When I look at deleted scenes on a DVD or Blu-Ray, I almost always say to myself: "Yeah, I can see why they took that out." While director's cuts can often correct editing errors made by a studio or enable confusing subplots to breathe a bit more, single scenes that are deleted and thrown on a DVD are usually padding, something that was written and shot and then taken out for good reason, usually because they wind up being unnecessary in the greater narrative.
Not every film is Star Wars, though, and even the tiniest of canon-related minutia is enough to give fans of the series the howling fantods. There's been plenty of knowledge about the numerous scenes deleted from the Star Wars films that has trickled out over the years, with hazy descriptions of them floating about the internet and even some stills from them arriving in various forms. (One of the cool things about the Star Wars Customizable Card Game of yesteryear was how many of the card images were drawn from deleted sequences.)
One of the selling points of the Star Wars Blu-Ray set has been the number of deleted scenes on the discs, and indeed there are plenty of them. Most of them were deleted for a reason, but there are a number of them that fill in some decent little backstory to the films, or act as connective tissue that explains character actions that were previously a little hazy. Here's an overview of all the deleted scenes from the Original Trilogy discs. Look for more Star Wars content over the next couple of days as I poke around the box set some more.
Episode IV: A New Hope
"Tosche Station" A lengthy five-minute scene that actually does a good job of explaining some of the backstory between Luke and Biggs Darklighter, the fighter pilot he runs into on Yavin IV. It’s easy to see why this footage was removed, as it does drag a bit and would probably slow down the early portion of the film a great deal, but it still answers a few questions I’ve always had, especially as to why Luke was so raring to join the Naval Academy, which led directly to service in the Galactic Empire. Apparently defection from the Academy to the Rebellion was commonplace, and as long as you kept your mouth shut until an appropriate time to defect, it was a good spot to pick up the skills you’d need to fly starships in the Rebellion.
It still doesn’t make perfect sense, but seeing Darklighter and Skywalker talk does at least give some context to their eventual reunion in the docking bay on Yavin IV, a scene which was restored for the Special Edition, which in turn gave some context as to Luke’s upset over Biggs’ death. Having all these scenes included in the original film would’ve made their relationship more clear at the outset, but it’s also like the third or fourth-tier relationship in terms of importance for Luke in the film, so it’s easy to see why they were removed in the first place.
“Old Woman On Tatooine” A 24-second clip of an old woman soundlessly yelling at the camera. Apparently Luke was supposed to rush by her on his way to Anchorhead, but his landspeeder isn’t in the shot at all, making the scene a bit confusing as is.
“Aunt Beru’s Blue Milk” Aunt Beru pours a carafe of her famous Blue Milk and walks upstairs. Excitement leaps across the screen!
“The Search For R2-D2” A short clip of Luke and C-3PO in his landspeeder, looking for R2-D2. There’s a rear-projection background that scrolls by, and apparently Lucas found it ugly. It’s easy to see why, as it makes the scene look like something out of a 50’s Hitchcock film, where it’s easy to see the disconnect between the actors’ movements and what’s going on behind them.
“Cantina Rough Cut” An interesting seven-minute black-and-white rough cut of the entrance of Luke and Obi-Wan to the Mos Eisley cantina. Apparently it was edited together from the original shoot, but for the final film, more exotic aliens were created and inserted into the scene. Still, many of the more notable aliens are still here, especially those drinking at the bar itself: Dannik Jerriko, the Tonnika Sisters, and of course Ponda Boba and Dr. Evazan, wheras some of the exotics like Feltipern Trevagg, Myo, and many of the weirder aliens that were sitting at tables are absent.
Most notable, however, is a cutaway to Han Solo getting his mack on with a girl at his table, known only as “Jenny” in the script, even going so far as to making out with her. Also shown is one of the bar drinkers running outside to nab the Stormtroopers that come in to look for Obi-Wan a bit later, as well as the voice of the guy in Greedo’s suit; who’d have thought he’d be British? There’s a bit of an extended dialogue sequence between the two, which is a bit disjointed in the editing, but at least it restores what we all want: Han shooting first. Here’s the dialogue:
“It’s too late, I’m not going back to Jabba with another one of your stories!”
“Yeah, but this time I’ve got the money!”
“Then I’ll take it now!”
“I don’t have it with me, tell Jabba...”
“It’s too late! Jabba would rather have your ship-”
“Over my dead body.”
“That’s the idea, Solo. Now, come outside with me. Or must I finish this here?”
“I don’t think they’d like another killing in here.”
[Looks around]: “They’d hardly notice. Get up.” [The audio cuts out for a moment as he says something.]
“Yes, I’ll bet you have.” [Shoots Greedo - yay!]
"Stormtrooper Search" A slightly longer version of the Stormtrooper search through the Mos Eisley alleyway as they looked for the droids. A few other characters scurry out of their way, and you get a good shot at the humped back of Takeel walking down the road.
