With the recent release of the Star Wars saga on Blu-ray, diehard Star Wars fans might have finally found the Holy Grail of Star Wars story material: the long sought after deleted scenes of the original trilogy. Now don't get me wrong -- Blu-ray is cool. You will not find a better consumer grade version of the Star Wars saga than these new Blu-rays. And lets remember that before Blu-ray we had DVD. Before that we had Laserdisc, VHS, and even Super 8mm.
For years we have been theorizing and repeating rumors of cut scenes from the Star Wars films and hoping that one day they would come out. Before the internet, we didn't have too many sources to find this material. Back in the late 70s to the early 90s, all we had to go on was interviews where some behind the scenes individual would mention something about some scene that was shot but then edited out of the film. Every now and then a picture would pop up on a magazine or book showing us a scene that never made it to the final cut. Other sources of deleted scenes were the novelization and comics version of the films.
The few early exceptions to this drought of footage came in the form of the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special where some cut footage was repurposed for the special. The other came in 1984 with the PBS documentary, From Star Wars to Jedi - the Making of a Saga. Here we first got to see the originally filmed Han Solo-Jabba scene from Star Wars - A New Hope. This was a scene that was unused because, at the time, the technology needed to substitute the "human" actor playing Jabba with a believable, creature was not yet invented. Plus, the Greedo sequence pretty much covered the Jabba backstory.
By the mid 90s, as the popularity of the internet increased, we began to see fan-made websites devoted to the original trilogy -- and specifically, it's deleted scenes. As a result, we could keep track of these talked about scenes but also get updated with information and/or pictures as new material was found.
The early 90s also brought us the increased popularity of Laserdics, the "film snob" format. Since this format touted a dramatic picture quality improvement over VHS, proper aspect ratios, and the ability to include hours and hours of bonus material, we all hoped it would one day include Star Wars deleted scenes. After a number of prior Star Wars "bare bones" Laserdisc releases, in 1992 the Star Wars Trilogy Ultimate Edition Box Set was released, chuck full of bonus material, but no deleted scenes. This left fans a little flat. We loved what was included but still wanted those missing scenes.
FInally, in 1996, with the theatrical release of the Star Wars Special Editions, we did get some real deleted scenes. All three films were cleaned up and restored. Some deleted scenes were re-edited into the film and some modified/altered/new scenes were added. For Star Wars we were treated to a Luke-Biggs scene at Yavin. We also got the deleted Han-Jabba scene, but this time with a CGI Jabba. Once again, fans got their hopes up that by the time the Special Editions would hit Laserdisc more deleted scenes would surface. However, no new deleted scenes were added to the 1997 Laserdisc release.
In 1998, as we were all prepping for the Prequels to be released, Lucasfilm released a CD-ROM (remember those?) called Star Wars: Behind the Magic. It functioned as a computer-based encyclopedia of the making of the trilogy and a reference guide to the Star Wars world. What was cool about this is that it included a low quality, small size version of the long sought after Luke-Biggs Totooine scene. It had Luke watching the Star Destroyer/Blockade Runner fight, Luke and Biggs, Luke talking to his other friends, and some alternate cantina footage. This was a gold mine for deleted scene collectors. Just enough to whet our appetites.
As the Prequels were made, released in theatres, and released on home video, the DVD format (with it's smaller size disc but higher volume capacity) overtook and killed Laserdiscs and VHS. A number of versions of the Original Trilogy were released on DVD but without new deleted scenes. The Prequel DVDs did include deleted scenes, but that's for a future article. So during the 2000s fans basically retreated back to the internet for the search for more deleted scenes. As the years passes websites got more and more elaborate in the research of what material existed out there. Some sites had pictures, some had video clips, some even re edited the films with found deleted material worked into the film. We had very creative fans doing exhaustive research.
Fast forward to 2010. The Prequels are done, The Clone Wars animated series is on television, and Lucas' next big product promotion, the Star Wars films on Blu-ray, is revving up. What's Blu-ray? Well, just like DVDs overtook Laserdiscs and VHS, Blu-ray is currently in the process of retiring the DVD format. It is as true an improvement in picture quality as it was when we went form VHS to Laserdisc. It's the current standard for home High Definition playable discs. At that time, I was attending Celebration V, a Lucasfilm sponsored Star Wars theme convention, that time in Orlando, Florida. George Lucas was the main guest and as part of his presentation to promote the upcoming Blu-ray release, he showed the crowd a new Return of the Jedi deleted scene that would be included on the Blu-ray. This is a scene where Luke is building his green lightsaber in Tatooine before his meeting with Jabba. Well, it's easy to say for those of us who like to hunt down deleted scenes, this was like cat nip.
So this brings us to the actual release of the Star Wars films on Blue-ray. Now I'm sure the main purpose of this set is to present the Star Wars saga in an HD format, which is great. But, the thing I was looking forward to most, was the deleted scenes. Here a list of what we got:
Trash Talking Droids
The Battle Is Over
Battle On The Boarding Ramp
Extended Podrace Wager
Bail Organa of Alderaan
Extended Speeder Chase
The Lost Twenty
Anakin and Ruwee
Raid On The Droid Control Ship and Extended Arena Fight
Escape The Hangar
Changes To The Constitution
Utapau Chase Animatics
Mustafar Duel Animatics
Lava River Animatics
Kashyyyk Attack and Order 66 Animatic
Anakin kills Shaak Ti
Jedi Imposters at the Temple
Senate Duel Anamatic
Yoda Communes with Qui-Gon
Old Woman on Tatooine
Aunt Beru's Blue Milk
The Search for R2-D2
Cantina Rough Cut
Darth Vader Widens the Search
Alternate Biggs and Luke Reunion
Han and Leia: Extended Echo Base Argument
Luke and Leia: Medical Center
Deleted Wampa Scenes
The Fate of General Veers
Hiding in the Asteroid
Alternate Han and Leia Kiss
Leia Tends to Luke
Vader's Arrival and Reaching Out to Luke
Rebel Raid on the Bunker
Battle of Endor: The Lost Rebels
On upcoming editorials I will examine these deleted scenes, film by film, starting with Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope. I'll take a closer look at their specific history, quality, and relevance to the films. In the meantime, keep looking for those missing links.