As computer entertainment and movies converged in the past decade, a new generation fell under the spell of “Star Wars” on video. The trilogy’s afterlife has been extraordinary.
The trilogy has been a steady seller since its video debut. In the last months of 1995, Fox Home Entertainment repackaged the films and sold 22 million copies.
And the interactive division of the George Lucas empire, LucasArts Entertainment, has become the fifth-largest publisher of electronic entertainment, spinning off “Star Wars”-derived adventures for video and computer gamers.
Don’t miss the opportunity to see the movies on the biggest screen available. The roller-coaster effect, minimal on video, adds a visceral thrill on a bigger-than-life screen in the company of an audience primed for a ride. And you can get immersed in the rich details that are lost when the original 70-mm image is scaled-down to a 21-inch screen.
But let’s not hear any video-bashing by film purists. The only place you can currently see the “Star Wars” trilogy back to back to back in a marathon viewing is at home, on video. And when this revival of digitally enhanced films ends its theatrical run, video again will be the only showcase for the individual films.
Here’s what you need to know about the “Star Wars” trilogy in its video incarnation:
To be sure you’re getting the most recent edition, look for the THX label and 1995, as the year of issue, on the video sleeve. THX is a quality-control assurance that incorporates the highest standards of transferring a film to video. (It’s another Lucas division.) The THX transfer is the best edition in the marketplace. Beware any pre-THX cassettes as potentially inferior tapes.
Each film retails for $20 on full-screen videocassette; a boxed gift set is $50, a savings of $10. If you have a TV screen bigger than 27 inches, go for the wide-screen boxed set, retailing for $60. In this “letterboxed” format - black bands across the top and bottom of the screen - you see the film in its original theatrical shape.
The well-heeled video connoisseur will want to own the trilogy on 12-inch laser disc, which offers a picture with 60 percent more detail than a VHS videocassette. The wide-screen THX laser discs, from Fox and Image Entertainment, retail for $60 each.
The definitive collection is no longer in circulation, but you will be able to see it at stores that rent laser discs. It was a $250 edition, released in 1993, that included extensive behind-the-scenes documentary footage and a frame-by-frame stop-motion option.
Fox says it is retiring the “Star Wars” trilogy on video. There won’t be any more copies available when the current supply in stores runs out. And a spokesman said there are no plans to issue video versions of the digitally enhanced films (which have added bits and scenes) that will be shown in theaters.