Okay, I know, not another Star Wars thread. Well, there was one "Star Wars DVDs" thread out there that discussed the latest DVD Bootlegs but it has since been closed and none of the latest threads really fit for this review. Why not put this review in the "DVD Reviews" forum? DVD-Talk does not support or condone the discussion of "bootlegs" in any form. Since these DVDs are not "official" I feel this thread is best posted to the "DVD Talk" Forum.
The focus of this thread is to supply reviews of all of the latest Star Wars bootleg DVDs. Please do not turn this thread into a begging thread for bootleg source info.
I would like everyone to note that any requests for bootleg source info posted in this thread will be denied any information and will only lead to this thread being closed either by myself or the mods.
With that all said, here are my reviews thus far.
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Very nice cover. The Front
picture matches the one used on the box of the Widescreen collector's VHS set. This same picture is used on the label side of the DVD disc. The Back
cover uses the same Pod Race image and Jedi vs Sith duel picture as well as a small picture of our favorite Gungan, Jar Jar Binks. As with most bootlegs, the movie Description printed on the back cover is not official by any means. In other words, it is just something made up for this release and was not lifted from the "official" VHS box cover. All of the appropriate Actor, Producer, Director and Movie Studio copyrights are here including a nifty fake barcode to make it look more legit. The really funny thing is that there is a warning that reads "This Film Has Been Modified From Its Original Version. It Has Been Formatted To Fit Your Screen.". Okay, so while the makers of this "bootleg" may have not completely pilfered the VHS box cover they did take this little piece of information and it is indeed wrong. This DVD is Widescreen so the above statement is quite comical. The Spine
includes a black and white 20th Centruy Fox logo, the movie title, a picture of Darth Maul and the usual black and white DVD logo.
The Menus in "The Phantom Menace" are nothing to write home about but are good nonetheless. The Main Menu loads up with a slow motion full screen lightsaber duel scene between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul. This was obviously a home grown pan and scan and thus very pixelated but short.
The Chapter Selection is very good for a "bootleg".
The Setup screen allows you to select from the only sondtrack available, "English 5.1". You do, however, have the option of selecting three different Subtitles:
NOTE: These are "optional" subtitles
Very good Widescreen Video Transfer. This Disc appears to have been transferred from a
LaserDisc so the quality is quite good. Don't expect full DVD Quality here though. Remember, it is a "bootleg" copied from a LaserDisc source to an MPEG file on a hard drive and then mastered to DVD. All in all though, the video transfer is very good for a "bootleg".
The Audio on "The Phantom Menace" is very good. Yes, it is indeed Dolby Digital 5.1 but much like the Audio you should not expect DVD Quality Audio from this Disc (due to transfer methods). I did not have problems with the Audio through my Yamaha Receiver, however I have read here through another thread that the LFE wasn't quite what was expected. All in all though, you have to remember that this is a "bootleg", even though it is a very good "bootleg" it still isn't a LucasFilm THX mastered transfer, however, it will beat out your VHS copy any day.
George Lucas originally included "burned in" subtitles to translate non-english dialogue (such as that between Anakin and Watto or Sebulba). These "subtitles" have not been included on this DVD (even if you turn subtitles "on"). Okay, that is kind of bad but such scenes comprise less than five (5) minutes of the movie so it isn't really much of a loss.
Another inconsistency is caused by the LaserDisc to DVD Transfer. LaserDiscs are double-sided and require flipping to view an entire movie. Not all LaserDiscs are created equal. Some LaserDiscs use alot of compression so the movie can fit on one double-sided disc while others use less compression to fit on two or more double-sided discs. This DVD was transferred from a single double-disc LaserDisc set. The splice between side one and side two leaves a blip in the video that looks very much like a standard "layer change". This does NOT detract from the video presentation itself.
This DVD is the second "bootleg" DVD to be released and is the best of the two. While there are rampant rumors that George Lucas will actually release "The Phantom Menace" to DVD in October of 2001, for those that simply can not wait this disc is definitely worth the money (typical price $25).
