DirectorGeorge Lucas (I-IV), Irvin Kershner (V), Richard Marquand (VI)
Release Date(s)1977-2011 (September 16, 2011)
Studio(s)Lucsafilm (20th Century Fox)
Video: 1080p (2.35:1); Audio: (English) DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1, (Spanish, French, Portuguese): Dolby Digital 5.1, (French) DTS 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese; 9 BDs
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: B+
- Overall Grade: B
It's been a very long wait for the Star Wars Saga to arrive on Blu-ray Disc, and as expected it's been accompanied by no small amount of hype and controversy, as always seems to be the case with any new release of these films. I've reviewed all of the films here at The Bits before, of course, so there's little reason for me to delve into that aspect of the release again.
Suffice it to say that the original Star Wars trilogy had a strong formative impact on me as a child, as it did on so many others of my generation. That experience was so powerful, in fact, that it's hard to separate those emotions out of any critical discussion of the films. Many of you probably share that same complex history with the films, or you wouldn't be reading this. Whether you love, hate or love/hate the Star Wars films, there's no shortage of opinions on the matter, most of them quite passionate.
Frankly, there are also now nearly as many different versions of these films as there are opinions. Star Wars creator George Lucas has been tweaking and fiddling with these films - making changes both large and small - since 1981, when he first altered the opening title crawl of the original film (for a theatrical re-issue) from Star Wars to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In the 34 years since the original release, we've seen various theatrical incarnations, the Special Editions of the late 1990s, the prequels, the DVD versions and now these new Blu-ray versions. Make no mistake, these ARE new versions of the films. The changes on the Blu-rays are many and largely subtle, including color-timing fixes, improved lightsaber blades, remixed 6.1 scores and the like - most of which truly do improve the movie-viewing experience. Then there are a few larger changes - changes that don't make the films better, so much as just different. For example, in A New Hope, the "dragon" sound Obi-Wan makes to scare off the Sandpeople is new. In Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks blink and Darth Vader shouts "Nooo!" as he saves Luke from the wrath of the Emperor. Even the prequel films have been adjusted a bit - Yoda is now all-digital in The Phantom Menace.
These changes, of course, have outraged many longtime fans of the films since word of them first began leaking on the Internet weeks ago. Frankly, I'm not sure if it's the changes themselves that drive fans more crazy at this point as just the fact that Lucas seems unable to stop making them. In any case, the real outrage began when Lucas altered A New Hope to make Greedo shoot before Han back in 1997 (for the record, on the Blu-ray they now shoot simultaneously) and it hasn't abated since. For my own part, I certainly went through my cycle of anger and outrage, and now I mostly just don't care anymore. I've come to expect changes every time these films are released and I've kept my original laserdisc copies. The strange thing is, I think most fans wouldn't mind the changes at all as long as the original versions were available on the Blu-rays as well (perhaps via seamless branching). But Lucas seems determined to erase them from history, going to far as to outright lie in claiming that the negatives were destroyed when he made the Special Editions - a claim so outrageous and blatantly false to anyone who understands how films are edited and preserved in the modern era that for me... well, that was the last straw.
For those of you who hate the past changes (and the new BD changes), believe me I get it. Let me just say, it could be a LOT worse. Sources well-positioned to know have told me that Lucas actually seriously considered replacing the puppet Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with the all-digital version, and even had tests conducted to see how it would look. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. (For the record, I'm told that the digital Yoda just didn't look right or mesh well with the real, physical, practical Dagobah sets. Shocking, I know.) In any case, the films are what they are - changes and all - and now they're finally available on Blu-ray.
