By Steve Vivona
Frankly I'm tired of waiting for George Lucas to release the "Star Wars" films on DVD. When it was announced the original trilogy was being released on VCD (Video CD) I was curious. I have the Trilogy Special Edition laserdiscs but I'm so spoiled by DVD that I'm too lazy to get up and change sides. I wanted something that was compatible with my DVD player and easy to store, AND most of all I wanted to see the brief behind-the-scenes glimpse at "Episode II!"
The fine people at CoolVCD have provided me with a review copy of "The Star Wars Trilogy" Box Set for which I am grateful. Video CD is the format of choice in Malaysia and other Asian countries and CoolVCD is the most reliable retailer of such product. I've purchased many titles from them that I knew would not be released on DVD for some time.
The VCDs are packaged in a very nice box with art on both sides (Darth Vader on one side and C-3PO on the other). Each movie is on 2 VCDs (a VCD hold 74 minutes of information much like a CD) and comes in a jewel case with art from each movie.
It was great to watch these films on my DVD player for the first time and I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised. VCDs are not DVD quality but they are so much better than VHS. They never wear out and the image quality is very sharp. The only real disappointment is the fact they are not widescreen, but that is a small price to pay.
The image quality for all three films is excellent overall, the best being "The Empire Strikes Back." The colors are vibrant and the image is nearly as sharp as a laserdisc. The quality of the sound is also impressive. These aren't DVDs but they really are the next best thing.
What's most exciting is the all-too-brief look at "Episode II" which includes an interview with George Lucas wherein he gives a brief plot sketch for the film. We also meet the young Australian actors who will play the young Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. The highlight of this 10-minute featurette is an interview with Anthony Daniels where it is revealed he will not only be the puppeteer for C-3PO but will wear the costume by film's end. This short glimpse only whets the appetite for more!
Everyone knows the familiar story by now. These films were the defining moment of my childhood. From the ages of 7-13 I was enthralled by this universe (and to a certain extent I still am. I took the day off from work when "Phantom Menace" was released). While most people identified with the charming rogue Han Solo (as brilliantly portrayed by Harrison Ford) I related to the shy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammil), a young man still trying to find his way in the universe, unaware of his significant destiny.
"The Empire Strikes Back" has always been my favorite film in the trilogy because of its darker tone. When I was ten the film drove me crazy because I had to wait another three years for the answers to the burning questions posed in it. (you know what I'm talking about!) Empire really developed these characters and gave them life (in the same way I'm hoping "Episode II" does!)
Even though I'm singling "Empire" out these are all wonderful films that I have watched hundreds of times over the years, and I'm happy to finally have them in a digital format that will last forever. CoolVCD is selling the box for $28.88 + $7 for Fedex Delivery and I would recommend them highly. In the future I hope to review more VCD titles that are not available yet on DVD. It really is the next best thing!