This review was written by Fatboy Roberts
Published on November 27, 2000
Star Wars Trilogy VHS Review
So here we go. The re-re-re-re-re-release of the trilogy on VHS. And I'm not jokingly adding on the re's, either: This is the sixth time, that I can remember (I could be wrong), that the movies have been released to the public on VHS. Starting in 93, every subsequent re-release showed off changes to the film, be it a widescreen showing for the first time (93), remastering in THX (95) or the SE's (97), but this re-release has nothing..it's the THX.
It's the Special Editions, and I'm guessing, the masters being dubbed off are the exact same for the SE's as they are for this release. The only feature added to the movies this time is a 10 minute blurb on Episode II, and regardless of a movie, I wouldn't advise paying 30 bucks for 10 minutes of footage (or non-footage, as the case may be. More on that later), Star Wars or no Star Wars. That's just a recipe for disappointment.
I'm not gonna go into the DVD debate here. This ain't the place. There's myriad places to go for that, I figure if you're reading a review of the Trilogy on VHS, you wanna know about the trilogy on VHS. So, cueing up my SE's from 97, I set about finding out if this set is an improvement over the last incarnation of the Trilogy, or a relative dissapointment.
It's VHS...and if, like many SW heads, you've gone and picked yourself up a DVD player, you're gonna think your copy is awful. I did the same thing. You're just gonna have to not watch anything clearer than cable for a little bit before you pop this in, in order to wean you off the crystal clear presentation of DVD.
You have to compare it to other VHS tapes to get a clear example. And so I threw in my SE's. The transfer appears to be identical..maybe a smidge more high contrast on the new release--shadows that were more grayed out in the 97 release are closer to true black on this one.
Colors seem to be slightly more controlled on this release too: The scene where Dak and Luke are runnin against the AT-AT's, the blue smearing onto Daks' face isn't visible at all on the new version, whereas on the SE it's slight, but noticeable. Red smearing is still problematic, (The Emperor's Throne Room scenes are a nightmare for VHS replication, just don't want to stay within the lines) but seems to be slightly subdued on the new release.
Film Grain isn't very noticeable, as the low resolution of VHS tends to kind of fuzz it over. The only time you can really see it is in a few cutaways to Luke soon after chopping Vader's hand, but that popped up in the SE's, too. The only problem I've noticed is there seems to be a tiny bit of ghosting going on at the beginning of Return of the Jedi, where I can't see that on the SE transfer.
These minute improvements MIGHT be due to a better transfer, or could be due to the degradation of the SE's after 3 years. Even if the latter is the case, this release's video is pretty good, by VHS standards: Something that can't be said for The Phantom Menace's VHS transfer.
Dolby Surround is mastered at basically the same levels as the last release, too. On this count, to my ears, this release IS identical to the last, which was identical to the THX release. So if you've heard one of those earlier soundtracks--which, by the way, are exceptional for VHS--then you've heard this one, too.
And the Supplemental
If you were lucky to grab the SE's, you got the better of the two here. The trailers, the mini-making-of's, have it all over the 10 minute behind the scenes look at Episode II here. Your basic HBO Behind the Scenes type fluff piece, the special is notable only for it's look at 3PO's new/old costume.
As it's been reported before: There's no film footage here, no looks at plot revelations or script stuff. But then again, I'm one of those spoiler freaks, so I've heard any new stuff on this special already. But being that this release is being marketed towards the new fans--the younger group--who maybe aren't so inclined to waste hour upon hour combing through movie rumor sites for nuggets of info, they'll probably find plenty in this little feature to whet their appetites until Episode II.
The packaging is kinda slick, similar to the Ultimate Toy Box collection on DVD: A clear plastic slip case with graphics printed on in, that goes over the regular cardboard box, giving it a quasi-3D feel. The only thing marring it is that crappy new Yoda puppet they got on the box. That thing is terrible.
This re-release also marks the first time Star Wars is referred to on the spine as only A New Hope, kinda like how Raiders of the Lost Ark's title was changed on the latest re-release's box art. The individual covers are basically photo montages that replicate the original Drew Struzan artwork for the SE's, and the layout of the artwork and titles is exactly like The Phantom Menace's: Clearly, they plan to release the next two to fit in with this pattern, and sitting all 4 of em on your shelf, it's nice to look at, and for some of the geekiest of us, it'll probably instill more anxiousness to get those other two up there to finish the set.
This re-release is being offered at a most retail spots at the price of right around 30..some dropping as low as 27 or 28, so definitely, this is the best bang for the buck value: I can't ever remember a Star Wars movie going for less than 15 dollars. So for those of you with worn out copies, or no widescreen copies, this deal is pretty good after all..but if you already have the trilogy, and your SE's/THX/ copies are little used, you might want to just hang on to your three President Jacksons until 2001..when a certain DVD we've all been whining about is rumored to make it's appearance on store shelves.
After reading the review, are you tempted to buy the Trilogy boxsets or ask for it as a present? Were you thinking of buying it the EP2 feature? 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.