So how do the films look and sound on disc in 1080p HD and with 6.1 DTS-HD MA soundtracks? Well... for the most part quite good. Surprising in many ways actually. They're certainly not up to the quality of the best current HD masters on the format, but they're far better than I was expecting. I'm going to talk about the original trilogy video quality first, followed by the prequels, and then I'll talk generally about the audio presentations. It's fairly common knowledge that the Blu-rays were mastered from the same HD scans that were used for the DVD release back in 2004. That means these transfers are at least 8 years old - very far from state of the art. To make matters worse, those scans were done at near HD resolution - not the 4K, 6K, or even 8K of current negative scans for film restoration and BD release purposes, but essentially 2K (something like1828x1556 for a scope film image), which was eventually exported to 480p for DVD (and later 1080p for Blu-ray). As most of you know, those DVD presentations were rife with visual problems, so the prospects for any quality BD release using these transfers seemed dim. Surprisingly, however, Lucasfilm and Lowry Digital have gone to a great deal of trouble to correct those problems. For one thing, many of the worst color-timing issues of the DVDs have been fixed - not all of them to be sure and not completely, but at least to the point where they're not so egregious. Some of the inconsistencies of the lightsaber coloring have been adjusted too. More of the obvious "garbage" mattes have been removed. Most of the Snow Speeder cockpits in Empire are less see-through. Visual errors large and small in all of the original trilogy films have been corrected. To be fair, there are still flaws in these transfers due to the fact that they're nearly a decade old and were made at such low resolution. These include occasional edge halos, crushed blacks and somewhat oversaturated colors. (For the record, I'm not convinced that the crushed blacks and oversaturated colors are a defect so much as a deliberate choice on Lucas' part. They've been visible in these films since at least 1997, so it's hard to say.) There are also artifacts due to all the digital manipulation work that's been done, including filtering, static grain in select shots, etc. A New Hope is the most "crisp" looking of the three films, as Empire and Jedi were both shot with a deliberately softer look, using atmospheric smoke and fog and more subtle, elaborate lighting than the original film. All three films occasionally look soft in various scenes - or around the edges of the frame - owing to the use of anamorphic lenses. Jedi also has what appears to be a registration problem about halfway through the film (from 54:30 to 58:33, from the Rebels' arrival on Endor to the start of the Speeder Bike chase). It manifests itself as a slight loss of resolution in the image. This is visible in the HD master for cable and satellite broadcasts as well, so it's definitely a problem with the original master - something that might have happened when the films were being scanned. HOWEVER... all that said, there's still plenty of detail in the images, the colors pop and the blacks are nicely dark. I have a strong suspicion that the vast majority of Star Wars fans are going to be pleased with what they see. The fixes to the masters, the greater HD resolution and the high data rates Blu-ray offers combine to really deliver a massive improvement in video quality here from the DVDs. Regardless of the issues that remain, this is BY FAR the best these films have ever looked at home.
The prequel films are a somewhat different animal, obviously. While The Phantom Menace was shot on film, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were again shot in HD resolution using high-definition cameras. Of the three, Revenge of the Sith looks absolutely spectacular, with highly-refined detail, lustrous colors and deep shadows. You're seeing almost the level of quality that the filmmakers experienced when making it - this is essentially a port of the digital master files. So too is Attack of the Clones, but Clones suffers a bit from the fact that the state of the art in HD cameras and digital production evolved rather dramatically between the time of its filming and that of Revenge of the Sith. Clones has a somewhat softer looking image, and the use of noise reduction and filtering on faces in particular is more apparent. Strangely, Phantom Menace is the worst looking of the three. That shouldn't be the case, because the original film negatives should have plenty of detail. However, it appears that a deliberate choice was made to alter this film's look slightly to be more consistent with the "smooth" digital look of Episode II and III. Noise reduction has been applied to reduce image grain and film-related artifacts. Sadly, the result is that faces now look waxy and unnatural. It's not as bad as many other films using DNR - Patton or Predator for example - but it's still noticeable and wasn't really necessary. On the other hand, you're now seeing slightly more of the original film image in The Phantom Menace here on Blu-ray than you did in the past DVD and laserdisc releases. Apparently, when the original video masters were done, the image was cropped too tightly. So there's something of an improvement here too.
