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Deep in the annals of of the Star Wars fandom lurks the lesser known legend of the "original cut", of what is widely considered to be the best STAR WARS film in the franchise, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

In May of 1980, as theaters prepared to unveil the eagerly STAR WARS awaited sequel, a select handful were treated to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in a special 70mm format with Dolby Surround. This presentation preceded the films wider release in 35mm the following month. For those fortunate enough to witness the film in this format, it was an experience unlike any other. The larger-than-life images and thunderous sound transported audiences back to a Galaxy Far, Far Away with unparalleled clarity and intensity. Yet, it wasn't just the technical prowess of the 70mm presentation that would make the film special.

By the time EMPIRE went fully wide in June of 1980 a significant number of fans were left confused by their subsequent viewings of the film, as it felt subtly different than what they had first witnessed in 70MM the prior month. Indeed, their confusion was well warranted, as scattered throughout the latest 35mm version were a handful of innocuous alterations to the edit, that, while easily could have been overlooked were quickly detected by the most ardent of the STAR WARS fanbase. From slight scene transition tweaks, to dialogue exchanges and even alternate takes of scenes, only one man could be behind this; George Lucas.

Lucas, now infamous for never letting his films be well enough alone, had still been tinkering with the edit of the film while EMPIRE made it's exclusive 70MM run. By June, when it was time to strike new 35MM prints to go wide, a revised version was presented to exhibitors. Much like the 1997 SPECIAL EDITIONS, the changes made to EMPIRE for it's wide release were inconsequential to the story and purely technical, with the exception of the last scene which features an entirely different take of actor Billy Dee Williams as Lando speaking to Luke and Leia before he sets off with Chewbacca to rescue Han Solo.

Over the years, rumors have persisted of a lost print or hidden archive containing the fabled 70mm version, and sure enough, one has been found! The process of obtaining this version, though much easier in the digital age than it would have been back in 1980, is still somewhat complicated and time consuming. For those intrigued enough to go hunting, all I can share is a starting point, which is the following site:

Lucky for you the reader, I've compiled what I would consider the most obvious of the string of changes and incorporated them into this easy to digest YouTube video. Films in Review is proud to present The Lost Version of the Empire Strikes Back.


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