"Darth Vader Widens The Search" A short scene of Vader discussing the closure of Mos Eisley spaceport with a subordinate while walking along a Death Star corridor. Nothing too exciting, except for the fact that we hear David Prowse’s voice emanating from the suit, which I’ve personally never heard before.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
“The Fate of General Veers” Veers is the stern general who commands the AT-AT legion at the Battle of Hoth. He succeeds in destroying the power generator, of course, but apparently a small scene was shot of he and his crew raising their hands in horror as a wounded speeder pilot crashes directly into the head of their AT-AT, killing them all and destroying both vehicles; none of the effects work was completed, though, so this is mostly animatics. Deleting the scene allowed for the much more impressive suicide run that took down the Executor in Return of the Jedi, though, so it was probably for the best.
“Han And Leia: Extended Echo Base Argument” This is a slightly longer version of this scene that we posted last week, with some dialogue that actually made it into Empire thrown in to give it some context:
“Luke’s Recovery” As Luke floats in his recovery tank on Hoth, he apparently was supposed to mumble deliriously, presumably about Dagobah. A few of the other characters in the room comment on his dialogue, but not to any great degree.
“Luke And Leia: Medical Center” Creeeeeepy Leia and Luke moment in the medical bay as she examines his scars, touching his face all over. He says "All I could think about when I was out there, freezing, was that I might never get the chance...." He leans in for a kiss, but if you’ve never said “thank god for C-3P0,” you can say it now, as he arrives to break up the fun. A short dialogue scene between Leia and Luke ensues, as he tells her he’s leaving for Dagobah, and she’s upset that both Han and Luke are abandoning her. “I was much better off before I met you two moon jockeys!” That segues into Han’s arrival, which is where the scene picks up in the actual film.
“Deleted Wampa Scenes”This was one of the more well-known deleted scene before the arrival of the Blu-Ray set, as we actually see a Wampa warning sign on one of the doors in the original film, and it was known that C-3P0 was to have caused chaos for the invading Imperials by ripping the sign off the door, causing them to unleash captive Wampas that rampage through the base. Apparently the creature effects weren’t good enough for Lucas’ purposes, and to be fair, they do look pretty goofy.
There are a few sequences here, featuring wampas busting through walls in the base, attacking R2-D2, and so forth. It comes across as more comedic than serious, as if the creature from Denizen was attacking the rebels, so it’s easy to see why the sequences were cut.
“Yoda’s Test” Yoda attempts to float a silver bar in front of Luke on Dagobah, and Luke attempts to cut it into pieces with his lightsaber before it hits the ground. The effect was never completed, but the scene is interesting, if only because Yoda never seemed to be all that concerned with Luke’s lightsaber skills while he was training him, only his mental capacity. Whether or not his concern with Luke’s skills with the blade is relevant or not is an interesting question.
Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi
“Vader’s Arrival And Reaching Out To Luke” A few alternate angles on Vader’s early-film discussion with Piett about the Emperor’s imminent arrival, but the dialogue remains the same. That segues into a short scene where Vader attempts to commune with Luke via his meditation chamber, giving some nice little “Loooooooke...LOOOOOOKE” dialogue moments.
Cut to Luke on Tatooine, attempting to ignore Vader while finishing up his new lightsaber. C-3PO and R2-D2 join him in his little cave, then walk outside to check out a matte painting, showing both the Millennium Falcon and Luke’s X-Wing parked next to it. The pair of droids discuss their plan to arrive at Jabba’s Palace on their own, while Luke finishes up and lags behind.
“Tatooine Sandstorm” A two-minute sequence as Lando, Han, Leia, and the rest of the gang attempts to make it through a sandstorm to reach Red 5 and the Millennium Falcon, then say their goodbyes as Luke peels off to head to Dagobah. Luke comes across as a bit fey here; Hamill’s trying really hard to make Luke seem wise and serene, but it just comes across as a bit creepy. The dialogue is almost inaudible, to the point where subtitles have been added; it was never re-recorded as it was the first scene to be cut from the film. The replacement scene in ROTJ, where Luke says his goodbyes from his X-Wing, works much better.
“Rebel Raid On The Bunker” A small scene from Han’s assault on the energy shield bunker on Endor. In the theatrical cut, they basically walk in and take the place over; here Han and his crew have to take out a couple dozen stormtroopers before they can plant their charges. It looks a little ludicrous, as he and three or four soldiers manage to lay waste to to a squad of soldiers on their own. Funny little moment at the end, though, as Harrison Ford reacts to the famous put-down the Imperial throws his way by retorting with “Scuuuum?” with his hands on his hips.
I haven't had much time to poke around the Prequel Trilogy bonus disc yet, although I did stumble across a short scene where Dominic West, of all people, plays a critical role.