---End of Review - The Phantom Menace---
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
The most inconsistent DVD Cover I have ever seen for Star Wars "A New Hope". The Front
cover is comprised of the art used on the front side of the box used for the newest VHS release and includes the totally bogus title "The New Hope". I know that bootleggers do not use Quality Control and for many English is a second language (if at all) but this is a very shameful mistake. There is no excuse for the Back
cover. The back cover is made up of images from "The Empire Strikes Back". Okay, maybe I am expecting way too much but is it really all that hard to make sure the covers match the movie? The Back
cover has a "Special Features" block that lists the "extras" on the DVD fut the text mistakingly goes outside of the box. The Description of the DVD (storyline) is short and sweet but mistakenly reports this DVD as the "Special Edition" which it is not. A limited set of viable copyrights are listed inclding the release date as 1997 which is actually the Special Edition. The time of the movie is listed as 125 minutes which again is for the Special Edition. The original version of the movie is 121 minutes. For some reason a copyright is provided for "Buena Vista International". Funny, I didn't know Disney was releasing 20th Centrury Fox/LucasFilm movies. For those of you who collect "proof of purchase" seals, this back cover actually includes a fake "Star Wars Episode 4 The New Hope" proof of purchase. The Spine
includes the "gold seal" we saw in the early THX remastered rereleases of the movie set, a full color 20th Century Fox logo, a black and white DVD logo and uses the same Star Wars logo color scheme used in the early toy releases. Again, the erroneous title "The New Hope" is used.
The menus are pretty much what you would expect from a "bootleg", not very good, not very correct and pixelated. The images used in the menus are very pixelated and at times stretch off the screen. The "Special Features" menu uses an image from "Return of the Jedi".?.
- Play Movie
- Scene Index
- Language Selection
- Special Features
The "Scene Index" isn't as robust in chapter listings as TPM but good enough. The "Language Selection" is actually for "Subtitles" only. Subtitles available:
NOTE: These are "optional" subtitles
While most "bootleg" DVDs do NOT include "Extras", all three of these new "trilogy" DVDs include "extras" of some sort. Here is a list of the "extras" included:
- An Interview with George Lucas
- Original Concepts for Star Wars
These "extras" were obviously lifted directly from the LaserDisc source and are very short. I have a feeling the "extras" are split (continued) between all of the trilogy discs. The inclusion of the original theatrical and theatrical rerelease trailers is worth the money alone just to see how ANH was originally promoted.
The video quality of this DVD is not quite as good as that seen in the TPM DVD reviewed above but then again we have to remember that this is the original, non-CGI enhanced film and thus has not received alot of digital enhancements to clean up the film stock. However, it did come from a very good LaserDisc source so I would have hoped for better. It appears that this DVD was transferred from a LaserDisc source that comprised of two (2) double-sided discs. This is easily noticed by three blips in the video that appear like standard DVD "layer changes" approximately every 30 minutes. These "blips" are not distracting at all and will remind you of the average "layer change" you are used to in most DVDs. All in all, this is a very good transfer. Is this a THX remastered video transfer? Well, at times it looks like it but the credits at the end of the movie don't say anything about it. I did notice that Darth Vader's eyes appear to be black where they did appear to have a red tone in the original theatrical release and in the early VHS releases.
The audio is where this DVD truly shines. This disc has the best Dolby Digital 5.1 sound I have ever heard. I have purchased other "bootleg" DVDs that say they are DD 5.1 only to find that the audio is a matrixed pro-logic to appear as DD 5.1. The voice soundtrack is in the center chanel as you would expect. I did notice an echo of the voice in the rear speakers only slightly in the middle of the movie but other than that all sounds did appear to be in the correct channels and speakers. I've never heard ANH sound so good on my home theater.
Since this DVD came from a two disc, double-sided LaserDisc transfer there are more "layer change" like blips in the movie. When these "blips" occurr it looks like the screen freezes for a split second. After the third such "blip" there is a scene where Leia is asking Luke what is wrong and he says he wished Ben was there. At that moment the screen flashes white, even in the black bar area of the screen. Not a major drawback but you may notice this. That is the only inconsistency I noticed in the actual movie. All other inconsistencies have been listed above in the Menu and Cover sections.
