'Star Wars' strikes back with DVD

Digital versions of original trilogy to be released in September

— "Star Wars" fans will finally get the Force-feeding they've been asking for.

The original three "Star Wars" films -- among the most anticipated on DVD -- will be released in the digital format Sept. 21 in North America, LucasFilm Ltd. and 20th Century Fox announced Tuesday.

A price for the package and international release dates were to be revealed later.

The original "Star Wars" movie from 1977 -- now titled "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope" because of the newer prequels -- will be compiled in a four-disc collection along with the follow-ups "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."

"For all the fans who've been watching VHS and wearing out tapes, this will be a leap into hyperspace," said Jim Ward, a Lucasfilm marketer and DVD executive producer.

The fourth disc will be for bonus features, including what the companies described as "the most comprehensive feature-length documentary ever produced about the 'Star Wars' saga" and archive footage from the making of all three films.

They were re-released in theaters in "special edition" versions in 1997 that included touched-up effects and some new scenes.

The versions on DVD will feature only the special editions, LucasFilm spokeswoman Lynn Hale said.

Even though many fans of the original set of movies had hoped that the rougher, unaltered films would also be included, Ward said there was not much debate about whether to release the unaltered originals.

photo

AP Photo

Darth Vader is shown in a scene from Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back." Lucasfilm Ltd. and 20th Century Fox announced Tuesday that the original three "Star Wars" films would be released on DVD Sept. 21 in North America.

"The official definitive versions are the 1997 special editions. That's the version the artist, in this case George Lucas, intended to be seen," he said.

There have been two prequels since "Return of the Jedi" wrapped up the original series in 1983.

"Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" debuted in 1999, followed by "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" in 2002. Both are already available on DVD and will not be included in the original trilogy package in September.

The as-yet-untitled third prequel recently wrapped principal photography and is set for release in 2005.

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