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My Star Wars War

Susan Arendt | 3 Jul 2008 21:00
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In between the auctions for videotapes, I found listing after listing for bootleg DVDs of the original trilogy. These weren't hasty transfers shoved unceremoniously into slipcases, either; they were copies of the Laserdisc editions of the movies that had been released in the 1990s, complete with full-color covers and separate discs of bonus material. There, for a mere $50, was the real Star Wars on DVD, and all I had to do to make it mine was click a link and break the law.

I want to make it clear that I don't condone piracy that doesn't involve copious amounts of rum and saying "savvy" a lot. I pay for the music I download, I don't copy games and I would never, ever rebroadcast a Phillies game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball. Buying a bootleg DVD goes squarely against my personal code of ethics, but the more I considered the situation, the more I was sure I was off the moral hook. I would happily have handed over my money for a legal copy of Star Wars on DVD, but not only did one not exist, it was never going to. Perhaps I was merely trying to justify my actions. Perhaps I was simply being petty and selfish. Or perhaps, as is often the case, I had blown the importance of my quest so wildly out of proportion that I was willing to do anything to complete it. (See also: what some people will do to get a Wii.)

Whatever the case, click I did, and soon the movies were mine. The picture and sound are quite good, and the bonus discs, for which I paid $5 extra, have some time capsule-esque documentaries. (Make all the jokes you like about Indiana Jones and the Terror of the Broken Hip, but thirty years ago, Harrison Ford was the man.) They're not absolutely perfect, but they're remarkably well done, just the same. Most importantly, Han shoots first, Jabba doesn't show up until Jedi, and the Death Star still explodes with a tiny little "pfft."

Lucas did eventually release the original trilogy on DVD, bundling it together with his much beloved Special Editions in 2006. Amusingly enough, this rerelease wasn't copied from the original masters, but rather taken from the Laserdiscs, just like mine were. His packaging is nicer, to be sure, and the overall presentation is undoubtedly more polished and slick. I'm still happy with my ill-gotten gains, however. My bootleg trilogy might not be legal, it might not be perfect, it might have an ugly smudge under Luke's land speeder to hide the wheels, but it does what George Lucas won't: It shows respect for the undying love of a 6-year-old sitting in a dark movie theater.

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