For the Star Wars purists who absolutely hate the Special Editions you will be glad to know that this DVD Transfer is the original (classic) Star Wars A New Hope. Yes, we have the not so thoroughly remastered version with matte lines and effects inconsistencies from the original theatrical release. This alone makes the DVD worth every penny. It is highly likely, however not impossible that George Lucas will never release this version of the movie on DVD.
Unlike TPM the ANH transfer does
include the original "burned in" subtitles for when Han is talking to Greedo in the Cantina.
---End of Review - A New Hope---
Star Wars: Episode V - Empire Strikes Back
The cover for "Empire Strikes Back" is pretty nice considering that the ANH cover does not include ANH images at all. The Front
cover uses the Special Edition poster art with the title "Star Wars Trilogy" at the top. The Back
cover is a typical back for ESB including pictures of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, the battle on Hoth and Yoda. Like most "bootlegs" the movie description printed on the back cover was just made up and does not come from any released cover. The "extras" are listed on the back as well. As with the ANH cover the back of ESB also includes a white box at the bottom that lists the Dolby copyrights, THX logo, the "All Region" logo, a fake proof of purchase and barcode, the erroneous Buena Vista International copyright and the running time which appears to be correct for the non-SE version (which this is). The Spine
begins at the top with the standard black and white DVD Logo then the "Star Wars Trilogy" logo and the title "The Empire Strikes Back", as well as a picture of Luke (lightsaber in hand) and then a full color 20th Century Fox logo.
The Menus for ESB are pretty much the same as those used for the ANH DVD. The main menu has images from ESB and as with ANH is pixelated. The following selections are available on the main menu:
- Play Movie
- Scene Index
- Bonus Material
The Scene Index is typical for this series of "bootlegs". Again, just as with TPM and ANH, the "Language" menu is only for subtitles. The available subtitles are:
NOTE: These are "optional" subtitles
Just as in the ANH DVD the "Empire Strikes Back" DVD includes "Bonus Material". This material came from the original LaserDisc Source:
- Interview with Ben Burtt (Sound Design)
- How Walkers Walk (Stop Motion Photography)
- The Flight Through The Asteroids (Storyboards)
The ESB DVD gives us much more "extras" than the ANH DVD. Here we get in an depth interview with Ben Burtt, the head Sound Designer on the film(s) as well as a glimpse at how stop motion photography was used to get those mammoth AT-ATs to walk during the Hoth battle scenes. If you like storyboards you will like the "Flight Through The Asteroids" segment. The full motion picture appears at the bottom of the screen while the storyboards appear at the top of the screen to illustrate the thoughts behind what was actually filmed. There is only one trailer and while it is of poor quality it is still nice to have.
Much like many of you have grown to accept from the pre-Special Edition versions of the movies the Hoth scenes are rather fuzzy. That little proble has bothered me from day one. It seemed like no matter what video source I watched the movie from the original has always been fuzzy. I did notice that if I zoomed into the picture that pixelation was more evident than usually expected in a typical DVD. As has been noticed with other ESB DVD "bootlegs" the color red appears to be saturated at times. No, this is not really a distraction but at times you will notice that C-3PO's armour looks a little yellowish/red. As for the fuzziness of the video, as with other VHS sources I have seen this clears up as the movie progresses (other than in the Hoth scenes) and the occasional redness comes and goes but none of this is really bothersome during the movie unless you are really looking like I was.
Much like the audio found on the TPM and ANH DVDs the ESB transfer is exceptional and appears to be in true Dolby Digital 5.1 with no noticeable dialogue echo in the rears. I will have to say though that after all the audio sync problems that existed in the first "bootleg" DVDs you would have thought that the people that made this one would have verified the audio before release. In the scene just after Luke crash lands his fighter on Dagobah the audio goes out of sync for a minute or two then clears up. Once we pan back to the "asteroid" for some dialogue between Han and Leia on the Falcon the audio appears to be okay. Towards the end of the movie, as Luke is dewling with Vader the audio goes out of sync again and continues this way for the rest of the movie. This is not too distracting because most of the scenes toward the end are action only and consist of very minimal dialogue (mostly from Vader and 3PO).
