Lucas disappoints yet again: the "Original Version" movie DVD release will use the 1993 Laserdisc Masters.
According to Lucasfilm this is the best they can do. I am of two minds with regard to this. I know that 30-year-old color film that has been poorly stored can look worse than century-old nitrate black-and-white film. I also know that when Paramount Home Video put together a release of Spumco-made Ren & Stimpy episodes they could not find a lot of the episodes in their as-aired versions, and the time between airdate and release on DVD was less than half the time. It seems like the Big Media companies are pretty cavalier about how they treat film history.
However: this is STAR WARS we are talking about. Adjusted for inflation, the first of the Original Trilogy movies grossed over a BILLION dollars. It is second only to Gone With The Wind in alltime money-making at the Box Office. The Empire Strikes Back is 12th on the list, Return of the Jedi is 14th. Star Wars is also on the Library of Congress preservation list, and #15 on the American Film Institute 100 Greatest Films list. It might not be the greatest example of American cinema, but it is certainly important to the history of the movies. It deserves to be seen in the best possible light: as an anamorphic transfer from the best possible extant 70MM prints, with the original 6-channel audio mixed to 5.1.
Lucas might look at the original theatrical versions of the Original Star Wars Trilogy as being "work prints" but not everyone does. This is film history that he's thumbing his nose at. Sure, I will buy the upcoming DVDs...I was pondering buying bootleg laserdisc-transfer DVDs this year at Comic-Con anyway. And if I remember correctly, the laserdisc transfer was the best technologically they could have done in 1993. I didn't buy the Special Edition DVD version of Episodes 4-6. I didn't go to see the Special Edition when it was out in the theatres. I didn't want to spoil my memories of seeing the originals as they were. Now that Lucas is finally bowing to fan pressure and putting out the Original Trilogy as it was, I am content to get it once and for all on DVD.
But I still will always think of what might have been.
Fan discussion of the revelation here.