"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."
These famous words set the tone for what has become one of the most successful movies ever made: Star Wars is the epic story of Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), leader of the Rebel forces fighting against the all-powerful, evil Empire. The Princess is captured by the villainous Darth Vader (David Prowse & James Earl Jones), the Dark Lord of the Sith and right hand man of the Galactic Emperor. Before she is captured, Princess Leia sends her faithful droid, R2-D2, accompanied by C-3PO, into space to search for a man named Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), to enlist his aid in helping the Rebel Alliance. After landing on the planet Tatooine, the droids are captured by a band of scrap-collecting Jawas who sell them to moisture farmer Owen Lars and his nephew, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). As Luke is repairing R2-D2, the droid emits a holographic message from the lovely Princess Leia, a message which intrigues young Skywalker, who yearns for adventure. When R2-D2 runs away to carry out his mission, Luke and C-3PO pursue the little droid and encounter the mysterious Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi.
Meanwhile Darth Vader and his Imperial Forces are searching for R2-D2 and the data tapes containing the Rebel plans. The droids are traced to Uncle Owen's home and, when Luke returns there, he finds that the Imperial troops have murdered his family. Realizing that there is no longer any reason for him to stay on Tatooine, he decides to go with Ben Kenobi to Alderaan. Ben, one of the legendary Jedi Knights, begins to teach Luke the ways of the Force. To secure their safe passage to Alderaan, Ben and Luke employ the services of dashing Han Solo (Harrison Ford), captain of the Corellian ship, the Millennium Falcon, and his Wookiee co-pilot, Chewbacca.
Adventure follows adventure as Ben Kenobi, Luke, the droids, and the crew of the Falcon pursue Darth Vader and the Imperial Forces into the far reaches of the galaxy in their attempt to rescue the Princess. Lightsaber battles, hair-raising escapes, and spectacular space battles set the stage for one of the most exciting movies ever: Star Wars.
In May 1977, George Lucas introduced the world to his vision of Science Fiction. Prior to this, George Lucas had offered us the cult favorite THX-1183 and the excellent period piece American Graffiti. We are introduced at the outset to R2-D2 and C-3PO, a pair of droids who will be the thread that ties all six of the Star Wars threads together. They are fleeing from the evil Galactic Empire with secret plans for their newest destructive weapon - the Death Star. From the very first frame, it is clear that this is a good vs. evil story. The Rebels have come to Tatoonie to enlist the aid of former Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to help them in their struggle against the Empire.
The droids come into the care of Luke Skywalker, the nephew of moisture farmers, who longs for more than droid repair and working in the desert with his Uncle. The arrival of R2-D2 and C-3PO appear to be his ticket off of Tatoonie and they do make it so he can leave - but not in the way he expected. The droids find Obi-Wan and deliver their important message from Princess Leia. From here, the adventure takes flight as Obi-Wan, Luke and the droids enlist freighter/smuggler pilot Han Solo to take them to Alderaan. Along the way, Obi-Wan begins to instruct Luke in the ways of the Force - an energy that binds all things in the galaxy - and Luke wants to become a Jedi Knight, as Obi-Wan once had been.
Star Wars literally snuck into theaters in May 1977, playing on only 43 screens nationwide. Word of mouth quickly spread and Twentieth Century Fox rushed additional prints of the space adventure into theaters. But regardless of how many many theaters played the film, admission lines would form around the block of the movie houses and down the halls of the shopping malls. Star Wars became one of those films that would be seen over and over again - and each viewing would bring forth another facet that had previously been unseen. It was truly a phenomenon.
The film had a reported budget of $11 million, less than one tenth the budget of Attack of the Clones. The film seemed to run forever, with the public hungry for a clean 'good vs evil' story, and set in space to boot. The film ran continuously in some cities during it's initial release for over 55 weeks. The reported worldwide take is $779.8 million through it's original release, a re-release in 1982 and the Special Edition release in 1997.
LucasFilm released the LaserDisc and CED editions in the US. To cut down on production costs - and issue the picture on two sides, 20th Century Fox Video time-compressed the film from it's original 121 minute length to just over 118 minutes. No film is removed, the entire program is simply sped up 2.5%. All Full Frame Extended play versions released in the US are time compressed - including the 1992 Digital Sound reissues.
In Japan, LucasFilm issued Star Wars on LaserDisc and VHD. CBS/Fox Video in Japan was not concerned with production costs, opting instead to issue the films in their original form. All versions of Star Wars issued in Japan are at the correct running time.
In 1997 when LucasFilm issued an updated version of Star Wars to the theaters, the videodisc versions of the film were issued once in the US in a box set with the balance of the Trilogy, and in two box sets in Japan (released in 1997 and 2000) as well as an individual stand-alone release.
Updated: September 29, 2007
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