Again, this DVD was transferred from a two disc (double-sided) LaserDisc source, however only one of the splices is really noticeable. Even though the Asian "bootleggers" love putting the THX logo on everything, this logo appears nowhere in the credits of the movie. As mentioned before, there are some significant audio sync problems in the film but they do not detract very much from the movie itself. There is also an abundance of the color red at times but all in all, this is a fine DVD transfer.
If you absolutely hate the new Special Edition CGI treatment of ESB then you will definitely want to get your hands on this DVD. It is from the original version of the film. As I elluded to earlier though, alot of the fuzziness and/or bad quality video is corrected in the Special Edition (even if many of you will not admit this). The "Empire Strikes Back" has never been my favorite of the films and I actually like the new scenes added in the Special Edition. Watching this original version just made me appreciate the Special Editions even more.
---End of Review - Empire Strikes Back---
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
Much like the "Empire Strikes Back" DVD cover, ROTJ uses the "Special Edition" cover art for its Front
. And as has been pointed out before, this screwed up cover is the product of George Lucas (putting a pic of the Luke, Vader lightsaber duel from ESB on the ROTJ cover). The "bootlegger" added "Episode 6" under the title on the front cover. Much like the cover for ANH, the Back
cover includes images from ESB but to its credit also includes genuine ROTJ images as well. The description much like the rest is just a short home grown summary of the movie (not from any "official" release). A "Bonus" section is also listed on the back cover but it does not point out how many interviews are really on the disc (this one actually has more than the rest). Of course the appropriate credits are given and the fake "proof of purchase" and barcode are provided. The Spine
begins with a picture of Yoda then the usual black and white DVD logo then the movie title and finally the full color 20th Century Fox logo. I wish the other DVDs would have used this layout for their spine art, that way they would all look uniform when put together on your shelf.
Nothing new here. At least the menus were consistent for the trilogy. Pictures from ROTJ were used on each menu. Here is the layout for the "main" menu:
- Scene Index
- Bonus Material
The Scene Index is pretty much done like the others but I noticed that you can't really follow the picture supplied for the chapter listing. I went through the index a few times and found myself clicking on one picture only to end up in another scene. There’s that great Quality Control again. As was done in the other DVDs, the "Language Selection" menu is only for subtitles.
NOTE: These are "optional" subtitles
Return of the Jedi has the best "Extras" of all of the discs. While the menu only lists an Interview with Dennis Muren and three (3) trailers, there is much more. Here is a list of all the extras:
- Dennis Muren: The Jedi Effects Challenge
- Dennis Muren: Creating Thoughtful Effects
- Dennis Muren: Effects by Location
- Dennis Muren: The Rancor
- Dennis Muren: The Endor Forest
- Jedi "Videomatics": A Moving Storyboard (narrated by Ken Ralston)
- "Lapti Nek" The Music Video from Jabba’s Palace
- Trailer 1 – Revenge of the Jedi
- Trailer 2
- Trailer 3
All of the "extras" except for the trailers are included in the menu option "Dennis Muren". The real gem here is the inclusion of the first trailer with the ill-fated title "Revenge
of the Jedi". That was a first for me. I have seen the "Revenge of the Jedi" Poster but I have never seen the trailer. That alone was worth the price of the DVD.
The video quality is pretty good and is on par with the ANH DVD. While the picture and colors are very crisp in brighter scenes such as on Tatoine and Endor, darker scenes appear hazy (very soft). I don’t think this is as much the fault of the DVD Transfer as it is the movie itself. I remember that same haze from the VHS set as well. The video coloration is pretty good and does not include overly saturated reds like in ESB.
While the audio transfer is pretty good, at times I felt that the rears were a little weak compared to the ANH and ESB discs. I know since the ESB disc had audio sync problems that I was looking and listening extra hard but I believe this transfer of ROTJ has audio sync problems as well. This problem does not appear for very long. I noticed it one moment then it was fixed the next. For those that already have the DVD, take a look at the scene where Luke is captured and taken to Vader. The audio appears out of sync for this sequence but appears fine by the time Luke is taken to the Emperor. All in all though, the audio is pretty good.
LaserDisc side/disc changes are more noticeable in this transfer. This really isn’t a problem though, the side/disc change appears like a bad "layer change" in a regular DVD (slight pause). The THX logo does not appear in the credits. There are some audio sync problems but not as bad as ESB.