Thankfully, the new 6.1 DTS-HD lossless audio mixes for these films are damn near perfect. The soundfields are all smooth, aggressive and highly immersive, without sounding unnatural or overly directional. The Star Wars films have always had a slightly harsh tone to their soundtracks, given the use of machine noise and other electronically-processed atmospheric effects, but I think these films sound better than ever here on Blu-ray. Bass is thunderous, dialogue is clear, and there's great ambiance and dynamic range. Listen to the scene as Artoo rolls through the canyon in A New Hope. You can actually "hear" the silence - the sense of open space. Best of all, John Williams' familiar and beloved scores are perfectly staged in the mix. There are subtle changes to the mixes here and there (Ben's "dragon" call, Vader's lines at the end of Jedi, the tonal quality of Aunt Beru's voice when she calls Luke in A New Hope), but for the most part this is exactly how the films are supposed to sound - faithful to how you remember them. I'm thrilled to say that the reversed music in the surrounds in A New Hope has been fixed, and the familiar trumpet fanfare as the X-Wings dive to begin their attack on the Death Star is also restored (it was buried in the mix on the DVDs). There are also a few new little subtle sound effects that were apparently recorded for the films but either went unused or they were essentially inaudible in the original mixes. For example, in the Rebel Command Center in A New Hope, you'll now hear slightly more pilot com chatter - little things like that. Bottom line: I'm thrilled with these new sound mixes. This is a great BD audio experience.
All right, let's go through the set disc by disc. I'll highlight the extras on each, give my quality grades and offer a few additional comments where appropriate.
Disc One - The Phantom Menace
The extras on this disc include the original DVD audio commentary (with George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren and Scott Squires) and a new "archival" Blu-ray audio commentary (with Ahmed Best, Gavin Bocquet, Ben Burtt, Doug Chiang, Rob Coleman, Nick Gillard, Samuel L. Jackson, John Knoll, Jake Lloyd, George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, Dennis Muren, Liam Neeson, Ray Park, Natalie Portman and Scott Squires). Audio is available in English 6.1 DTS-HD, English (Descriptive), Spanish, French (Québécois) and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and French 5.1 DTS. Subtitles are available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.
The original DVD audio commentaries were certainly fine, but the new "archival" commentary tracks for all these films are excellent - WELL worth the time it takes to listen to them, especially for the classic trilogy films. They're assembled from countless interviews that have been conducted over the years, some newly-recorded and some from the time of the film's production. Seemingly everyone involved in each film chimes in with little stories, insights, memories and other interesting bits of information, some of which have never have heard before. Best of all, subtitle text identifies each speaker for you as they begin talking. And in a VERY nice touch, BOTH audio commentaries are available with optional subtitle translation in ALL the included subtitle languages, so EVERYONE can fully enjoy the commentary experience. This feature is available on ALL the films in this set.
Film Rating: C
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio): C/A
Disc Two - Attack of the Clones
The extras on this disc include the original DVD audio commentary (with George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Pablo Helman and Ben Snow) and a new "archival" Blu-ray audio commentary (with Ben Burtt, Hayden Christensen, Rob Coleman, Nick Gillard, Pablo Helman, Samuel L. Jackson, John Knoll, Christopher Lee, George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, Temura Morrison, Natalie Portman, Jimmy Smits, Ben Snow and John Williams). Audio is available in English 6.1 DTS-HD, English (Descriptive), Spanish, French (Québécois) and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and French 5.1 DTS. Subtitles are available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.
Film Rating: C-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio): B+/A
Disc Three - Revenge of the Sith
The extras on this disc include the original DVD audio commentary (with George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Rob Coleman and Roger Guyett) and a new "archival" Blu-ray audio commentary (with Trisha Biggar, Gavin Bocquet, Ben Burtt, Silas Carson, Hayden Christensen, Rob Coleman, Anthony Daniels, Nick Gillard, Roger Guyett, Samuel L. Jackson, John Knoll, Christopher Lee, George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, Temura Morrison, Natalie Portman and Jimmy Smits). Audio is available in English 6.1 DTS-HD, English (Descriptive), Spanish, French (Québécois) and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and French 5.1 DTS. Subtitles are available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.
