demodulator to a Sherwood RVD-7090R amplifier with built in Dolby Digital decoder.
This release, and the previous US SW Special Edition (SE) trilogy laserdisc box set, are currently the best format you can buy the Star Wars trilogy on. I actually upgraded my Laser disc (LD) player to AC3 (Dolby Digital) so that I could hear the Star Wars Trilogy in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. As I already have the SW SE US laserdisc box set, and the previous Japanese only laserdisc release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, which is in Dolby 6.1 EX Surround sound, I was expecting quite a bit from this new SW box set.
As we all know the storylines I'll just review image, sound and other features of the laserdiscs.
All the movies are presented in Widescreen (2.35:1), an anamorphic presentation would have been nice, but I believe this is just not possible on a laserdisc. The transfers on all three movies are obviously far superior to VHS, I would expect only a DVD would show a clearer and sharper image, and we won't be seeing that for a while. For those of you with the old US box set, the transfer is no different.
The big issue with the picture is Japanese subtitles. They only appear in the black bar underneath the picture and you do end up ignoring them as the film goes on. However, another downside to this is that the alien translations are only in Japanese, so you will have to remember what Greedo says to Han at the cantina in ANH. and what Jabba says to Boushh and Luke in ROTJ. The subtitles are on the disc in a Laserdisc Graphics (LD-G) format. I am told some high end players may be able to mask them out, but my player cannot do this.
This is the reason to buy the laserdisc. A full DD 5.1 soundtrack is included on all the movies. The discs also have an analogue soundtrack for those without Dolby Digital equipment. The soundtrack was not remixed for this release, as is the case with other older movies that have been released later on Laserdisc and DVD. It is a direct transfer from the Special Edition which was released to the cinema with a Dolby Digital track.
The DD 5.1 track still lacks the depth of the earlier Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Japanese laserdisc. Possibly an unfair comparison but even other DD 5.1 LD's in my collection have somewhat more depth and bass output than this release. Maybe I'm just spoilt after the podrace and final saber battle from the Ep1 laserdisc.
Even so, a superior soundtrack to a normal Dolby Surround, and your neighbours will still hear and feel the first minutes of ANH, as the Devastator rumbles on screen overhead, and you will be looking over your shoulder, as the speeder bikes whiz around you in ROTJ.
Rarely do commercial release laserdiscs have extras. You usually have to buy a Criterion Collection release, of an obscure movie on laserdisc, to get the extras you would expect from a commercial DVD release. Unfortunately, the "Making Of" featurette, included on the US SW SE Laserdisc Box Set, is sadly missing from this release. The only extra is the Episode II Behind The Scenes featurette, which most of you, if not all of you, have probably seen by now.
The really annoying thing with this is that the Japanese subtitles are back, and they do wander into the picture, especially when the actors names come in Japanese as they are being interviewed. Do NOT buy this laserdisc just for the EpII featurette.
Each movie is broken into chapter stops, as is normal for a laserdisc. This allows you to quickly forward to a point in the movie. ANH and ESB have 37 chapter stops each and ROTJ a whopping 51 chapter stops. I can't tell you where each stop is because as previously mentioned, they are written in Japanese. Did I mention I need a translator?
14,700 yen (approx US$132.00) plus shipping.
A great box set if you don't already have the earlier US release. The EpII featurette trade off for the "Making Of" featurette leaves the buyer a little short-changed. That having been said, it's a great picture transfer and an acceptable DD 5.1 soundtrack. As mentioned earlier, the best format until a DVD release in, when is it again? George? Rick?
The package artwork is absolutely fantastic and the movies all come packaged in their own covers. This is the only real advantage over the dull and boring looking US box set, which had the movies running back to back on eight discs in black paper sleeves. The subtitles are a bit annoying, especially when you want to know what the aliens are saying, and they all but ruin the EpII featurette.
When all's said and done, there are two reasons to buy this box set:
1) You don't have and/or can't procure a copy of the US box set.
2) You are a mad Star Wars collector, and even if it was the worst box set ever released you'd still buy it, because it's Star Wars.
I am proud to admit I fall into the latter category. So if like me, you must have yet another version of the three best movies of the modern era, you can order them from www.cdjapan.co.jp
After reading the review, are you tempted to buy the new Japanese laserdiscs or will you be hunting down the old US laserdiscs? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also tell us what you think and read comments from other fans in this Jedi Council Forum Thread.