For people that love to bash the Special Editions you will love this transfer as it is from the "original" film but you should remember that the "original" is filled with incredibly noticeable matte lines around space ships and other special effects. Just watch the space battles at the end, it looks like a bunch of space ship cutouts were just randomly moved around the screen, but that is one of the great things that was fixed for the Special Edition.
---End of Review - Return of the Jedi---
For those of you who have heard of the Star Wars "bootleg" DVDs that were released a while back (a year or so back), all the DVDs I reviewed here are from the new set that have higher quality LaserDisc to DVD Transfers, optional subtitles and American/English DVD Covers. While TPM may be "officially" released on DVD in October of this year, the trilogy may not be released for another year or more. In my opinion these DVDs are worth the money even as "bootlegs". While I do not condone "bootlegs" of currently available movies, the Star Wars movie set is not yet available and may not be available for some time. The trilogy set may never be released in this format every so in my book that makes the "bootlegs" worth the effort and the money. I do not believe that the sell of such "bootlegs" will hurt the eventual DVD release or George Lucas in any way.
As I have noted along the way, watching the Star Wars Trilogy in its original form makes one appreciate all the time that was put into the Special Editions to clean up the films. I find it quite comical to watch the "originals" and see matte lines around all of the space ships. While I agree with some of the SE bashers that there are some scenes that have been added to the movies that should not be there, the special effect cleanup work that went on for the Special Editions truly completes the master’s work.
Questions and Answers
Are these “bootleg” DVDs Anamorphic?
No, absolutely not. The process of creating an "anamorphic" transfer is a fairly tedious process that requires the original film and cannot be done using a LaserDisc source. The bootleggers are getting pretty good, but they are not that good. If you stand close to the screen and especially if you pause any of the movies (especially from the trilogy) you will notice smudge marks in the black bars, this is a dead giveaway.
These DVDs aren’t really Dolby Digital 5.1 are they?
They certainly appear so. Matrixed Pro-Logic sound typically is noticeable through listening closely to the dialogue. All speech will typically be echoed in the rears. You will not notice this at all in these transfers. While I doubt that "bootleggers" that wouldn’t even take the time to ensure proper audio syncing and that cover art matches the actual movies would have the appropriate equipment or even take the time to ensure an A+ matrixed DD 5.1 transfer, I guess it is possible. I have never heard the Star Wars films in Dolby Digital 5.1 through my system so this transfer is the best I have heard and gets my vote.
Inconsistencies with my Review
As has been pointed out, LaserDiscs do NOT use compression. RoboDad
was kind enough to let us know that LaserDiscs use either the CAV or CLV format which controls the amount of data that can be stored on a disc/side. These mastering processes do change the amount of data that can be stored thus leading to multiple disc sets at times but does NOT include any compression.
Closing Comments and Note to the Moderators
As stated in the intro section this thread is by no means to ever become a begging thread for "bootleg" source info. Any requests for such information will be denied. For those of you that have requested such information in the past you should have already received that information and will be receiving a copy of all reviews when complete. For all others, check out my home page for more information.
For all the Moderators here at DVD Talk, I respect your wishes in not promoting "bootleg" discussions. I am posting these reviews here for the benefit of those that are interested in these releases. Star Wars is the
most requested DVD title to date and while the series is currently unavailable these "bootlegs" to fill a need and I feel a full review is warranted and useful for others to make their own decision. I do not intend to discuss the legalities of purchasing "bootlegged" material and do not wish this thread to become such. I ask you the moderators to please allow this thread to stay up until all of the DVDs in the set have been reviewed.
I am asking that the members of DVD-Talk abide by the rules of this forum by not discussing "bootlegs" or the "bootleg industry". The reviews supplied here are for your information only and in no way should be seen as a promotion of "bootlegs" or the "bootleg industry".
Moderators, I hope you agree that this information is useful and allow it to stay until all movies have been reviewed.
Legend for Abbreviations
TPM - The Phantom Menace
ANH - A New Hope
ESB - Empire Strikes Back
ROTJ – Return of the Jedi
SE – Special Edition
[Edited by BadAsh on 04-13-01 at 03:46 AM]