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NEW RELEASES

STAR WARS TRILOGY

Leave it to George Lucas to have the most talked-about movies of the fall, even though they've been available on video for the better part of 20 years.

The trick, of course, is to have something people want, and then refuse to give it to them until you're good and ready. So it has been with the original Star Wars films, which began with Stars Wars in 1977, continued with The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and came full circle with Return of the Jedi (1983).

Dozens of other classics from the same period have made the leap to DVD; even Steven Spielberg gave into the trend. Yet, until this month, Lucas has held out, refusing to release the original films on DVD even as he lured audience to theaters with a new series of flicks that owe their existence to computers. You have to wonder: Was he shrewd or stupid?

A little of both, perhaps, but the payoff comes now when film fans finally get the original movies _ Episodes IV, V and VI _ in a digital mode.

The good news? They look fantastic and sound even better. Lucas has remastered all three films, and the result is a story arc that has its weaknesses (think most of Jedi), but remains surprisingly entertaining. It's a series that seems to have predicted the digital age; even early special effects hold up remarkably well and lend themselves to tweaking.

You may remember that Lucas released the films to theaters in the '90s with some digital adjustments; characters were added or motivations strengthened. A scene in which Han Solo originally shot Guido the bounty hunter was revised to show Guido firing first, and Jabba the Hut's role was expanded. Those changes remain in this trilogy, along with one additional update. You'll have to discover that for yourself.

The collection also comes with an entire disc of extras, including a lengthy look at the making of the films that ranges from the birth of the lightsaber to directors who came after Lucas talking about the impact of Star Wars on their lives. There is also a 10-minute preview of the next Star Wars film, in which Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader.

Bottom line? If you love Star Wars, you'll want this collection. If not, you stopped reading a long time ago.

_ MIKE PEARSON, Scripps Howard News Service

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