'Story' docu, early screen tests, featurettes among extras

Even “Star Wars” die-hards will see plenty of freshly uncovered archival material and insights in the comprehensive bonus features accompanying the DVD bow of the original “Star Wars” trilogy on Sept. 21.

Centerpiece of the four-disc set, priced at $69.98 suggested retail, is Kevin Burns’ 2½-hour original docu “Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy.” It includes interviews with more than 40 members of the cast and crew of all three movies, plus interviews with Walter Cronkite and Bill Moyers, among others, discussing the cultural impact of the pics.

Lucasfilm VP of marketing and distribution Jim Ward promises plenty of previously unreleased archival footage, including early screen tests.

A 10-minute behind-the-scenes preview of next year’s “Episode III,” focusing on the return of Darth Vader, will also be included. Preview features creator George Lucas discussing the evolution of the character and shows the first glimpse of the new Vader costume. No actual scenes of Episode III will be included.

Promotions for “Star Wars” videogames also get a big focus in the set, with the DVD including the first level of LucasArts’ “Star Wars: Battlefront,” which is being released the same day as the DVD.

Lucas and a host of others, including Carrie Fisher, “Empire Strikes Back” director Irvin Kershner, sound designer Ben Burtt and ILM’s Dennis Muren, provide running audio commentary during the films.

The pics have been restored and remastered by Lowry Digital Images to exceed the image and sound quality of prior homevideo or even theatrical releases, Ward said.

The fourth disc of bonus features also includes featurettes on “The Birth of the Lightsaber,” “The Characters of Star Wars” and “The Force Is With Them: The Legacy of Star Wars,” as well as original trailers and TV spots, an archive of exclusive making-of photos and an onscreen collection of posters and print campaign materials.

Ward says the new “Empire of Dreams” docu provides perspective on the franchise, illuminating how the movie was not a major studio film but a risky independent feature that nearly fell apart. Business and studio execs such as Alan Ladd Jr. are also interviewed.

So far Fox has sold more than 120 million copies of the various “Star Wars” movies on DVD and VHS worldwide.

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