Film Rating: C+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio): A/A
Disc Four - A New Hope
The extras on this disc include the original DVD audio commentary (with George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt and Dennis Muren) and a new "archival" Blu-ray audio commentary (with Kenny Baker, Ben Burtt, Richard Chew, Anthony Daniels, Peter Diamond, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Stuart Freeborn, Alec Guinness, Mark Hamill, Paul Hirsch, Gary Kurtz, George Lucas, Peter Mayhew, Ralph McQuarrie, Dennis Muren, Normal Reynolds, Phil Tippett and Robert Watts). Audio is available in English 6.1 DTS-HD and English (Descriptive), Spanish, French and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.
Film Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio): B/A
Disc Five - The Empire Strikes Back
The extras on this disc include the original DVD audio commentary (with George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt and Dennis Muren) and a new "archival" Blu-ray audio commentary (with Jeremy Bolloch, Ben Burtt, Anthony Daniels, Peter Diamond, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Stuart Freeborn, Steve Gawley, Alec Guinness, Mark Hamill, Joe Johnston, Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner, Gary Kurtz, George Lucas, Peter Mayhew, Ralph McQuarrie, Dennis Muren, Frank Oz, Ken Ralston, Normal Reynolds, Robert Watts and Billy Dee Williams). Audio is available in English 6.1 DTS-HD and English (Descriptive), Spanish, French and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.
Film Rating: A+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio): B/A
Disc Six - Return of the Jedi
The extras on this disc include the original DVD audio commentary (with George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt and Dennis Muren) and a new "archival" Blu-ray audio commentary (with Kenny Baker, Jim Bloom, Jeremy Bolloch, Ben Burtt, Anthony Daniels, Warwick Davis, Peter Diamond, Richard Edlund, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Stuart Freeborn, Steve Gawley, Mark Hamill, Paul Huston, Lawrence Kasdan, Howard Kazanjian, George Lucas, Ian McDiarmid, Ralph McQuarrie, Dennis Muren, Frank Oz, Ken Ralston, Normal Reynolds, Phil Tippett, Robert Watts, Billy Dee Williams and John Williams). Audio is available in English 6.1 DTS-HD and English (Descriptive), Spanish, French and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.
Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio): B-/A
Disc Seven - Bonus Disc 1 - Episodes I-III Archives
Extras on this bonus disc are arranged by the "worlds" seen in the film. Rather than list ALL the extras included here, I think it's better (and certainly more fun) for you to discover and explore them all on your own. But in general, content for each film includes video interviews of the cast and crew, deleted and extended scenes, 360-degree "turnarounds" offering you detailed looks at various models and props seen in the films (some with optional video "commentary" featurettes with members of the crew talking about the item in question) and galleries of concept art (including drawings, matte paintings and more).
Note that most of this material is in full HD, except where it was shot or produced in standard-definition video. The deleted scenes for the prequel films are ALL NEW (in addition to those found on the previous DVDs) and NONE of the deleted scenes from the DVDs have carried over. [Editor's Note: Other than the DVD commentaries, NONE of the extras from the previous DVD releases of any of these films have carried over, so don't get rid of your DVDs if you want to keep everything.] There are 22 deleted/extended scenes from the prequels in all. Notable among these are the Jedi attack on the Droid Control Ship from the end of Attack of the Clones (which was briefly available on Star Wars.com) and a scene in which Yoda communes with the late Qui-Gon via the Force from the end of Revenge of the Sith. Most of the deleted scenes for the prequels are rough SD video animatics, but some are actual HD video when the scenes were fully shot and finished. I have a feeling that in addition to the deleted scenes, many fans are really going to enjoy the art galleries and turnarounds. There's some cool stuff included, much of which was only seen briefly in the actual films, and all of that material is included in HD.
This bonus disc offers the option to "Play All", turn off the menu audio and obtain help. Subtitles for the extras are also available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Spanish, French, Dutch and Portuguese.
Disc Eight - Bonus Disc 2 - Episodes IV-VI Archives
Again, the extras on this bonus discs are arranged by the "worlds" seen in the film. Content for each film includes video interviews of the cast and crew, deleted and extended scenes, 360-degree "turnarounds" of the various models and props seen in the films (some with optional video "commentary" featurettes) and galleries of concept art (drawings, matte paintings, etc). You also get an HD Archive Fly-Through featurette which takes you inside and around the prop and costume archive on the Skywalker Ranch for a look at some of the treasures it holds.
Without a doubt, the MAJOR treats here are the deleted and extended scenes from the original trilogy - some 23 in all. These are all shot on film and presented in HD. The quality is a bit rough. Some of the footage appears in color and some in B&W, but it all still looks fairly good - far better than a few of these scenes looked on the Star Wars: Behind the Magic CD-ROM to be sure. EVERYTHING you've ever wanted to see is here. From A New Hope, you'll see Luke watching the battle in space, racing to Toshi Station to tell his friends, seeing Biggs and having a long conversation with him; a rough-cut of the entire cantina scene featuring more creatures and Han Solo's girlfriend (notable here is that you get to see the ORIGINAL Greedo death); and more of the reunion of Biggs and Luke at the Rebel base. From Empire, all of the Wampa attack scenes are included; there's a longer conversation between Han and Leia in the Rebel base hallway; there's more of Luke being treated in the Med Center; you see Luke and Leia nearly kissing during his recovery; there's an alternate Han/Leia kiss on the Falcon; another scene of Yoda training Luke and more. And from Jedi, you'll see Luke making his lightsaber; the heroes returning to their ships in a sandstorm on Tatooine; more of the Rebel attack on the Endor bunker; the Death Star commander's conflict when ordered by the Emperor to destroy Endor; and a bunch of unused footage of Rebel fighter pilots from the final battle, including one that could be someone's grandmother! It's all just VERY cool material.
[Late Update: The Boba Fett cartoon from the Star Wars Holiday Special is also on this disc in full - see access instructions below.]
Again, this bonus disc offers the option to "Play All", turn off the menu audio and obtain help. Subtitles for the extras are also available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Spanish, French, Dutch and Portuguese.
Disc Nine - Bonus Disc 3 - Documentaries & Spoofs
Finally, this last disc in the set includes a number of new and vintage documentaries. Some are presented in HD and some in SD. Included are The Making of Star Wars (1977 - 49 mins), SPFX: The Empire Strikes Back (1980 - 48 mins), Classic Creatures: The Return of the Jedi (1983 - 48 mins), Anatomy of a Dewback (1997 - 26 mins), Star Warriors (2007 - 84 mins - this is the piece on the 501st Legion), Star Wars Tech (2007 - 46 mins) and A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back - 30 Years Later (2010 - 25 mins - this is new and definitely the best of the lot, featuring interviews with Lucas, director Irvin Kershner just before he passed away last year, Lawrence Kasdan and John Williams). You also get the new Star Wars Spoofs compilation (98 mins), which includes clips from scores of fun, funny and infamous spoofs of the Star Wars films. Included are clips from Saturday Night Live, Family Guy, Robot Chicken, The Muppet Show and many more. This gets major points for including Bill Murray singing a lounge version of the Star Wars theme on classic SNL, but loses points for not including ANYTHING from Hardware Wars, which is one of the best (and was certainly the first) Star Wars spoof.
Yes, it's true that there ARE some important things missing from this disc. The best of the vintage "making of" documentaries, From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga, is not included. Nor is the fantastic Empire of Dreams documentary from the original trilogy DVDs, or The Beginning from the Episode I DVD. One can only assume that Lucasfilm figured most fans would still want to keep their DVDs too, so having Empire of Dreams and The Beginning here would have been redundant. Still, having at least Empire of Dreams in true HD would have been really nice, and there's no excuse for omitting From Star Wars to Jedi, especially when Star Warriors - fine though it may be - is almost certainly only going to be of interest to members of the 501st Legion. Ah well. There's also no sign of the Star Wars Holiday Special, though you DO see clips of it here and there. Glimpses of the Boba Fett animation are included in A Conversation with the Masters, and some of the A New Hope deleted scenes were later recycled for use in the Holiday Special. One can dream. In the meantime, it's widely available on bootleg DVD.
[Editor's Note: Apparently I didn't look hard enough. Thanks to Bits readers Dave F. and "Darth" M., if you insert Disc 8 and go to: Episode V - Pursued by the Imperial Fleet - The Collection - Boba Fett Prototype Costume - First Look... you'll get the chance to watch the Boba Fett cartoon from the Star Wars Holiday Special IN FULL.]
Note that subtitle options on this disc are a little more varied, including English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Greek.
In the end, if these extras can't exactly be called complete, there's absolutely no doubt that the material you do get is great and wonderful to have. The 45 deleted scenes from these films in particular are a rare and unexpected treasure. Frankly, it's almost worth buying this set just for the original trilogy deleted scenes alone.
We've been led to believe by Lucasfilm that there are a few Easter eggs hidden in this set, but we've yet to locate any. The discs' menus are all fairly easy and intuitive to navigate and use, though my Oppo did have trouble churning through them smoothly at times. (Everything worked fine, but the menus were a little glitchy from time to time.) All of this comes enclosed in hardback book style packaging, in the pages of which the discs are held securely. A small paper booklet is included that lists the extras content on the bonus discs, along with credits. All of this slides into a hard outer slipcase. I actually quite like the packaging in general. It's sturdy, holds the discs safely and yet they're easy to access. I must say, however, I'm not thrilled with the artwork on the outside of the case - almost anything would have been better than a watercolor of Jake Lloyd. No offense to the artist, but ugh. Anyway... it doesn't appear that Lucasfilm has included Digital Copies of any kind - none are on the discs and there's no mention of a download in the package.
A number of fans have complained about the fact that the original theatrical versions of the classic films are not included in this Blu-ray set. While it's true and is certainly a legitimate complaint, no fan in their right mind could seriously have expected them to be included, given Lucas' attitude in the past. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that Lucas is going to have to release the original versions of the films at some point in the future. The reason I've started to believe that is because of the deleted scenes that WERE included on these Blu-rays. This is material that Lucas has been reluctant to make available in the past, but they were needed for this Blu-ray set simply to give fans a compelling reason to buy the films again. After this Blu-ray release, I just don't see ANYONE buying these films again for any reason (certainly not for 3D!) unless those original versions are part of the package. Regardless, even if there's never an authorized release, rest assured that so many prints of those original films exist in the hands of film archives (and even private collectors) around the world that, sooner or later, someone is going to throw them up on an HD scanner, make high-quality HD masters and release them as bootlegs - either for free online, or on BD-R or other digital media sold at conventions. How do I know that? Well, I've actually had bootleg HD copies of the "special edition" Star Wars films for a couple years now, mastered from European HD satellite broadcasts, made available online and burned to BD-R media. Trust me, the original versions WILL be available eventually in HD, legally or not. Frankly, the sooner Lucas realizes this and takes proactive steps to release them himself the better.
So is the 9-disc Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray box set worth buying? Speaking for myself - and I think probably for a majority of fans of these films - the answer is yes. As I said, the deleted scenes alone are almost reason enough to buy the set. On top of that, the simple fact of the matter is that these films - especially the original trilogy - have simply NEVER looked better at home than they do here. The video quality, while far from perfect, is so far superior to the previous DVDs that there's really no comparison. Genuine steps have been taken to improve the faults of the DVD masters and to correct things fans have complained about with the DVD A/V presentations. And the new 6.1 DTS-HD soundtracks are simply outstanding. Yes, there are more changes to the films and if that bothers you enough to not want to buy this set, I totally understand that. And yes, the set isn't cheap, but it's available for good sale prices on Amazon and at most other retailers. I have little doubt that as we approach the holidays the discounts will grow even deeper. So if you can set aside your irritation about the new alterations to the films - or if they never bothered you to begin with - then I have to say this Blu-ray set is definitely recommended. Believe it or not, there's a still at least a little bit of fun left in this old Saga.
As for the rest of you, solemnly sworn to deny Lucas another dollar of your money until he gives you the original theatrical cuts... well, hang in there. Might be a while, but one of these days, one way or another, it's inevitable. In the meantime, seek solace in the Force young Jedi (and your old laserdiscs)!